Definitions, Meaning & Characteristics of Planning.

Definitions, Meaning & characteristics of Planning.


Meaning and Concept of Planning

In simple words, planning is deciding in advance what is to be done, when where, how and by whom it is to be done. Planning bridges the gap from where we are to where we want to go. It includes the selection of objectives, policies, procedures and programmes from among alternatives. A plan is a predetermined course of action to achieve a specified goal. It is an intellectual process characterized by thinking before doing. It is an attempt on the part of manager to anticipate the future in order to achieve better performance. Planning is the primary function of management.

Definitions of Planning

Different authors have given different definitions of planning from time to time. The main definitions of planning are as follows:

  • According to Alford and Beatt, "Planning is the thinking process, the organized foresight, the vision based on fact and experience that is required for intelligent action."
  • According to Theo Haimann, "Planning is deciding in advance what is to be done. When a manager plans, he projects a course of action for further attempting to achieve a consistent co-ordinate structure of operations aimed at the desired results.
  • According to Billy E. Goetz, "Planning is fundamentally choosing and a planning problem arises when an alternative course of action is discovered."
  • According to Koontz and O' Donnell, "Planning is an intellectual process, conscious determination of course of action, the basing of decision on purpose, facts and considered estimates."
  • According to Allen, "A plan is a trap laid to capture the future."

Nature / Characteristics of Planning


The main characteristics or nature of planning is given below:

Planning is an Intellectual Process

Planning is an intellectual process of thinking in advance. It is a process of deciding the future on the series of events to follow. Planning is a process where a number of steps are to be taken to decide the future course of action. Managers or executives have to consider various courses of action, achieve the desired goals, go in details of the pros and cons of every course of action and then finally decide what course of action may suit them best.

Planning Contributes to the Objectives

Planning contributes positively in attaining the objectives of the business enterprise. Since plans are there from the very first stage of operation, the management is able to handle every problem successfully. Plan try to set everything right. A purposeful, sound and effective planning process knows how and when to tackle a problem. This leads to success. Objectives thus are easily achieved.

Planning is a Primary Function of Management

Planning precedes other functions in the management process. Certainly, setting of goals to be achieved and lines of action to be followed precedes the organization, direction, supervision and control. No doubt, planning precedes other functions of management. It is primary requisite before other managerial functions step in. But all functions are inter-connected. It is mixed in all managerial functions but there too it gets precedence. It thus gets primary everywhere.

A continuous Process

Planning is a continuous process and a never ending activity of a manager in an enterprise based upon some assumptions which may or may not come true in the future. Therefore, the manager has to go on modifying revising and adjusting plans in the light of changing circumstances. According to George R. Terry, "Planning is a continuous process and there is no end to it. It involves continuous collection, evaluation and selection of data, and scientific investigation and analysis of the possible alternative courses of action and the selection of the best alternative.

Planning Pervades Managerial Activities

From primary of planning follows pervasiveness of planning. It is the function of every managerial personnel. The character, nature and scope of planning may change fro personnel to personnel but the planning as an action remains intact. According to Billy E. Goetz, "Plans cannot make an enterprise successful. Action is required, the enterprise must operate managerial planning seeks to achieve a consistent, coordinated structure of operations focused on desired trends. Without plans, action must become merely activity producing nothing but chaos."

Role, Significance, Importance & Advantages of Planning


An organisation without planning is like a sailboat minus its rudder. Without planning, organisation, are subject to the winds of organizational change. Planning is one of the most important and crucial functions of management. According to Koontz and O'Donnell, "Without planning business becomes random in nature and decisions become meaningless and adhoc choices." According to Geroge R. Terry, "Planning is the foundation of most successful actions of any enterprise." Planning becomes necessary due to the following reasons:

Reduction of Uncertainty

Future is always full of uncertainties. A business organisation has to function in these uncertainties. It can operate successfully if it is able to predict the uncertainties. Some of the uncertainties can be predicted by undertaking systematic. Some of the uncertainties can be predicted by undertaking systematic forecasting. Thus, planning helps in foreseeing uncertainties which may be caused by changes in technology, fashion and taste of people, government rules and regulations, etc.

Better Utilization of Resources

An important advantage of planning is that it makes effective and proper utilization of enterprise resources. It identifies all such available resources and makes optimum use of these resources.

Increases Organizational Effectiveness

Planning ensures organizational effectiveness. Effectiveness ensures that the organisation is in a position to achieve its objective due to increased efficiency of the organisation.

Reduces the Cost of Performance

Planning assists in reducing the cost of performance. It includes the selection of only one course of action amongst the different courses of action that would yield the best results at minimum cost. It removes hesitancy, avoids crises and chaos, eliminates false steps and protects against improper deviations.

Concentration on Objectives

It is a basic characteristic of planning that it is related to the organizational objectives. All the operations are planned to achieve the organizational objectives. Planning facilitates the achievement of objectives by focusing attention on them. It requires the clear definition of objectives so that most appropriate alternative courses of action are chosen.

Helps in Co-ordination

Good plans unify the interdepartmental activity and clearly lay down the area of freedom in the development of various sub-plans. Various departments work in accordance with the overall plans of the organisation. Thus, there is harmony in the organisation, and duplication of efforts and conflict of jurisdiction are avoided.

