Planning is quite an important habit to imbibe on one’s self.  This habit ensures that everything needed for an execution of, for example, a project or an event will fall into right places without wasting the resources or with minimal waste of resources, time and effort.  Furthermore, this avoids delaying of other pending activities and allows for an ample time should further revision is needed without causing the execution to be delayed.

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Planning may be involved from the simple time-scheduling of a student caught in the web of final exams, thesis and projects to a more complex act of establishing a business.  Even the simple logging of daily activities in an organizer is already a planning process.

As regards the definition of planning, there is no single definition to be offered, which shall capture the very essence of this project management technique.

Time-Management-Guide.com defines planning as “…one of the most important project management and time management techniques. Planning is preparing a sequence of action steps to achieve some specific goal. If you do it effectively, you can reduce much the necessary time and effort of achieving the goal.”  In this definition, importance of time and effort are given emphasis.  This has been so since in any project management, time and effort are the most important and primary non-measurable resources.  More so, defining the goal is as well important as this would dictate the courses of actions to be taken.

Another meaning of planning is being offered by InvestorWords.com.  Planning is a “… process of setting goals, developing strategies, and outlining tasks and schedules to accomplish the goals.”   In here, the terms goals, processes, strategies and schedule are mentioned.  Apart from time and effort already mentioned, these aspects are also quite common and important in planning.

Planning is a process in a sense that it follows a routine or step-by-stet procedure.  As a process, one cannot move on to the next stage of planning without undergoing through the first steps.  Although in several situations this may not be the case, being able to identifythe first step, second step and so on will aid a lot in carrying out the goal effectively.

Page 2 Activity Planning Essay

Approaches to Planning

While planning is already a technique in itself, several approaches in carrying out this activity are still being offered.  Nonetheless, it is to be remembered that there is nosingle way, nor best way to planning.  Activities involved in planning ahead may vary depending on the goal that needs to be achieved, available resources (may it be financial, man-power, material and etc), and other pre-existing conditions.  Similarly, planning involves a lot of decision making.  Usually this decision-making process falls on the shoulders of the project managers and as most often the case, required decisions involve the decision to pursue the next step or re-direct the plan using the other method.

  Other decisions involve the use of resources, and management of the people involved. In some instances, albeit a quite impressive, detailed and realistic approach to planning has already been executed, there are cases when plans still fail.  Planning ahead carries the picture of what we want to see in the future or where we want to be henceforth.  However, since we do not have the capacity to see what is in the future, we may still felt alarmed if certain conditions did not get along with our plans.  It is in this regard that schemes must not be limited to one detailed map.

Contingency plans should as well be created and made available immediately as substitute to the existing scheme should the need arises. Based on http://www.entarga.com/stratplan/approaches.htm, Approaches to Planning, different organizations apply different approaches to planning.  For simplicity purposes and for efficiency in remembering for future reference, approaches to planning has been grouped into four possible approaches: (1) the Reactive-past oriented; (2) Inactive-present oriented; (3) the Preactive-predict the future, and; (4) Proactive-create the future.  Obviously, the four approaches have time as element or defining factor in planning.

In the first approach, Reactive-past oriented planning is based on the efforts made in the past.  This means that one tries to plan ahead based on the best practice done in the past, which had been eventually adjusted through time.  Such planning approach is somehow seems to be fearful of the future and changes, so to play safe, it would be best to apply what have been already done in the past.  This way, in cases problems arise, the planner could easily copy the past resolution without carrying so much the burden of deciding.

The second approach, inactive-present oriented, on the other hand, dwells in the past.  As its name implies, it is inactive in a way that it does not favor any change at all.  Adhering to this approach may mean preserving the current status of the activities.  Moreover, it is somehow similar to reactive-past in a way that it tries to preserve the already accomplished and once proven “best practice”. On the other hand, this approach sees itself as far better than the first one.

Unlike the first two approaches, Pre-active-predict the future is more up to a challenge and open to changes.  This seeks out the best possible position of the company or an organization at the advent of pressing changes such as technological advancement.  In here, planning as according to changes are taken at the advantage of the company.  Based on the present reports on the market or environment changes, the planner tries to see what possible effect these changes may subject the group and how can the company take advantage on these pressing changes.

