Selection of short-term and long-term objectives and the drawing up of tactical and strategic plans to achieve those objectives. In planning, managers outline the steps to be taken in moving the organization toward its objectives. After deciding on a set of strategies to be followed, the organization needs more specific plans, such as locations, methods of financing, hours of operations, and so on. As these plans are made, they will he communicated throughout the organization. When implemented, the plans will serve to coordinate, or meld together, the efforts of all parts of the organization toward the company’s objectives.
Planning is traditionally considered to be one of the four major functions of management, along with organizing, leading and coordinating/controlling. Simply put, planning is identifying where you want to go, why you want to go there, how you will get there, what you need in order to get there and how you will know if you’re there or not. The following are many of the types of plans generated in a business organizations.
Business planning is often conducted when:
• Starting a new venture (organization, product or service)
• Expanding a current organization, product or service
• Buying a current organization, product or service
• Working to improve the management of a current organization, product or service
Guidelines to Ensure Successful Planning and Implementation
A common failure in many kinds of planning is that the plan is never really implemented. Instead, all focus is on writing a plan document. Too often, the plan sits collecting dust on a shelf. Therefore, most of the following guidelines help to ensure that the planning process is carried out completely and is implemented completely — or, deviations from the intended plan are recognized and managed accordingly.
Involve the Right People in the Planning Process
Going back to the reference to systems, it’s critical that all parts of the system continue to exchange feedback in order to function effectively. This is true no matter what type of system. When planning, get input from everyone who will responsible to carry out parts of the plan, along with representative from groups who will be effected by the plan. Of course, people also should be involved in they will be responsible to review and authorize the plan.
Write Down the Planning Information and Communicate it Widely
New managers, in particular, often forget that others don’t know what these managers know. Even if managers do communicate their intentions and plans verbally, chances are great that others won’t completely hear or understand what the manager wants done. Also, as plans change, it’s extremely difficult to remember who is supposed to be doing what and according to which version of the plan. Key stakeholders (employees, management, board members, funders, investor, customers, clients, etc.) may request copies of various types of plans. Therefore, it’s critical to write plans down and communicate them widely. For more guidelines in this regard, see
Basics of Writing and Communicating the Plan
Goals and Objectives Should Be SMARTER
SMARTER is an acronym, that is, a word composed by joining letters from different words in a phrase or set of words. In this case, a SMARTER goal or objective is:
For example, it’s difficult to know what someone should be doing if they are to pursue the goal to “work harder”. It’s easier to recognize “Write a paper”.
It’s difficult to know what the scope of “Writing a paper” really is. It’s easier to appreciate that effort if the goal is “Write a 30-page paper”.
If I’m to take responsibility for pursuit of a goal, the goal should be acceptable to me. For example, I’m not likely to follow the directions of someone telling me to write a 30-page paper when I also have to five other papers to write. However, if you involve me in setting the goal so I can change my other commitments or modify the goal, I’m much more likely to accept pursuit of the goal as well.
Even if I do accept responsibility to pursue a goal that is specific and measurable, the goal won’t be useful to me or others if, for example, the goal is to “Write a 30-page paper in the next 10 seconds”.
It may mean more to others if I commit to a realistic goal to “Write a 30-page paper in one week”. However, it’ll mean more to others (particularly if they are planning to help me or guide me to reach the goal) if I specify that I will write one page a day for 30 days, rather than including the possibility that I will write all 30 pages in last day of the 30-day period.
The goal should stretch the performer’s capabilities. For example, I might be more interested in writing a 30-page paper if the topic of the paper or the way that I write it will extend my capabilities.
I’m more inclined to write the paper if the paper will contribute to an effort in such a way that I might be rewarded for my effort.
Build in Accountability (Regularly Review Who’s Doing What and By When?)
Plans should specify who is responsible for achieving each result, including goals and objectives. Dates should be set for completion of each result, as well. Responsible parties should regularly review status of the plan. Be sure to have someone of authority “sign off” on the plan, including putting their signature on the plan to indicate they agree with and support its contents. Include responsibilities in policies, procedures, job descriptions, performance review processes, etc.
