Planning is one of the most basic of all management functions. However, if you look around today, you wonder if many organizations really plan, or if they have just been very lucky.
Good planning implements a clear vision, mission and goal for an organization, and then develops the guidelines for achieving those goals. Most organizations today have mission statements hanging in hallways, meeting rooms and other places around the organization. But ask the average employee what the mission statement is or what it means, and you often get a blank stare.
If employees are making decisions, performing tasks or directing others without a clear picture of where the organization needs to go, you have to wonder if their actions and efforts are really in support of the organization’s most important goals and objectives. Employees at any level of an organization should know the overall vision, purpose and mission of the organization and clearly understand how their actions support the organization’s attainment of those objectives.
Planning can and should be looked at on four distinct levels; the goals and objectives become much more focused on the individual employee the further one gets into the planning process. Strategic planning identifies and describes the overall goals of the organization. Years ago, two teams went to the Super Bowl. The strategic plan of one was to get to the Super Bowl; the plan of the other was to win the Super Bowl. Both teams achieved their goals, but one had a clearer picture of the desired outcome.
Operational planning provides the general guidelines developed by organizations, in order to present the overall process by which the organization and its people function. Operational plans typically determine priorities and ensure that the activities of the overall organization work together in support of each segment of the organization’s goals and objectives.
Tactical planning provides the day-to-day approach to how the organization’s business ventures will be accomplished. It is developed to support the operational plan, and its goals and objectives are designed to achieve desired outcomes and intentions.
Contingency planning is critical, because few plans can anticipate every eventuality that may occur; this is often what saves the day for an organization. Good contingency planning is both proactive and reactive in nature. Reactive contingency planning looks at the fact that few events in the business world today happen in a vacuum. Efficient planners are constantly looking at events which impact other organizations in order to determine if similar events could potentially impact their organization as well.
Natural disasters have shown many organizations that their contingency planning lacked depth. For example, when heavy rainfall flooded an organization’s computer center, it was discovered that the back-up system was in the same building. Proactive contingency planning means to utilize “what if” statements, determining the likelihood and cost of preparation for such events. Few people could have anticipated an event like 9/11 until it occurred; the fallout of that event impacted thousands of organizations nationwide and hundreds locally.
How good is your organizational planning?