The last of the four approaches presented is the proactive-create the future.  Usually this approach is being applied by companies who would rather create demands rather than support the current demands.  In this approach, planners or organizers are triggered to be more creative and imaginative as they are involved in honing the future and its demands.  However, one foreseen problem in this kind of approach is the possibility of delays especially in the absence of technology that could help execute the project.
The Planning Process

Planning is said to be the road map towards the achievement of a goal.  It involves step-by-step courses of actions which are all in coherence to the pre-defined goal.  BMGT-1301 DCCCD, an online module cum guide on planning provides a step-by-step technique in planning.  The steps are as follows:
1.      Define Mission (Goal)
2.      Analyze Strengths
3.      Analyze Weaknesses
4.      Identify Opportunities
5.      Identify Threats
6.      Set Goals
7.      Set Objectives
8.      Develop Tactics
9.      Develop Operations
10.  Monitor Plan

By looking at the enumerated steps, one may realize that some items are inter-related, hence it could be further summarize into a five-step plan: (1) Defining the mission; (2) Conduct a situation analysis or SWOT analysis (where SWOT analysis means assessing of Strengths and Weaknesses, and identification of opportunities and threats); (3) Setting of Goals and Objectives; (4) Development of strategies (operational and tactical), and; (5) Monitoring of plan.

The first step simply tells something about setting a goal or purpose.  The mission or goal defines what does an organization or the event planners would want to achieve in their endeavor.  The goal directs and sets the roadmap towards what the planner has in his or her mind.  As the first step, this is where the planner first assesses the resources available to him and the time frame, which needed to fully execute the project.

Next step is the SWOT assessment.  As can be seen from the figure above, the SWOT assessment is a four-part procedure wherein one assesses the strengths and weaknesses of their organization then identifies the possible threats, as well as the opportunities that the new endeavor they are planning will bring to their organization.  Basically, the strength-weakness assessment part dwells on the internal aspects of the organization or a team.

In the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a team, it would be wise to start with knowing what makes their group distinct, what motivates the people to work and cooperate with one another, what are the available resources of the team, which could help them in executing the plan, what resources are not available, what area in their team that is still left untapped, is there an adequate people who can help in this project, how coordinated are the different sub-groups within the organization, are the team members have their own distinct special skills that could be utilized in this endeavor, and other questions that may asked by the planner to further assess the strengths and weaknesses of the team.

Following the strength-weakness assessment is the identification of threats and opportunities that may be endowed by the project.  Opportunities may mean prospective new market or possibility for higher revenue.  To know such, these questions could be asked by the planner to himself:  What is my market, how big is it? How profitable my plan is?  Is my plan right on time?  Do I have competitors? Are they competitive?  Given the assessed strengths of my team, how will I be able to exhaust them to their optimum?
On the one hand, while assessing the opportunities the planned endeavor may bring to the company, one must also take time to assess the risks the organizers may incur.

The risks may be in the form of money, bad publicity, safety of the people involved, shortage of available resources, strong competition among team players (competing groups), incapacity of the team to provide the needs of the market, and other threat that may be identified.  Likewise, one may assess the possible threats to the group by taking a look at its weaknesses.  For an instance, assuming one identified weakness of the group is the lack of manpower – perhaps it is a 10-man-team.  A project assigned to them requires the participation of 300 guests.

 Given the number of the organizers as against the number of expected participants, and given the number of areas they must consider, such as logistics, financing, advertising and marketing, delays and unfinished tasks might be among the risks that the team may encounter.  However, if the team would be creative and smart enough, they may hire a group of people to execute the plan while each original team members may focus heading the respective areas assigned to them.

Among the perceived advantage of the SWOT analysis is that result of this assessment may serve as baseline for future benchmarking. Upon the execution of the SWOT analysis, next step would be setting the goals and objectives.  The goal being mentioned is different from the main purpose being mentioned in the first course of action.  While the “goal” as mission means the direction to which the plan must take, the goal being mentioned here refers to rather performance goals.  These goals and objectives should always be in coherent with the mission of the team.

One example of the goal mentioned here is the setting of time frame, which will dictate when does a phase of a project should be executed. Next to setting of goals is the scheming of operational and tactical strategies.  Operational and tactical strategies simply refer to the manner with which the plan is to be executed.  Involved here is the coordination with the primary involved, division of tasks, adjustments should there be a need for changes, provision of reports or evaluations for projection of outcomes and other strategies deemed helpful for the implementation of the project.