Makes Control Effective

Planning and control are inseparable in the sense that unplanned action cannot be controlled because control involves keeping activities on the predetermined course by rectifying deviations from plans. Planning helps control by furnishing standards of performance.

Encouragement to Innovation

Planning helps innovative and creative thinking among the managers because many new ideas come to the mind of  a manager when he is planning. It creates a forward-looking attitude among the managers.

Increase in Competitive Strength

Effective planning gives a competitive edge to the enterprise over other enterprises that do not have planning or have ineffective planning. This is because planning may involve expansion of capacity, changes in work methods, changes in quality, anticipation of tastes and fashions of people and technological changes etc.

Delegation is Facilitated

A good plan always facilitates delegation of authority in a better way to subordinates.

Steps involved in Planning


Planning is a process which embraces a number of steps to be taken. Planning is an intellectual exercise and a conscious determination of courses of action. Therefore, it requires courses of action. The planning process is valid for one organisation and for one plan, may not be valid for other organizations or for all types of plans, because various factors that go into planning process may differ from organisation to organisation or from plan to plan. For example, planning process for a large organisation may not be the same for a small organisation. However, the major steps involved in the planning process of a major organisation or enterprise are as follows:

Establishing objectives

The first and primary step in planning process is the establishment of planning objectives or goals. Definite objectives, in fact, speak categorically about what is to be done, where to place the initial emphasis and the things to be accomplished by the network of policies, procedures, budgets and programmes, the lack of which would invariably result in either faulty or ineffective planning.

It needs mentioning in this connection that objectives must be understandable and rational to make planning effective. Because the major objective, in all enterprise, needs be translated into derivative objective, accomplishment of enterprise objective needs a concrete endeavor of all the departments.

Establishment of Planning Premises

Planning premises are assumptions about the future understanding of the expected situations. These are the conditions under which planning activities are to be undertaken. These premises may be internal or external. Internal premises are internal variables that affect the planning. These include organizational polices, various resources and the ability of the organisation to withstand the environmental pressure. External premises include all factors in task environment like political, social technological, competitors' plans and actions, government policies, market conditions. Both internal factors should be considered in formulating plans. At the top level mainly external premises are considered. As one moves downward, internal premises gain importance.

Determining Alternative Courses

The next logical step in planning is to determine and evaluate alternative courses of action. It may be mentioned that there can hardly be any occasion when there are no alternatives. And it is most likely that alternatives properly assessed may prove worthy and meaningful. As a matter of fact, it is imperative that alternative courses of action must be developed before deciding upon the exact plan.

Evaluation of Alternatives

Having sought out the available alternatives along with their strong and weak points, planners are required to evaluate the alternatives giving due weight-age to various factors involved, for one alternative may appear to be most profitable involving heavy cash outlay whereas the other less profitable but involve least risk. Likewise, another course of action may be found contributing significantly to the company's long-range objectives although immediate expectations are likely to go unfulfilled.

Evidently, evaluation of alternative is a must to arrive at a decision. Otherwise, it would be difficult to choose the best course of action in the perspective of company needs and resources as well as objectives laid down.

Selecting a Course of Action

The fifth step in planning is selecting a course of action from among alternatives. In fact, it is the point of decision-making-deciding upon the plan to be adopted for accomplishing the enterprise objectives.

Formulating Derivative Plans

To make any planning process complete the final step is to formulate derivative plans to give effect to and support the basic plan. For example, if Indian Airlines decide to run Jumbo Jets between Delhi an Patna, obliviously, a number of derivative plans have to be framed to support the decision, e.g., a staffing plan, operating plans for fuelling, maintenance, stores purchase, etc. In other words, plans do not accomplish themselves. They require to be broken down into supporting plans. Each manager and department of the organisation is to contribute to the accomplishment of the master plan on the basis of the derivative plans.

Establishing Sequence of Activities

Timing an sequence of activities are determined after formulating basic and derivative plans, so that plans may be put into action. Timing is an essential consideration in planning. It gives practical shape and concrete form to the programmes. The starting and finishing times are fixed for each piece of work, so as to indicate when the within what time that work is to be commenced and completed. Bad timing of programmes results in their failure. To maintain a symmetry of performance and a smooth flow of work, the sequence of operation shaped be arranged carefully by giving priorities to some work in preference to others. Under sequence it should be decided as to who will don what and at what time.

Feedback or Follow-up Action

Formulating plans and chalking out of programmes are not sufficient, unless follow-up action is provided to see that plans so prepared and programmes chalked out are being carried out in accordance with the plan and to see whether these are not kept in cold storage. It is also required to see whether the plan is working well in the present situation. If conditions have changed, the plan current plan has become outdated or inoperative it should be replaced by another plan. A regular follow-up is necessary and desirable from effective implementation and accomplishment of tasks assigned.

The plan should be communicated to all persons concerned in the organisation. Its objectives and course of action must be clearly defined leaving no ambiguity in the minds of those who are responsible for its execution. Planning is effective only when the persons involved work in a team spirit and all are committed to the objectives, policies, programmes, strategies envisaged in the plan.