Five Steps to the Planning Process


by Jayaram V

A plan is an organized effort to realize specific goals. It is more than wishful thinking or forecasting future. Many people do not like to engage in any planning at all. They may do it vaguely or mentally, which is more like wishful thinking rather than a planned effort. It cannot be considered planning in the professional sense, although it may involve some planning and an intention to do something or achieve something in future.

However, plans play an important role in the professional field. They are a vital part of business and management functions. No organization can succeed without them. They are not only vital to their survival and success but also help them face the challenges and changes that happen upon the passage of time. Hence, the planning process assumes a greater significance in organizations and requires serious and systematic effort.

Organizational plans are elaborate, complex and systematic and require group effort and serious preparation since they cannot go wrong. Further, due to the complexity of their processes and functions, the planning process assumes a greater significance in organizations and business environment. Therefore, organizations value not only the effort and time spent in the planning process but also the knowledge of the planning process, which is required to make the plans effective and achievable.

Five steps to plannning

There are five steps to the planning process. They are common to most plans. Each step is important in the planning process and requires attention to details, so that the execution of the plan will take place smoothly as intended, without major surprises. The five steps of the planning process are stated below.

1. Evaluate the current situation

You begin the planning process with a study to know where you stand in the current situation in comparison to others or your own vision and ideals to identify the problems, opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses, so that you know where planning is required and for what purpose.

2. Know what you want to achieve

In this phase, you have to establish priority areas where you want to see change or improvement. You have to determine what is important in the long term, and where you want to focus your effort and energies. It will help you set the priorities or focus areas to achieve the required progress.

3. Set the goals

In this phase you have to define clearly the objectives of your plan. You have to set clear, precise, realistic and measurable goals according to the priorities, which you have identified in the previous phase and the change you want to see. Once you identify a few long-term goals, you can break them down into subordinate or secondary goals.

4. Establish accountability

Here, you will establish a foolproof system of accountability with proper checks and balances to achieve your goals. You will identify roles, resources, duties and responsibilities, action plans, strategies, budget allocations and time frames to establish an effective program of accountability through a chain of command and control.

5. Set standards to measure progress

This is the final phase, in which you will establish a proper reporting system and lines of communication to monitor, record and review proactively the implementation of the plans, the progress achieved, the problems encountered, and the actions taken to resolve them. You will also keep backup plans to deal with contingencies.

Planning requires attention to detail, creative problem solving, proactive thinking and a practical and realistic approach. You must be willing to step out of your comfort zone to explore all the opportunities and alternatives that are available to you to accomplish your goals. You must also possess objectivity and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

Suggestions for Further Reading