Planning And Decision Making: Characteristics, Importance, Elements, Limitations

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Planning and decision making

In everyday life, all of us make and execute certain plans to achieve our goals. For example, before going on a trip, we make a plan i.e. where and when to go, how to reach the destination, the duration of the trip, where to stay and luggage to carry, etc. All these tasks require creating an effective plan which consists of certain activities for the successful execution of a trip. Process of making such plans to achieve some goal or objective is called “Planning. In other terms, in order to execute activities in future, prior forethought is necessary and this forethought comes under the concept of “planning.”

trip planning

From an organizational point of view, planning is defined as “process by which an organization identifies its short-term and long-term goals, design, and implement strategies to achieve them.” One of the important aspects of planning is to allocate resources and manpower in an organization.

The planning function was put forth by Henri Fayol, known for his Management Theories i.e. 14 principles of management and 5 basic functions of management.

Henri Fayol

Planning is one of the six management functions/processes of Henri and the management process starts with planning function in any organization.

Management functions and processes

For example, manpower planning or human resource planning is a crucial planning process which ensures the right kind of people at the right place, and at the right time to fulfil the right type of jobs in the organizations. This process includes different activities in the planning process to meet organizational goals.

Manpower Planning

The Purpose Of Planning

1. Achievement Of Goals

purpose of planning- achievement of goals

2. Cost-Effective Decision-Making

purpose of planning- costeffective decision making

3. Forecasting

purpose of planning- forecasting

4. Productive Utilisation Of Available Resources

purpose of planning- productive utlisation of available resources

5. Facilitate Other Management Functions

purpose of planning- facilitate other management functions

6. Risk-Management

purpose of planning- risk managment

Characteristics/Nature Of Planning

1. Basic and Important Management Function

Planning is not only the base for the rest of the management functions i.e. staffing, directing, organizing, and controlling, but it is also one of the most crucial processes for any organization to meet goals. All the above management functions involve effective planning as without proper planning no function can be performed well. Therefore, the results might be ambiguous.

2. Goal-Oriented

Planning is focused on defining organizational goals or objectives, identifying different action plans, deciding and implementing the best action plan to achieve goals.

3. Omnipresent

Planning is involved at all the levels i.e. top, middle, and bottom. The effective functioning of different departments of organizations like sales, purchase, IT, HR, finance among others depends on planning their systems, optimum use of resources, etc. The scope may vary in different functions.

4. Continuous Process

Planning is a continuous process in an organization which involves making plans for a particular time period i.e. monthly or quarterly, half-yearly, yearly, etc. New plans are initiated after the previous plans lapse to fulfil organizational goals.

5. Demands Strong Analytical Skills

Planning requires robust analytical abilities i.e. analyzing information, problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, etc. at each level and function.

6. Forecast

Planning process demands forecasting future needs, i.e. analyzing and detecting future requirements, challenges in accomplishing organizational goals, etc.

Importance Of Planning

Importance of planning

1. Increase In Efficiency

Planning helps in increasing efficiency by aiming at cost-reduction and generating maximum output. It controls the wastage of available resources and their duplicity.

2. Minimize Risks

Risk-management is an important aspect of any organization, especially in forecasting. Planning predicts various risks related to business and further helps in generating action plans to control and reduce these risks. So, with effective planning, organizations prepare themselves for any future uncertainty.

3. Smooth Coordination

Planning ensures effective coordination at different levels, between various departments or functions. Plans are formulated at each level i.e. top, middle, and bottom as well as in different departments. Effective execution of these plans requires proper coordination which is possible through effective planning. Similarly, different plans like short-, mid-, and long-term plans require coordination to achieve organizational goals where planning plays an important role.

4. Optimum Utilization Of Available Resources

An organization needs different resources like funds, manpower, physical assets to disburse activities of different departments. These resources are limited. So, it’s necessary to utilize and organize them efficiently to produce maximum output. Planning helps in organizing these resources carefully.

5. Smooth Supervision And Direction

Planning paves a path for supervising subordinates, providing right instructions, and rendering top-notch guidance. It aims to provide help, direction for performing various tasks, and methods for carrying out different activities.

