Planning means looking ahead and checking out future course of action to be followed. It is a preparatory step. Planning is a detailed programme regarding future course of action. It determines on when, how and who is going to perform a specific task
The basic idea of planning as a dialogue is to organize a district wide communication process among all main actors. These regional/district actors are resources, persons, representatives of both government and non-government organizations i.e. private sector. It is a continuous process that involves making decisions or choices about alternative ways of using available resources, with the aim of achieving particular goals in the future.
Types of planning
Planning is of several kinds depending upon their nature. For this subject we shall concentrate on the following types of plans:
i. Financial and non-financial planning. Financial planning relates to the monetary aspect of the concern for instance budgeting a certain amount of money for i.e. rural road constructions. On the other hand, non-financial planning relates to the physical resources of the concern for instance how rural roads structures should look like.
ii. Formal and informal planning. A planning in black and white is known as formal planning. Informal planning is only thinking about it and nothing more. However, formal planning is documented and each item necessary for its implementation is clearly established for example financial implications are shown, human resource required and timeframe as well as activities.
iii. Short-range and long-range planning. Short-term planning relates to a period of less than one year. It is to accomplish objectives in the near future. Medium-term planning covers a period of over one year but less than three years. A planning between three to five years is known as long-term planning.
iv. Standing and ad hoc planning. Standing plans are permanent in nature and are meant to be used repeatedly. They ensure quick decision and action whenever need arises. On the other hand, ad hoc plans are generally for specific matters and are prepared only when some need arises.
v. Administrative and operational planning. Planning is generally done at various levels of management like top level, middle level, and lower level. Administrative planning associates with middle level managers and provide guidelines to operational planning. On the other hand, operational planning associates with lower levels of management and deals with actual execution of operations. Top level planning is concerned with fixing of objectives.
Principles of Planning
Good and proper planning determines a methodical process that clearly define the steps that lead to optimal solutions. In order to achieve rural development planning, seven principles mentioned below must be incorporated in any development activity. These are:
i. Comprehensive – all significant options and impacts should be considered.
ii. Efficient – the process should not waste time or money.
iii. Inclusive – people affected by the plan have great opportunities to be involved.
iv. Informative – results are understood by stakeholders (people affected by a decision).
v. Logical – each step leads to the next.
vi. Integrated – individual, short-term decisions should support strategic, long-term goals.
Objectives of Planning
Planning can be well achieved if the following objectives may be incorporated in the planning process: These objectives are as follows:
i. To facilitate efficient and orderly management of development activities from the grass roots level to National level i.e. at family level, community i. e village, ward, district etc while including all categories of people men, women, youth and disabled group.
ii. To empower the beneficiaries including indigenous and other user of resources like land, minerals, water, forests etc to make better and more productive use of those resources. This can be done through capacity building at the grass root level to enhance sense of ownership and effective management of resources at local level.
iii. To ensure security and equity in access to resources available. Security in legal transfer of property rights must be guaranteed by a clear system to enhance equity in resource rights (UN, 2010).
iv. To promote sustainable land use practices, as the major resource for rural livelihood. Create awareness among local communities to manage their own land resource and enable them meet the basic need of the present, without damaging land for future benefit of the present population and coming generation.
v. To ensure public participation in the preparation and implementation of plans carried out in the designated rural area(s).
vi. To facilitate the establishment of a framework for prevention of resource use conflicts like land use conflicts. This can be enhanced through proper land use demarcation with clearly established procedures for land users to minimize conflict occurrence among them.
vii. To facilitate micro and macro level planning and taking into account regional and sectoral considerations by introducing key terms and concepts of economic development and promotion, using a regional approach to ensure that programmes for local economic promotion are designed with consideration of the wider spatial context of market and services system. Determination of different stakeholders/ beneficiaries groups and their capabilities, constraints and requirements in view to economic promotion is very important. Lastly, analysis should be done to observe major trends that affect economic development.
viii. Provides for inter-sectoral coordination at all levels.
ix. To ensure the use of political and administrative structures and resources available at National, regional, district and village levels.
x. Provides a framework for incorporation of such relevant principles contained in the national and structural development policies as may from time to time be defined by the government
Role of Planning
For any plan to be realistic and become successful a planner or rural development practitioner must obey the roles listed below:
i. To identify rural development problems, resources and economic needs perceived by the population.
ii. To analyze development trends, constraints, and forecast for future development.
iii. Formulate attainable regional development goals and objectives.
iv. To develop strategies and policy alternatives, and design rural development plans and programmes.
v. Transmit and link district plans with regional and national plans and policies.
vi. To assess the possible social, economic and ecological impacts of plans and programmes.
vii. Organize the decision-making processes and related participatory events at different levels.
viii. To identify and formulate individual projects and assess their feasibility for local implementation.
ix. Develop and use appropriate instruments for implementation, enforcement and control of plans and programmes.
x. Monitor and evaluate projects, plans and programmes and re-plan according to changing conditions.
