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The Business Planning Process: 6 Steps To Creating a New Plan

The Business Planning Process 6 Steps to Create a New Plan

In this article, we will define and explain the basic business planning process to help your business move in the right direction.

What is Business Planning?

Business planning is the process whereby an organization’s leaders figure out the best roadmap for growth and document their plan for success.

The business planning process includes diagnosing the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, improving its efficiency, working out how it will compete against rival firms in the future, and setting milestones for progress so they can be measured.

The process includes writing a new business plan. What is a business plan? It is a written document that provides an outline and resources needed to achieve success. Whether you are writing your plan from scratch, from a simple business plan template , or working with an experienced business plan consultant or writer, business planning for startups, small businesses, and existing companies is the same.

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The Better Business Planning Process

The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows:

  • Do Your Research
  • Calculate Your Financial Forecast
  • Draft Your Plan
  • Revise & Proofread
  • Nail the Business Plan Presentation

We’ve provided more detail for each of these key business plan steps below.

1. Do Your Research

Conduct detailed research into the industry, target market, existing customer base,  competitors, and costs of the business begins the process. Consider each new step a new project that requires project planning and execution. You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What is the current state of your business?
  • What are the current industry trends?
  • What is your competition doing?

There are a variety of resources needed, ranging from databases and articles to direct interviews with other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or industry experts. The information gathered during this process should be documented and organized carefully, including the source as there is a need to cite sources within your business plan.

You may also want to complete a SWOT Analysis for your own business to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential risks as this will help you develop your strategies to highlight your competitive advantage.

2. Strategize

Now, you will use the research to determine the best strategy for your business. You may choose to develop new strategies or refine existing strategies that have demonstrated success in the industry. Pulling the best practices of the industry provides a foundation, but then you should expand on the different activities that focus on your competitive advantage.

This step of the planning process may include formulating a vision for the company’s future, which can be done by conducting intensive customer interviews and understanding their motivations for purchasing goods and services of interest. Dig deeper into decisions on an appropriate marketing plan, operational processes to execute your plan, and human resources required for the first five years of the company’s life.

3. Calculate Your Financial Forecast

All of the activities you choose for your strategy come at some cost and, hopefully, lead to some revenues. Sketch out the financial situation by looking at whether you can expect revenues to cover all costs and leave room for profit in the long run.

Begin to insert your financial assumptions and startup costs into a financial model which can produce a first-year cash flow statement for you, giving you the best sense of the cash you will need on hand to fund your early operations.

A full set of financial statements provides the details about the company’s operations and performance, including its expenses and profits by accounting period (quarterly or year-to-date). Financial statements also provide a snapshot of the company’s current financial position, including its assets and liabilities.

This is one of the most valued aspects of any business plan as it provides a straightforward summary of what a company does with its money, or how it grows from initial investment to become profitable.

4. Draft Your Plan

With financials more or less settled and a strategy decided, it is time to draft through the narrative of each component of your business plan . With the background work you have completed, the drafting itself should be a relatively painless process.

If you have trouble writing convincing prose, this is a time to seek the help of an experienced business plan writer who can put together the plan from this point.

5. Revise & Proofread

Revisit the entire plan to look for any ideas or wording that may be confusing, redundant, or irrelevant to the points you are making within the plan. You may want to work with other management team members in your business who are familiar with the company’s operations or marketing plan in order to fine-tune the plan.

Finally, proofread thoroughly for spelling, grammar, and formatting, enlisting the help of others to act as additional sets of eyes. You may begin to experience burnout from working on the plan for so long and have a need to set it aside for a bit to look at it again with fresh eyes.

6. Nail the Business Plan Presentation

The presentation of the business plan should succinctly highlight the key points outlined above and include additional material that would be helpful to potential investors such as financial information, resumes of key employees, or samples of marketing materials. It can also be beneficial to provide a report on past sales or financial performance and what the business has done to bring it back into positive territory.

Business Planning Process Conclusion

Every entrepreneur dreams of the day their business becomes wildly successful.

But what does that really mean? How do you know whether your idea is worth pursuing?

And how do you stay motivated when things are not going as planned? The answers to these questions can be found in your business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls along the way. ​

Business plans are dynamic documents that can be revised and presented to different audiences throughout the course of a company’s life. For example, a business may have one plan for its initial investment proposal, another which focuses more on milestones and objectives for the first several years in existence, and yet one more which is used specifically when raising funds.

Business plans are a critical first step for any company looking to attract investors or receive grant money, as they allow a new organization to better convey its potential and business goals to those able to provide financial resources.

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Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

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Business Planning Process: Everything You Need to Know

The business planning process should envision your business's immediate and long-term goals. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023

Why Is it Important to Develop a Business Plan?

A business plan will serve as a guide for management to run the company. Planning will help avoid problems that can arise from cash shortages, inability to meet customer deadlines, or too few employees. Before planning for the future, companies need to look honestly and critically at the current state of their business by assessing where the company's strengths lie and what needs improvement.

How to Begin the Business Planning Process

To start the business planning process, ask yourself where your business is currently and where you want it to go. A clear vision is the starting point of the business planning process. From there, the process breaks down into more detailed steps.

Develop a Pitch

Start the business planning process with a pitch , which gives a simple outline of your business strategy.

Your pitch should include:

  • Your main proposition
  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • Your solution to this problem
  • Description of who your target customer is
  • An overview of who your company's competitors are

Research Your Market and Products

When you have defined your vision, begin researching products and your target market to help you better understand your business and your potential customer base.

Create a Company Bio

Create a company bio to include in your business plan that highlights your company's core mission and values. Answer the question, "Why did you start your business?" Include bios of personnel underlining their experience and expertise, and how they collaborate as a team to run the business.