6. Facilitates Control

Performance of staff can be controlled or improved by devising plans for improvement in performance according to the variance in performance plans and actual performance at work. Without planning, this process of control could not be smooth.

7. Staff Motivation

Attractive monetary and non-monetary benefits can be designed through proper planning which is helpful in boosting the morale of the staff. This leads to high motivation among staff and reduces turnovers of quality staff.

8. Trouble-Free Decision-Making

Making effective and right decisions in an organization is essential to achieve goals. A supervisor has to make different plans and strategies for the smooth functioning of the department and to decide the most appropriate plan. So, planning helps in smooth decision-making in an organization.

9. Goal-Oriented

Proper planning ensures that the best strategies and decisions are made to fulfil organizational goals. Different plans made at different levels are aimed at achieving individual, departmental, and organizational goals.

10. Encouraging Creativity And Innovative Ideas

Planning demands thinking and implementing the best ideas or strategies for organizational success. Both supervisors and subordinates are encouraged to exploit their creative skills and present their innovative plans.

Elements/Components Of Planning

The planning process revolves around different aspects as shown in the diagram below:

Elements of planning

1. Mission

Mission or purpose is the base of planning in any organization. The mission of an organization specifies its reason for existence, customers, products or services, service locations, etc. and mostly in written form. It acts as a direction towards achieving organizational goals. Mission also includes an organization’s values and belief system. It also clears the organization’s viewpoint on staff. Organizational goals are defined based on the mission statement of an organization.

2. Goals

The ultimate aim of the functioning of each department in an organization is to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Planning also requires setting of goals to make a plan further. Goals can be individual or team based. For example:

  • Individual goal of Hiring Manager in the HR department: To recruit top talent in the organization in given time-frame.
  • Team goal of Human Resource Department: To ensure the development of employees by fulfilling an individual’s personal, professional needs and by meeting organizational goals.

Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Short-term goals can be for less than a year and long-term goals are defined for a time-period of more than a year.

3. Policies

Planning is also based on defined policies of an organization. Policies are a set of guidelines to accomplish any task effectively and also includes procedure and actions. These are defined as a set of plans to handle different situations. Different policies like an insurance policy, travel policy, HR policies are designed to facilitate smooth functioning in any organization. Similarly, if an organization policy says that the minimum annual salary increment of staff will be 10% of the salary then increment can’t be less than 10%. So, policies act as a decision-making element as well.

4. Process

Planning is connected to a process, and it is an important element of planning. A process defines guidelines to execute different activities, i.e. action plan. In any planning activity, the process is practical. A process like planning is aimed at achieving something. These are step-by-step inter-related activities to be performed and require different resources like money, manpower, machinery, etc. to produce the desired output. For example, in a manufacturing company, different processes are present like production process, quality control and quality assurance process, maintenance process etc.

5. Budget

Plans that are made for estimating income and expenses for a specific period are defined as “budget.” Budget is a set of financial plans which are made for a specific period and reviewed at regular intervals. Whether it is an organization or a family or an individual; all make budget plans to utilize their financial resources efficiently. For example, in an organization business budget is present that includes fixed and variable costs, expected sales, profits, etc.

A well-designed budget also helps in planning during a financial crisis.

6. Projects

Project in an organization refers to the set of inter-related activities which are planned to fulfil certain goals in a specific time period at a given cost using limited resources. Project planning includes defining goals, project schedule, resources, budget, project quality, manpower, and risk management. So, this element of planning consists of other planning elements as well. For example, software companies work on different projects for their clients.

7. Strategies

Strategies are a set of plans and actions that are defined to meet certain results. Proper planning and implementation of strategies are essential for organizational success and to meet certain goals.

Types Of Planning

Planning is mainly of four types i.e. Operational, Strategic, Tactical, and Contingency.

a) Operational Planning

Operational plan or work plan refers to the planning process aimed at achieving departmental and organizational goals. It is related to the day-to-day functioning of organizations. These plans clear planned activities of departments for the near future in detail. The operational plan provides answers of:
-What goals have to be achieved and what strategies to use?

-Who will be responsible for different activities?

-What is the time limit to complete activities?-

-How much budget in terms of financial resources is required and available to complete activities?