Note Deviations from the Plan and Replan Accordingly
It’s OK to deviate from the plan. The plan is not a set of rules. It’s an overall guideline. As important as following the plan is noticing deviations and adjusting the plan accordingly.
Evaluate Planning Process and the Plan
During the planning process, regularly collect feedback from participants. Do they agree with the planning process? If not, what don’t they like and how could it be done better? In large, ongoing planning processes (such as strategic planning, business planning, project planning, etc.), it’s critical to collect this kind of feedback regularly.
During regular reviews of implementation of the plan, assess if goals are being achieved or not. If not, were goals realistic? Do responsible parties have the resources necessary to achieve the goals and objectives? Should goals be changed? Should more priority be placed on achieving the goals? What needs to be done?
Finally, take 10 minutes to write down how the planning process could have been done better. File it away and read it the next time you conduct the planning process.
Recurring Planning Process is at Least as Important as Plan Document
Far too often, primary emphasis is placed on the plan document. This is extremely unfortunate because the real treasure of planning is the planning process itself. During planning, planners learn a great deal from ongoing analysis, reflection, discussion, debates and dialogue around issues and goals in the system. Perhaps there is no better example of misplaced priorities in planning than in business ethics. Far too often, people put emphasis on written codes of ethics and codes of conduct. While these documents certainly are important, at least as important is conducting ongoing communications around these documents. The ongoing communications are what sensitize people to understanding and following the values and behaviors suggested in the codes.
Nature of the Process Should Be Compatible to Nature of Planners
A prominent example of this type of potential problem is when planners don’t prefer the “top down” or “bottom up”, “linear” type of planning (for example, going from general to specific along the process of an environmental scan, SWOT analysis, mission/vision/values, issues and goals, strategies, objectives, timelines, etc.) There are other ways to conduct planning. For an overview of various methods, see (in the following, the models are applied to the strategic planning process, but generally are eligible for use elsewhere):
Critical — But Frequently Missing Step — Acknowledgement and Celebration of Results
It’s easy for planners to become tired and even cynical about the planning process. One of the reasons for this problem is very likely that far too often, emphasis is placed on achieving the results. Once the desired results are achieved, new ones are quickly established. The process can seem like having to solve one problem after another, with no real end in sight. Yet when one really thinks about it, it’s a major accomplishment to carefully analyze a situation, involve others in a plan to do something about it, work together to carry out the plan and actually see some results. So acknowledge this — celebrate your accomplishment!
Strategic Planning (in nonprofit or for-profit organizations)
Written by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Copyright 1997-2008.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Facilitation.
Simply put, strategic planning determines where an organization is going over the next year or more, how it’s going to get there and how it’ll know if it got there or not. The focus of a strategic plan is usually on the entire organization, while the focus of a business plan is usually on a particular product, service or program.
There are a variety of perspectives, models and approaches used in strategic planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the organization’s leadership, culture of the organization, complexity of the organization’s environment, size of the organization, expertise of planners, etc. For example, there are a variety of strategic planning models, including goals-based, issues-based, organic, scenario (some would assert that scenario planning is more a technique than model), etc. Goals-based planning is probably the most common and starts with focus on the organization’s mission (and vision and/or values), goals to work toward the mission, strategies to achieve the goals, and action planning (who will do what and by when). Issues-based strategic planning often starts by examining issues facing the organization, strategies to address those issues, and action plans. Organic strategic planning might start by articulating the organization’s vision and values and then action plans to achieve the vision while adhering to those values. Some planners prefer a particular approach to planning, eg, appreciative inquiry. Some plans are scoped to one year, many to three years, and some to five to ten years into the future. Some plans include only top-level information and no action plans. Some plans are five to eight pages long, while others can be considerably longer.
Quite often, an organization’s strategic planners already know much of what will go into a strategic plan (this is true for business planning, too). However, development of the strategic plan greatly helps to clarify the organization’s plans and ensure that key leaders are all “on the same script”. Far more important than the strategic plan document, is the strategic planning process itself.
NOTE: Much of the following information is in regard to goals-based strategic planning, probably the most common form of strategic planning.