Management. Steps in the Planning Process

This essay outlines and explains the steps in planning. Different scholars outline different numbers of steps necessary in planning. However, in this paper, the five crucial ones will be considered. Before anyone starts to plan it is of paramount importance that he appreciates the crucial role of planning in management.

For every process that one decides to undertake, there must be a plan, without which the process is bound to have a lot of problems or even fail (Smith, 2004). Planning helps one to understand what is expected, how the task is supposed to be done, the time that it will take, the reasons as to why the process should be done that way, what should be done, where should it be done, and how it should be done. Planning helps in addressing most of the critical actions that need to be taken in any process undertaken (Fogg, 1994). Planning saves one a lot of time, money and many problems. Planning shows the flow of various tasks, from the analysis stage up to how the project should be implemented and also maintained.

The first step in planning is situation analysis (Smith, 2004). Depending on the problem, situation analysis can simply involve talking to the various stakeholders to clarify their needs. The stakeholders may include the project or task sponsors, clients, end-users, the project manager and also members of the project team (Allison & Kaye, 2005).. The planner ought to interview all the stakeholders to gather whatsoever information needed. This information is well written down and analyzed towards prioritizing the needs.

For a business concern, situation analysis does not just entail talking to stakeholders alone. It requires a full scan of the business environment (Allison & Kaye, 2005).. The business environment is both external and internal. Some of the internal factors include employees, organizational culture, and suppliers. The plan has to capture specific roles and positions of all the stakeholders that form the internal environment. The external environment consists of political, legal, economic, geographical and competition factors that inform or influence the organization.

The environmental scan or situation analysis should lead into the second step in planning which is vision and mission setting (Kerzner, 2009). Planners need to set a clear mission and vision. The vision and mission have to take into account all the characteristics of the organization’s internal and external environment. The vision of the organization states where the organization wants to go. For example, it states that within a given time, the organization desires or wants to be of a given caliber or state. The mission indicates clearly how the organization is to achieve its stated vision.

Once the mission and vision have been formulated, the planners can now focus on the formulation of clear objectives or goals. The situation analysis identifies needs that need to be addressed (Allison & Kaye, 2005). The established needs could be in the form of identified gaps i.e. difference between what is desired and what is in place. Along with the gaps, specific objectives or goals can be mapped. The other approach would be to do a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis focuses on organizational Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (Foong, 2009). Goals formulated based on a SWOT analysis identify the particular achievements to be sort into the different elements of the analysis.

Once the goals and objectives have been set, the next step in planning is resource mapping. In this step, a list of all the resources needed towards achievement of the formulated goals is created. Resources are often looked at in terms of the 5Ms i.e. manpower, machines, materials, methods, man-hour and measurement. The appropriation of resources has to be in line with the strategic objectives which fulfill the mission and vision stated.

The fifth and final step presented in this paper is scheduling or creation an action plan. Scheduling for the work needs to be done with accurate time estimates made. In case of a particular project scheduling is best done through network analysis. This is when all the tasks under a project are mapped against time. The time is estimated in terms of the earliest when a task can start and the latest an activity can start without interfering with the rest of the tasks. For each project, the critical activities are identified and well accounted for. The critical activities are those that can not be delayed by any chance and thus have to be started on time or in time. Possible lateness or slack is calculated and well accounted for to avoid any redundancy or lateness of the project.

Scheduling of work or creation of an action plan takes into account the available resources especially manpower (Kerzner, 2009). Although manpower is critical, all the other resources e.g. available time, available machines, available material, available measurement procedures and available methods have to be put into consideration and scheduled (Kerzner, 2009). There has to be a clear indication in terms of quantities and quality against each resource.

An action or implementation plan, which comes from scheduling, is a very important product of planning (Allison & Kaye, 2005). It is crucial for measurement and evaluation. Achievement of objectives or goals has to be mapped against time. In case of problems or challenges, the schedule can help one to justify or explain the mishap. The action plan indicates the flow of activities in any particular project. As such, it acts as a control tool for an organization.

In an organization, planning is done at different levels (Vollmond, 2009). Whether at the operational or strategic level of management, somehow the seven steps mentioned are followed. Once a plan has been made at the strategic level of management, the different departments and arms of the organization have to also make their plans (Fogg, 1994). These are widely referred to as support plans.

In conclusion, having considered all the steps in a planning process, it is clear that situation analysis or the environmental scan is the most important step. This step helps in identifying things as they are (the reality) so that planners can know what are the suitable interventions or departure points to desired states (Management Help Org, 2009). The analysis of help identify problems that need to be addressed but also the strengths that need to be reinforced. Without a proper situational analysis, planners can create great plans but that does not fit the situation (Foong, 2009). A plan can be good but can not be implemented because it does not address given bottlenecks in the organization.

References

Allison M., Kaye J. 2005. Strategic planning for nonprofit organizations: a practical guide and workbook. 2nd Ed. London: John Wiley and Sons: Toronto.

Fogg C. D. 1994. Team-based strategic planning: a complete guide to structuring, facilitating, and implementing the process. AMACOM: Kentucky.

Foong L. 2009. 7 Steps Effective Strategic Planning Process. Web.

Kerzner H. 2009. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. 10th Ed. John Wiley and Sons: Toronto.

Management Help Org. 2009. Basic Guidelines for Successful Planning Process. Web.

Smith R. 2004. Strategic planning for public relations.2nd Ed. Routledge, New York.

Vollmond N. 2009. Steps in the Strategic Planning Process. Web.

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