For example, the goal of the marketing team of an engineering college is to increase the number of students by increasing marketing promotional activities. Marketing operational plan is explained in the diagram below:

Marketing Operational Plan

Operational planning is of two types i.e. single use plans or ongoing plans. Single-use plans are developed for one-time activities or tasks like sales or marketing event or seminar. Ongoing plans have a defined set of policies, rules, and procedures to achieve goals and are continued for the future as well, like a performance management system for employees.

b) Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is defined as the strategies made by management to achieve its objectives. It also includes defining directions and allocating resources for execution. Strategic planning is meant for long-term business decisions. A strategic plan starts with the vision and the mission statement of an organization.

The process of strategic planning includes vision clarity, collecting and analyzing information, strategy formulation, and implementation of strategy, evaluating, and controlling. For example, the strategic plan of an organization which aims to reduce the current turnover rate is explained in the below diagram:

Strategic Planning

Models of Strategic Planning

There are five models of strategic planning which represents its designs or blueprints. Selection of the right model depends on an organization’s goals, mission, and vision. These models are:

1. The basic model of strategic planning

These are used by new organizations having less experience in using strategic business planning. It is mainly useful for small-scale organizations and business. This planning includes defining mission, goals, identifying strategies, creating action plans, evaluation etc.

2. Goal-oriented model

This one is an extended version of the basic strategic planning model and is used by established organizations which aim at introducing an improved strategic process. The process of this model includes a SWOT analysis (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat), identifying goals and mission, making strategies, action plans, operational plans, budget allocation, and evaluation on yearly basis.

3. Scenario-based model

This model is more of a technical model. It is used by organizations to face different challenges or scenarios which arise due to external factors or environmental change. Change can be demographic or in the form of rules and regulations. The process includes identifying problem areas in business and different scenarios- both best and worst, designing suggestions for an action plan of business in different scenarios, selecting common strategies to handle changes, and identifying common issues through which business is being affected or will be affected in the near future.

4. Alignment model

This model is useful in making a balance between an organization’s mission and available resources as well as aligning resources to the mission. It helps in identifying any gaps in planning i.e. gap between actual results and expected results. Organizations facing huge efficiencies prefer this strategic planning model to rectify issues.

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The process includes identifying an organization’s mission, resources, process, etc, inspecting which areas are working in the right direction and which areas need improvement. It also requires finding ways of improvement and incorporating these improvements in the form of strategies in the plan.

5. Organic model

This strategic model is the self-organizing model which is based more on the value system and less on the process. The process includes clearing values and vision to stakeholders in a meeting; an action plan is established by each person as per values and vision, everyone clears results of actions and update values, vision accordingly.

c) Tactical Planning

This type of planning is for short duration i.e. plans and actions by functions for short-term and aims at contributing to the strategic plan of an organization. Tactical planning is based on today’s need and is a bit more detailed. This planning needs to be flexible to meet unexpected issues which are not predefined. It answers what to do to achieve the strategic objective rather than how-to-do as in case of operational plans. Below is an example of tactic planning by HR Hiring Manager to achieve the goal of hiring twenty sales representatives in the first quarter:

Tactic Plan

d) Contingency Planning

These type of plans are need-based and are formulated when the need for change arises or during the occurrence of any unexpected circumstance. It is also called alternate plans as it comes under picture once other plans fail to produce desired results. The process includes formulating policy, identifying critical factors of a business, risk analysis, preventive control measures, developing recovery strategies, and testing, training, monitoring plan.

An example of contingency planning can be seen in the diagram below which is a crisis situation of organization i.e. what-if HR Head, who is taking care of all HR gamut of organization, left suddenly. To handle such unexpected situations, contingency plans are made. Like in the below diagram, an organization has formulated a plan i.e. performance development program to train the rest of the HR staff to work at the capacity of HR Head in such crisis situations.

Contigency Planning

Planning Process

The planning process is defined as the steps to define goals and making the best action plans to achieve it.

