This outline is but a simple summary of the planning process, for all the details are covered elsewhere, eg, problem solving. Readers should check these other relevant outines as they read through this one.

All managers have to plan - some do it more methodically than others. Informal or casual plans are derived as a result of lack of time or effort and depend on emotion, guesstimates, evaluation of past occurrences, good or bad memory; they are not often committed to paper. A system which relies on this form of planning is sometimes known as crisis management, and leads to great stress for all concerned. Managers give priority to daily problems as they arise, rather than planning ahead [which may prevent some of the daily problems?]

Formal planning is developed through a systematic and identifiable process and is always written and well documented. The degree of sophistication of these plans depends on the individual needs of the organisation or department, which are in turn affected by the environment [those factors over which you have no control] as well as the size and nature of the business.



Planning is the first step in the initiation of any form of activity - can range from elaborate documents to short mental processes.

It consists of reaching a series of decisions that serve as a basis for action, designed to secure a defined aim. [result of problem-solving process - time analysis.]

All involved must know:

Plans must act as motivators - and must be clarified by supervisors at each level.


Advantages of Planning



Barriers to Planning

Difficult, frustrating, intangible and demanding of time and effort >> rather get on with the job.

Resistance to change - we've always done it this way.

Lack of confidence


Master Strategy - Strategic Plans

Central concept

usually made by CEO or Board;

can be departmental, regional, state or personal [eg, career]

What to do

in what order

how fast to move

what risks to take

Long term, broad brush

what is my aim for the next ... year, month, week?

what limitations apply to the aim?

what resources are at my disposal?

what assumptions can I make?

what options do I have?

what are the risks?

what is the size of the outcome?


Action Plans


Short range.

How to achieve strategic plan in stages


Repetitive Actions

Advantages and disadvantages of these rigid plans?


Single Use Plans

Specific action to deal with a particular problem that may not recur

End result of decision-making: when the best alternative has been selected >>>>> how to implement it.


Continuing Plans

Some plans are made to cover a long period of time and are renewed at the end of each year - often known as rolling plans, and 3 and 5 year plans are common. Managers draw up a plan, for example, of resources needed, when they can expect to be bought, and when they will need to be replaced. The Bribie Island Seniors Computing Club has a 5 year plan which shows the replacement date for all our computers, printers, scanners, digital camera, photocopier etc; say we budget to replace a computer after 3 years - we save enough money, but then decide there is no need to replace it yet - so, some of the money could be used to replace or buy something else. At the end of each year, we will review all the items and their respective dates, delete some or add new ones or amend old ones - Year 2 becomes Year 1 and we institute a new Year 5.

There is a tale that 75% of small businesses go broke within the first year, first 3 years, whatever. Sadly, whatever the time frame, this is often because of no or poor planning, or a rolling plan that expects to make a profit in the first year - whereas it would have been more realistic to break even in the first year and make a profit in the second.

Business plans are essential for any business and form a category of their own. I can recommend as a site I have found to be extremely useful. Operational and Project Planning are two related areas, too detailed for this outline, but check them out in any management text book.


The Planning Process

This is a ubiquitous diagram in these outlines - it applies to all aspects of management. First of all, you must plan - then implement; after a while, you should evaluate whether or not your plan has been successful, and, if necesary, make changes - to your plan, your implementation, or sometimes, maybe your evaluation.

A more detailed approach to the planning phase would involve such steps as:

  1. decide on the mission or goals
  2. set your objectives
  3. analyse the environmental factors
  4. assess your department or company's Strengths and Weaknesses
  5. look for Opportunities and Threats [these two processes are often called a SWOT analysis]
  6. develop plans - with contingencies
  7. select the best alternative


Rue & Byars [whose text may be old - but useful - see bibliography for details] have a neat flow diagram:



Once the final plan has been decided, you have to synchronise watches:

  1. divide necessary activities into steps
  2. examine relationships between steps >> sequence
  3. allocate responsibility for each
  4. determine necessary/available resources
  5. estimate time required for each step
  6. assign target times/dates
  7. evaluate - plans must be flexible and dynamic - frequent reviews if long-range.



Personal Goals

No manager is worth her or his salt unless she or he has worked out personal goals in any or all of the above areas - you cannot expect to lead if you are wandering aimlessly yourself. There is a quote from Alice In Wonderland in one of my books which is pertinent:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to go.

Alice: I don't care where ....

Cheshire cat: Then it doesn't matter which way you go.

Personal goals and Organisational goals - harmony/conflict ? We all work for the same company, so if your goals are not in harmony, then one or the other has to change. Managers have been known to change company goals, but many find a new job. You will find it easier to change departmental goals - and remember that if you can't get in via the front door, try the side or back door!

Personal attitudes and values - influence on choice/solutions. Objectivity and subjectivity - standing back, or deeply involved? You have to remember that no matter how objective you try to be, you will be influenced by your past education, training and experience - we can all see this in the decisions made by our bosses! Try to remember that your decisions may also be flavoured.


The Final Draft?


Have a look at a case study of a strategic plan


Return to 30 Outlines


Go on to Controlling & Budgeting