There is abundant evidence that planning is the most prominent and pervasive of the management functions or processes. Planning is prominent because of the evidence of failure in organizations traceable to poor planning or preparation for the future on management's part. Planning is pervasive in that it cuts through all management functions and is a function that is applicable to all managerial levels. It cuts through the other management functions of organizing, controlling, staffing, directing, and decision making in the sense that it is a vital and necessary component of each of these processes. That is, managers must plan for each of the other functions. Planning is applicable to every managerial level because managerial action and decision making, whether at the chief executive's level or at the first-line supervisor's level, should ideally be predicated upon preliminary thought and anticipation of future issues, problems, or details that invariably come into play in the process of making organizations work.
Before planning is anything else, it is a mental process. It is a process of thinking through all facets of an issue or a problem before taking action. At the same time, it provides the ingredients for action.
Planning is a process that entails an assessment of the organization, its resources, and its environment, and encompasses the setting of objectives. Using that assessment as a backdrop, planning entails looking at the past, the present, and the future. So often we stress the futurity of planning to such an extent that we fail to make it clear that the past and the present are our points of departure. Using the past and the present as points of reference, in planning we consider both what we anticipate the future will be like, and what we desire it to be like.
Though we typically associate certain types of planning with specific management levels of the organization, it is contended here that each of the three types of planning presented should be done by all managers at each level. First, we will describe the three types of planning. Second, we will discuss how each of these is appropriate at any organizational level. The three types of planning we will discuss include:
* "To-Do-List" Planning
* Operational Planning
* Strategic Planning
Very few managers can function without a "to-do-list." Since managers are so busy, it is essential that they be able to list the projects, reports, meetings, or goals they need to accomplish on a day-to-day basis. Human nature seems to be that we respond well to actually, or mentally "checking off" activities that have been accomplished during the day. To-do-list planning is narrowly focused, daily or weekly in time span, and frequently personal. Nevertheless, it represents an invaluable discipline on the part of the individual manager desiring to see things "get done" or to "make the organization work."
Not only are "to-do-lists" valuable for personal planning, they are valuable mechanisms for delegating tasks to others. Instead of providing verbal instructions of what to do, provide your subordinates or co-workers with a "to-do-list" if you find that it is essential for that day or week. Personal experience indicates that others assume more of a responsibility for the task if it is written down than if it is verbally communicated.
Operational planning is gauged toward the mid-range of time. This may be weeks, or months or may extend to a year or two. Typically, operational planning is derived from or is in response to an annual budget. Some planning experts have termed this type of planning tactical planning.
Whether it be driven by an organization's budget, a personal budget or a functional area of responsibility, operational planning focuses on getting the work accomplished effectively between now and some limited time period.
Another way of looking at operational planning is that it is in response to a more comprehensive strategic plan of the organization. …