While both tactical and operational strategies both offer ways on how to execute the plan, what distinguish is the span of the term of execution and the persons involved in the execution of the plan.  Tactical strategy is usually set on a long-term basis.  Among the examples of this strategy given in BMGT-1301 DCCCD <http://telecollege.dcccd.edu/mgmt1374/book_contents/2planning/plng_process/plng_process.htm> are long-term growth, improved customer service and increased profitability.  Accomplishment of tactical strategies is often carried out based on detailed reports (may be financial, operational, and/or market) available to the company.  This strategy is often used when there is a future plan for re-directing the goals of the company.  More so it is a shorter decision-making time frame of the larger picture of a strategic plan, which tells the planner what to, who will and how to execute the plan.

On the other hand, operational plan is usually limited to plans on how to carry out a task within the day.  As most often the case, such plans are being executed by the supervisors.  In this strategy of planning, the supervisor sets the criteria for planning, does the scheduling of activities, secures the needed resources and generates (or maybe assign someone to generate) report progress.  Operational plans are what can be considered as sub-strategies of tactical plans.  In here, the supervisor tries to interpret the tactics set by the management to what is applicable to his or her unit.

The last step of planning, which is equally important and is seemed to be the easiest part, is the monitoring of executed plans whereby the progress of each strategy or step of the plan is being monitored.  The monitoring part provides for further improvement of the strategic planning.  Likewise, this enables the planner to immediately see in what part of the planning process encounters problems and how does it affect others areas of the plans.  This way it would be easy to fix the problem.
Activity Planning

To better understand how does activity planning (or planning) is being executed with cost-efficiency and effectively, a sample case is to be presented.  For this case and for easy understanding, the instance to be given shall limit to simple act of planning as in planning for outing or reunion.

Suppose a group of people who happens to be classmates during their high school years suddenly feel the pang of pain of missing their younger days.  Then the idea to throw a high school reunion popped out of their minds.  Since all are still busy at the moment, they decided to throw a party in two months time, thus giving them an ample time to prepare and plan ahead.

In this simple example, they may use as an approach to planning the mix of inactive-present oriented and preactive-predict oriented approaches.  Using the first approach, they may assess present available information on the current status of their former classmate and as well as, data regarding the most popular party particulars that may be enjoyed by their classmates.  They may use as planning guide a simple noting of what’s, where’s, when’s and how’s of planning.  At the same time, if in case they would want to make the reunion a memorable one, they may creatively plan the programs and integrate into it original and exciting games and other activities using the resources that may get at the moment.

To start with the planning, they must first answer the question why would they want to have this reunion.  Most reunions are being held for the purpose of reviving the camaraderie among former school buddies and as well as to establish possible connections.  Also, in a way, this provides a time for relaxation and entertainment for the participants.  Upon deciding for what reason do they want to have the said party, they must next decide who the invitees should be.  Since throwing a big reunion such as the one being held by schools for their alumni is quite time and effort consuming, they decided to invite only those who belonged to their former section.  This way guests would be more manageable.

Upon setting their purpose, it is now time for them to do the SWOT analysis.  Upon the accomplishment of analysis, the group realized that among their strengths are their closeness to and being able to find time for one another; they are now quite establish thus shelling out of money will not be a problem, and they are party-lovers, hence they would be able to throw the reunion as lively and enjoyable as possible.  On the other hand, one of their weaknesses is that they are too busy to devote much time in the planning of the said reunion.  Moreover, they are not well informed of the whereabouts of some of their classmates.  Locating them will be another activity in their planning.

On the contrary, they see this reunion as an opportunity to revive ties and establish a wider network especially now that they are a part of the corporate world.  Apart from identifying the advantages, they also account for the possible risks on their end of this reunion.  Perhaps, they find money matters as risk, brushing shoulders with someone they had a fight with before or reviving past grudge.

Next step is the scheming of strategies for the carrying out of the plan.  In here they may separate the task of organizing the party among themselves.  They may even categorize the activities such that each one of them will be doing an interrelated set of activities.  As an example, one may take the task of budgeting their finances; the other one may take the task of overseeing the logistics aspect of the plan, this includes scouting for a venue of the party and provision of other party needs; coordination with the guests may be assigned to the other; and lastly, the task of overseeing the entire process may be given to another.

To know whether the plan shall be accomplished on the scheduled date, they must set a time frame, which shall remind them when a deliverable of the task is expected to be done.  Lastly, to know if indeed the planning process is progressing, the overseer must be able to monitor the courses of actions taken from time-to-time.  To aid the overseer in monitoring each one’s activities, each one of them may provide a status report of their current undertakings.

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