Steps In Planning Process

steps in planning process

1. Defining goal or objective

Goal setting is the first and important step in the planning process. Goals are defined at the organizational, department, and individual level and are meant to be achieved in future in a specific time period. A goal can be short-term, mid-term or long-term. Plans are devised which are aimed at achieving these predefined goals. Goals specify what to achieve by defined rules, policies, process, resources, strategies, etc.

2. Collecting information

Gathering information like facts and figures required to achieve goals is a necessary part of planning. Target audience, circumstances, market information, competitor’s strategy, etc. are required to make a right and effective plan.

3. Analyzing information

The next step in the planning process is interpreting information as per goals. Analyzing information includes organizing collected information as per importance, identifying accuracy and relevancy of information from different sources, its unique features, sources and reliability for the organization.

4. Making a plan

Once relevant information is collected and analyzed, the next step is to formulate a plan to achieve defined goals; the plan includes identifying different activities, required resources, timelines, etc. to implement a plan.

5. Implement the plan

Implementing a plan refers to allocate defined activities, resources, time guidelines to individuals. In this step, strategies and plans are converted into actions to achieve goals. Implementation of plans also requires allocation of responsibility in the team which is responsible for accomplishing the plan.

6. Monitor the plan

Once a plan is implemented, it’s necessary to evaluate and monitor its effectiveness and impact according to desired goals.

The planning process can be understood further in below example of an organization plan to formulate competitive compensation and benefits structure or plan for employees.

planning process

Planning Limitations

Although planning has lots of advantages for any organization aiming to achieve its goals; it also has certain constraints or limitations. Few of them are:

1. Costly process

Planning requires much investment as lots of aspects, i.e. funds, resources, manpower etc, are included in the process of planning. Due to limited capital or funds in small and medium organizations, it is quite challenging to have comprehensive plans. It is hard to allocate funds for information gathering, predicting future needs, developing strategies, and hiring specialists. If a plan is more detailed, then the cost is high too.

2. Time-consuming task

The planning process is a bit time-consuming and, sometimes, there is a delay in decision-making especially in immediate decisions. Due to this, the planning process can’t be detailed in some organizations.

3. Fewer employee initiatives

Planning demands work under predefined policies and rigid processes. This, in turn, marks an impact on initiatives and innovative ideas from the employees. Complexity arises in managerial work as well.

4. Change resistance

The planning process is backed by a change in methods, policies, rules, etc. Employees resist this change due to insecurity, the uncertainty of new plans’ success, and getting used to the current plan. This fails the new plan.

5. Budget constraints

The planning process requires an appropriate or fixed financial budget for future actions. An investment in purchasing fixed assets by organizations puts a constraint on the budget required for implementing the planning process.

6. Scope of inaccuracy

Planning cannot be 100% accurate and reliable as it is based on forecasting and the future is uncertain, data and information used in making plans may not be accurate, vague decisions made by incompetent planner etc. There is no surety of risks in future.

Apart from these, there are few other external factors like change in government policies i.e. tax policy, import-export policy etc. The trade-unions may also hinder a smooth planning process.

Decision-Making

Decision-making is defined as the process by which different possible solutions or alternatives are identified and the most feasible solution or course of action is finalized. It is an integral part of planning. Decision-making results in selecting the right action among different available options.

It is also one of the important management functions and effective decision-making leads to fulfilling expected goals by sorting out different problems related to such decisions. Decision-making is also a time-bound process and eliminates confusions to reach a conclusion. It has a minimum of two or more alternatives or solutions to a problem so that the best can be decided. If only one alternative is available, then there is no requirement of decision-making.

Relation Between Planning And Decision-Making

Both planning and decision-making are connected to each other. These are the most important aspects of management functions. Planning requires a series of decisions to be incorporated in advance. The foundation of planning is decision-making. The role of a planner demands good decision-making abilities also as the planner has to take a lot of decisions simultaneously. So, decision-making is an important task in planning. Simultaneous and a number of decisions make a plan. In the absence of decision-making, it’s not possible to answer what, how, when, and who is planning. To execute planned activities, decision-making is compulsory.

So, planning has an important role to play in decision-making.

