Planning Fundamentals The planning process is acutely similar to the decision process since in both processes you are deciding what to do and how to accomplish it. Situational Analysis Planning begins with a situational analysis, which is the process planners? use to gather, interpret and summarize all information relevant to the planning issue under consideration within time and resource constraints. It is meant to be extremely thorough and should study past events and current conditions to attempt to forecast future trends. It focuses on the internal and external environment. A thorough situational analysis will provide information about the planning decisions a decision maker needs to make. It should include the six forces discussed within the macro environment. Alternative Goals and Plans The second step in the planning process is to generate alternative goals that may be pursued in the future as well as the alternative plans that may be used in order to achieve those goals. This step is all about creativity remove all limitations and encourage others to do so as well. Goals are the targets or ends the manager wants to reach. There are certain qualities that goals should possess, which could be remembered by the following acronym. Specific ? When goals are precise, describing particular behaviors and outcomes, employees can more easily determine whether they are working toward the goals. Measurable ? As much as possible, each goal should quantify the desired results so there is no doubt whether it has been achieved. Attainable ? Employees need to recognize that they can attain the goals they are responsible for, or else they are likely to become discouraged. However, they also should feel challenged to work hard and to be creative. Relevant ? Each goal should contribute to the organization?s overall mission while being consistent with its values, including ethical standards. Goals are most likely to be relevant to the organization?s overall objectives if they are consistent within and among work groups. Time-bound ? Effective goals specify a target date for completion. Besides knowing what to do, employees should know when they need to deliver results. Plans are the actions or means the manager intends to use to achieve goals. Similar to the decision making process, this phase should include alternative actions that may lead to reaching each goal, the resources required to attain each goal with each action, and the complications that may occur when attempting to reach those goals. Contingency plans are beneficial in the case of disastrous occurrences; these are your ?WHAT IF? plans. They should include possibilities of what can go wrong and the actions to take to resolve those issues. Goal and plan evaluation The third phase in the planning method is to evaluate the advantages, disadvantages, and potential effects of each alternative goal and plan. Additionally, while evaluating the goals and plans, the planner must prioritize goals and eliminate unnecessary goals/plans. It is important to carefully consider the implications of alternative plans for meeting HIGH-PRIORITY goals. It is extremely important to pay a great deal of attention to the cost of any initiative and the return on investment that is likely to occur as a result of deciding upon a plan. This process will identify the priorities and trade-offs among the goals and plans available. Goal and Plan Selection The fourth phase of planning fundamentals is to select the goals and plans that are most appropriate and feasible after assessing all the possibilities. In most cases, a formal planning process will lead to written sets of goals and plans for a particular set of circumstances. It is also common that different scenarios be attached to sets of goals and plans. Each scenario will then have a contingency plan attached to it, and the implemented plans will follow the likely scenarios. IF the scenario changes, the plan is already attached to put into action. Implementation After selecting the goals and plans, a planner must implement the plans designed to achieve the goals. All team members or employees must understand the plan, have the resources to implement it, and be motivated to do so. Employees are generally more informed, more committed and much more motivated when they are included in the development of the goals and plans (Google is a prime example of this). For the plan to be successfully implanted, it?s required to be linked with the other systems within the organization, particularly the budget and the reward systems. If the organization does not have the financial resources to execute the plan, it is probably not going to work out. Furthermore, organizations use reward systems to encourage employees to achieve goals and to implement plans properly. Commissions, promotions, bonuses, etc. are a few examples of rewards to give employees based on successful performance. Monitor and Control Finally, one of the MOST IMPORTANT steps that are commonly overlooked is monitoring and tracking the progress of goals and plans. How will you know if your plans are succeeding if you don?t know what?s going on? Planning is a repetitive cycle that does not end. A planner must continually monitor the actual performance of their work against the overall goal and plans. The control systems in place must measure performance while allowing the team to take corrective actions when improper implementation occurs.