Planning can be defined as “thinking in advance what is to be done when it is to be done, how it is to be done, and by whom it should be done”. In simple words we can say, planning bridges the gap between where we are standing today and where we want to reach.
Planning involves setting objectives and deciding in advance the appropriate course of action to achieve these objectives so we can also define planning as setting up objectives and targets and formulating an action plan to achieve them.
Features of Planning
- Planning contributes to objectives: Planning starts with the determination of objectives. We cannot think of planning in absence of an objective. After setting up the objectives, planning decides the procedures and steps to be taken for the achievement of set objectives.
- Planning is the primary function of management: Planning is the primary or first function to be performed by every manager. No other function can be executed by the manager without performing a planning function because objectives are set up in planning and other functions depend on the objectives only.
- Pervasive: Planning is required at all levels of the management and in all types of Organisations. It is not a function restricted to top-level managers only but planning is done by managers at every level. Formation of major plans and framing of overall policies is the task of top-level managers whereas departmental managers form plans for their respective departments.
- Planning is continuous: Planning is the never-ending or continuous process after making plans also one has to be in touch with the changes in changing environment and in the selection of one best way.
- Planning is futuristic looking: Planning always means looking ahead or planning is a futuristic function. Planning is never done in the past. All the managers try to make productions and assumptions for the future and these predictions are made on the basis of past experiences of the manager and with the regular and intelligent scanning of the general environment.
- Planning is a mental exercise: It is a mental exercise. Planning is a mental process that requires higher thinking, that is why it is kept separate from operational activities. In Planning assumptions and predictions regarding the future are made by scanning the environment properly. This activity requires a higher level of Intelligence.
Importance of Planning
- Planning provides direction: Planning is concerned with a pre-determined course of action. It provides directions to the efforts of employees. Planning makes clear what employees have to do, how to do it, etc. By stating in advance how work has to be done, planning provides direction for action. Employees know in advance in which direction they have to work. This leads to Unity of Direction also.
- Planning reduces the risk of uncertainties: Organisations have to face many uncertainties and unexpected situations every day. Planning helps the manager to pace the uncertainty because planners try to foresee the future by making some assumptions regarding the future keeping in mind their past experiences and scanning of business environments. The plans are made to overcome such uncertainties. The plans also include unexpected risks such as fire or some other calamities in the organization.
- Planning reduces overlapping and wasteful activities: The organizational plants are made in keeping in mind the requirement of all the departments that departmental plans are derived from the main organization plan as a result there will be coordination in different departments.
- Planning promotes innovative ideas: Planning requires high thinking and it is an intellectual process. So, there is a great scope of finding better ideas, better methods, and procedures to perform a particular job. The planning process forces managers to think differently and assumes future conditions. So, it makes the managers innovative and creative.
- Planning facilitates decision-making: Planning helps the managers to take various decisions. As in Planning goals are set in advance and predictions are made for the future. Predictions and goals help the manager to take fast decisions.
- Planning establishes a standard for controlling: Controlling means comparison between planned and actual output and if there is variation between both then find out the reasons for such deviations and taking measures to match the actual output with the planned. But in case there is no planned output then the controlling manager will have no base to compare whether the actual output is adequate or not.
- Setting- up the objectives: In planning, the function manager begins with setting up objectives because all the policies, methods are framed for achieving objectives only. The manager’s set up very clearly the objectives of the company keeping in mind the goals of the company and the physical and financial resources of the company.
- Developing premises: Premises refer to making assumptions regarding the future. Premises are the basis on which plans are made. It is a kind of forecast made keeping in view existing plans and any past information about various policies. There should be total agreement on all the assumptions. The assumptions are made on the basis of forecasting.
- Listing the various alternatives for achieving the objectives: After setting up objectives the managers make a list of alternatives through which the organization can achieve its objective as there can be many ways to achieve the objective and managers must know all the ways to reach the objectives.
- Evaluation of different alternatives: After making the list of various alternatives along with the assumptions supporting them, the manager starts evaluating each and every alternative and notes down the positive and negative aspects of every alternative. After this, the manager starts eliminating the alternative with more of negative aspect, and the one with the maximum positive aspect and with most feasible assumption is selected as best alternative.
- Selecting an alternative: The best alternative is selected but as such, there is no mathematical formula to select the best alternative. Sometimes instead of selecting one alternative, a combination of different alternatives can also be selected. The most ideal plan is most feasible, profitable, and with the least negative consequences.
- Implementing the plan: The managers prepare to draft the main and supportive plans on paper but there is no use of this plan unless and until these are put in action. For implementing the plans or putting the plans into action, the managers start communicating the plans to all the employees very clearly because the employees actually have to carry on the activities according to the specification of plans.
- Follow-up: Planning is a continuous process so the manager’s job does not get over simply by putting the plan into action. The managers monitor the plan carefully while it is implemented. The monitoring of the plan is very important because it helps to verify whether the conditions and predictions assumed in plans are holding true in the present situation or not. If these are not coming true then immediately changes are made in the plan. During follow-up, many adjustments are made to the plan.