Characteristics of Decision-Making

Different characteristics of decision-making are mentioned below:

1. Process-oriented

Decision-making consists of a process to choose the best solution to a problem among available alternatives. The process includes identifying and analyzing problems, collecting different facts and figures, finding different solutions, and, finally, narrowing down and implementing the best one to meet organizational goals.

2. Demands creativity and Intellectual mind

Decision-making process requires creativity and logical thinking. It demands a lot of mental exercise and other components, i.e. education, experience level, intelligence, etc.

3. Demonstrates commitment

Decision-making process ensures better results based on the decisions made. So, it indicates the commitment of desired results. It requires joint efforts of the team.

4. Ensures the best solution

Decision-making also provides the best solution to any problem as the best solution is decided after evaluating different available alternatives.

5. Impacts of decision-making

Decision-making can be either positive or negative. A positive or right decision can bring positive results and negative or wrong decisions can bring negative results.

6. Decision-making is a final process

After disbursing different activities and tasks, decision-making takes place to get the results of the work done. It is the end result of discussions, comparisons, etc.

7. An ongoing and changing process

Organizations take decisions on a regular basis; so, decision-making is a continuous process. Every decision consists of separate situations that make decision-making a changing process.

Decision-Making Process

There are different steps in effective decision-making process;

a. Situation analysis and information gathering

The first step of the decision-making process is analyzing any situation, defining a problem, collecting relevant information, and identifying goals. This step includes collecting data and information to identify a real issue or problem. Problem identification is necessary for furthering the decision-making process. Once the problem is identified, an effective solution is determined. Problems are solved as per priority. After the solution is improvised, an action plan is designed to achieve the solution.

b. Plan and make alternatives

After collecting information, the next step is to develop different action plans or an alternative course of action. It requires imagination skills of a decision maker. Sometimes, additional information is also required to define better alternatives.

c. Evaluating and selecting the best alternative

This step in the decision-making process not only includes the analysis of different alternatives available or solutions but also an examination of each one of them based on results they are going to produce. The actual results of these solutions are not known as it’s based on performance in the future. So, it comes with uncertainty. It also includes choosing the best solution to achieve objectives. Different alternatives or solutions are judged based on different criteria, i.e. risk involvement, the least effort, the least timing based on the urgency of the situation, limited resources etc.

d. Implementing and evaluating decisions

After deciding the best solution to address a problem, the next step is to make and implement plans. This requires getting and allocating resources, budgets, time frame, etc. Once made, decisions are evaluated to know the progress by preparing progress reports.

Evaluating and monitoring decisions will clear different aspects, i.e. if everything is going as per the plan, different internal and external factors influencing decisions, the performance of subordinates as expected etc.

Example of the decision-making process is shown in the below visual presentation to solve the problem of high employee turnover in an organization;

decision making process

Factors Affecting Decision-Making

1. Timelines

The quality of decisions depends on how much time has been devoted to making decisions. Most of the time decision-makers have to take decisions in a limited time frame as instructed by the management. Due to the time limit, decision-makers are not able to collect all the necessary information that influences decisions and are, also, not able to look for more alternatives.

2. Value and beliefs of decision-makers

In addition, the quality of decisions also depends upon the value and belief system of the decision-makers. Anyone’s reaction to a particular situation is more likely to depend on the individual’s values, likes and dislikes, thoughts, and beliefs. It is also a behavioural aspect of the decision-makers and reflects in their decisions related to goals, strategy-making activities. So, value-based decisions help in prioritizing tasks and making goals, identifying different solutions to problems, and finalizing the best solution or alternative.

3. Policies of organization

Decisions are affected by the policies of an organization. Decisions taken have to be in the boundary or within the limits of these policies. Decisions which violate policies are not considered for implementation. Though there is a scope to make changes in policies as per decision, most of the time decisions should be at par with the policy guidelines. However, a change in policy is a time-consuming task and requires lots of things to be considered before any change. Comparatively, a change in proposed decisions is much easier.

4. Other factors like budget, manpower, values of management also influence decision-making.

Types Of Decisions

Decisions can be of different types depending upon their nature and influence:

1. Programmed and non-programmed decisions

Programmed decisions are meant for daily routine issues and for those problems that repeat frequently. A Set of tasks are defined to handle such problems or issues and are mostly initiated by the entry-level decision-makers.