Requirements of a Good Plan
An effective and sound plan should have the following features:
i. Clear objective: The purpose of plans and their components is to develop and facilitate the realization of organizational objectives. The statement on objectives should be clear, concise, definite and accurate. It should not be colored by bias resulting from emphasis on personal objectives.
ii. Proper understanding: A good plan is one which is well understood by beneficiaries i.e. those who are affected either direct or indirect by the plan. It must be based on sound assumptions and sound reasoning.
iii. Flexible: The principle of flexibility states that management should be able to change an existing plan because of change in environment without undue extra cost or delay so that activities keep moving towards the established goals. Thus, a good plan should be flexible to accommodate future uncertainties.
iv. Stable: The principle of stability states that the basic feature of the plan should not be abandoned or modified because of changes in external factors such as population trends, technological developments, or unemployment.
v. Comprehensive: A plan is said to be comprehensive when it covers each and every aspect of business. It should integrate the various administrative plans so that the whole organization operates at peak efficiency.
vi. Economical: A plan is said to be good, if it is as economical as possible, depending upon the resources available with the organization.
Nature of Planning
The nature of planning can be highlighted by studying its characteristics as presented below:
i. Planning is a mental activity. Planning is not a simple process. It is an intellectual exercise and involves thinking and forethought on the part of the manager.
ii. Planning is goal-oriented. Every plan specifies the goals to be attained in the future and the steps necessary to reach them. A manager cannot do any planning, unless the goals are known. In planning setting a goal is very important to guide, the executors go in a right track, without goal oriented the plan may go beyond the targeted results.
iii. Planning is forward looking. Planning is in keeping with the adage, “look before you leap”. Thus planning means looking ahead. It is futuristic in nature since it is performed to accomplish some objectives in future.
iv. Planning pervades all managerial activity. Planning is the basic function of managers at all levels, although the nature and scope of planning will vary at each level.
v. Planning is the primary function. Planning logically precedes the execution of all other managerial functions, since managerial activities in organizing; staffing, directing and controlling are designed to support the attainment of organizational goals. Thus, management is a circular process beginning with planning and returning to planning for revision and adjustment.
vi. Planning is based on facts. Planning is a conscious determination and projection of a course of action for the future. It is based on objectives, facts and considered forecasts. Actually, planning is not guesswork, planners have to think and forecast for future development.
vii. Planning is flexible. Planning is a dynamic process capable of adjustments in accordance with the needs and requirements of the situations. Thus planning has to be flexible and cannot be rigid.
viii. Planning is essentially decision making. Planning is associated with choice of activity, as the planning process involves finding the alternatives and the selection of the best future of action. Thus, decision-making is the cardinal part of planning.
Significance of Planning
The importance and usefulness of planning can be understood with reference to the following benefits.
i. Minimizes uncertainty: The future is generally uncertain and things are likely to change with the passage of time. Planning helps in minimizing the uncertainties of the future as it anticipates future events.
ii. Emphasis on objectives: The first step in planning is to fix the objectives. When the objectives are clearly fixed, the execution of plans will be facilitated towards these objectives.
iii. Promotes coordination: Planning helps to promote the coordinated effort on account of pre-determined goals.
iv. Facilitates control: Planning and control are inseparable in the sense that unplanned actions cannot be controlled. Control is nothing but making sure that activities conform to the plans.
v. Improves competitive strength: Planning enables an enterprise to discover new opportunities, which give it a competitive edge.
vi. Economical operation: Since planning involves a lot of mental exercise, it helps in proper utilization of resources and elimination of unnecessary activities. This, in turn, leads to economy in operation.
vii. Encourages innovation: Planning is basically the deciding function of management. Many new ideas come to the mind of a manager when he is planning. This creates an innovative and foresighted attitude among the managers.
viii. Tackling complexities of modern business: With modern business becoming more and more complex, planning helps in getting a clear idea about what is to be done, when it is to be done, where it is to be done and how it is to be done.
Limitations of Planning
Although planning is a primary function of management and facilitates various other management functions, it has many barriers and limitations. Below are the limitations of planning:
i. Costly process: Planning is a costly process as time; energy and money are involved in gathering of facts and testing of various alternatives.
ii. Rigidity: Planning restricts the individual’s freedom, initiative and desire for creativity as it strictly adheres to –predetermined -policies and Programmes.
iii. Limited scope: The scope of planning is said to be limited in the case of organizations with rapidly changing situations.
iv. Influence of external factors: The effectiveness of planning is sometimes limited because of the external social, political, economical and technological factors which are beyond the control of the planners.
v. Non-availability of data: Planning needs reliable facts and figures. Planning loses its value unless reliable information is available.
vi. People’s resistance: Resistance to change hinders planning. Planners often feel frustrated in instituting new plans, because of the inability of people to accept them.