For example, HR department issues like handling grievances related to leaves or attendance of employees require programmed decisions. Non-programmed decisions are made for tough situations where defining different alternatives is a challenging task. These types of decisions strategically affect organizations.

For example, decisions related to expanding the operation of an organization to other countries, launching a new product, introducing performance management system for the first time to the employees are non-programmed decisions where decision-making is a challenging task and these decisions are mostly taken by management or at the top-level.

2. Routine and strategy-oriented decisions

Routine decisions are a regular activity in an organization once identified. These are quick decisions and don’t require deep thinking or analysis. These decisions are generally taken by the bottom-management staff. Different alternatives are not required in these as everyone is aware of what action to take on a daily basis.

Examples of such decisions include what reports to generate from the biometric system of attendance by the HR staff.

Decisions, in which involvement of organizational goals, resources, and policies is required, are termed as strategic decisions. Strategy-based decisions are future-related and executed by the top management. These are for the long term and are centrally focused. A large amount of investment is required to execute strategic decisions. Different alternatives or course of actions are considered and evaluated to finalize such decisions.

For example, developing a performance management system (PMS) strategy for employees demands strategic decisions. Steps involved in strategic decision-making for formulating PMS strategy starts with identifying goal which might be retaining and motivating the quality staff. Further steps involved are: developing a process for monitoring performance and formulating a comprehensive PMS plan.

3. Policy-related and operational decisions

Decisions related to policy issues are policy-related or tactical decisions. These decisions come under the preview of the top management and leave a long-term impact. For example, changing leave structure or office timings are policy-related decisions.

Operating decisions are for operational functioning and on a daily basis. Middle- and bottom-level management is responsible for such decisions. Different departments or functions of an organization like sales, IT, production, purchase, accounts, or HR take operations decisions.

For example, Diwali bonus payment to employees is a policy matter and calculation of such bonus to handover to employees is considered an operational decision.

4. Organization-based and personal decisions

Decisions, taken by an individual as office staff, are organizational decisions. For example, conducting a campus interview decision by hiring executives is an organizational decision. Wherein, personal decisions are related to an individual’s decision to meet personal commitments. These are also known as life decisions. Buying a house is a personal decision.

5. Major and minor decisions

Major decisions are those which require much time, effort, and thinking to finalize and have a long-term impact. For example, a decision regarding higher studies whether to continue in own country or to go abroad is a major decision.
Minor decisions are routine decisions and don’t require much time and deep thinking. Like purchasing stationery for different departments is a minor decision.

6. Individual and group decisions

Individual decisions are taken by one person i.e. routine decisions; as the decision of making an excel sheet for attendance management to keep the attendance record is an individual decision.

Decisions which are taken by a group of people aiming to achieve a common goal are group decisions. For example, employee engagement activities demand HR staff to work as a group and take decisions for better employee engagement programs.

Importance of Decision-Making

1. Optimum utilization of resources

With the help of decision-making, all resources of organizations i.e. money, men, material, machine, market and method are used carefully and as per requirement.

2. Problem-solving approach

By decision-making, organizations can determine and face different problems in working. It not only helps in identifying problems but also solving them by making correct and fast decisions.

3. Contributes to organizational growth

As decision-making ensures optimum utilization of resources, making the right decisions to solve problems or issues helps in achieving organizational goals and overall growth.

4. Encourage initiatives and innovations

Decision-making task is performed at all levels of organization i.e. top, middle and bottom. This motivates the staff members to contribute to decisions through brainstorming or alternatives to solve the problem. Thus, it encourages innovative thoughts and ideas which, in turn, help the organization to be at a competitive place in the market.

5. Employee motivation

Good decisions help in increasing the productivity of organizations that result in more profits. Surplus profits help in increasing compensation benefits to employees which ultimately boosts their morale and keeps them motivated.

Summary

To conclude, planning is a systematic process that supports organizations to carry out all its present and future activities to achieve desired objectives. Planning, being a continuous function, works well in adverse situations too. Plans can be modified and restructured as per requirement and available information.

Decision making is also an important activity that supports the organization by reducing risks in projects with quick and better decisions.

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