When you've built a strong identity, you can incorporate this same text into funding applications, materials that you distribute about your company, and your company's website.

Outline Your Business Model

The basic business model should be laid out in four to five paragraphs that clearly explain how your business operates on a daily basis.

This section should outline the following:

  • Your products or services
  • A profile of who your customer is
  • How your business plans to make profits

Create a Basic Marketing Plan

Include a section in your plan document outlining how your company will market itself to bring in new clients or customers. The first strategy that entrepreneurs use is typically paid advertising. However, in this day and age you should consider exploring other strategies, like referrals, word-of-mouth, mailings, and email blasts.

Prepare Your Business's Financial Projections

A section outlining your financial projects is an integral part of your business plan . Keep these projections fairly conservative, especially in your company's first fiscal year. Consider how you expect revenues to pay for company costs and allow for room for growth in the future. Base all financial projections on concrete assumptions, using data to support your projections.

Draft a Document

With your financial projections in place, it's time to actually draft your business plan. After having conducted the research, the drafting process should be fairly easy to fill in.

Set Goals, Track Progress, and Make Adjustments

Assign different tasks and responsibilities to keep track of and manage progress, and to create accountability among your staff.

A monthly review of your progress and strategy is crucial to checking in on your business's progress, tracking your goals and changing directions should things not go as planned.

Develop Your Executive Summary

Often, investors will ask for an executive summary rather than your detailed business plan to get a feel for what your company has to offer.

It's best to write your executive summary last since you'll be able to highlight the essential details of your business plan and exclude the minutiae.

Edit and Proof Your Final Document

To make sure that your plan is straightforward and easy to understand, proofread, and edit your final document. For this step, also hire a professional copy editor to check formatting, proof, and edit your document.

Keep the design of your document professional to give a good visual first impression to potential investors and employees.

Finally, refine the pitch you created at the beginning of the business planning process before presenting to investors.

If you need help with your business planning process, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.

Hire the top business lawyers and save up to 60% on legal fees

Content Approved by UpCounsel

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  • Sample of a Good Business Plan
  • IT Company Business Plan
  • Business Plan Format: Everything you Need to Know
  • Parts of Business Plan and Definition
  • Startup Business Plan Presentation Template
  • Business Plan Contents Page
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The 7 Steps of the Business Planning Process: A Complete Guide

the business planning process involves making decisions about

In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive guide to the seven steps of the business planning process, and discuss the role of Strikingly website builder in creating a professional business plan.

Step 1: Conducting a SWOT Analysis

The first step in the business planning process is to conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This analysis will help you understand your business's internal and external environment, and it can help you identify areas of improvement and growth.

Strengths and weaknesses refer to internal factors such as the company's resources, capabilities, and culture. Opportunities and threats are external factors such as market trends, competition, and regulations.

You can conduct a SWOT analysis by gathering information from various sources such as market research, financial statements, and feedback from customers and employees. You can also use tools such as a SWOT matrix to visualize your analysis.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a framework for analyzing a business's internal and external environment. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Strengths and weaknesses include internal factors such as the company's resources, capabilities, and culture. Opportunities and threats are external factors such as market trends, competition, and regulations.

A SWOT analysis can help businesses identify areas of improvement and growth, assess their competitive position, and make informed decisions. It can be used for various purposes, such as business planning, product development, marketing strategy, and risk management.

Importance of Conducting a SWOT Analysis

Conducting a SWOT analysis is crucial for businesses to develop a clear understanding of their internal and external environment. It can help businesses identify their strengths and weaknesses and uncover new opportunities and potential threats. By doing so, businesses can make informed decisions about their strategies, resource allocation, and risk management.

A SWOT analysis can also help businesses identify their competitive position in the market and compare themselves to their competitors. This can help businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors and develop a unique value proposition.

Example of a SWOT Analysis

Here is an example of a SWOT analysis for a fictional business that sells handmade jewelry:

  • Unique and high-quality products
  • Skilled and experienced craftsmen
  • Strong brand reputation and customer loyalty
  • Strategic partnerships with local boutiques
  • Limited production capacity
  • High production costs
  • Limited online presence
  • Limited product variety

Opportunities

  • Growing demand for handmade products
  • Growing interest in sustainable and eco-friendly products
  • Opportunities to expand online presence and reach new customers
  • Opportunities to expand product lines
  • Increasing competition from online and brick-and-mortar retailers
  • Fluctuating consumer trends and preferences
  • Economic downturns and uncertainty
  • Increased regulations and compliance requirements

This SWOT analysis can help the business identify areas for improvement and growth. For example, the business can invest in expanding its online presence, improving its production efficiency, and diversifying its product lines. The business can also leverage its strengths, such as its skilled craftsmen and strategic partnerships, to differentiate itself from its competitors and attract more customers.

Step 2: Defining Your Business Objectives

Once you have conducted a SWOT analysis, the next step is to define your business objectives. Business objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that align with your business's mission and vision.

Your business objectives can vary depending on your industry, target audience, and resources. Examples of business objectives include increasing sales revenue, expanding into new markets, improving customer satisfaction, and reducing costs.

You can use tools such as a goal-setting worksheet or a strategic planning framework to define your business objectives. You can also seek input from your employees and stakeholders to ensure your objectives are realistic and achievable.

the business planning process involves making decisions about

What is Market Research?

Market research is an integral part of the business planning process. It gathers information about a target market or industry to make informed decisions. It involves collecting and analyzing data on consumer behavior, preferences, and buying habits, as well as competitors, industry trends, and market conditions.

Market research can help businesses identify potential customers, understand their needs and preferences, and develop effective marketing strategies. It can also help businesses identify market opportunities, assess their competitive position, and make informed product development, pricing, and distribution decisions.

Importance of Market Research in Business Planning

Market research is a crucial component of the business planning process. It can help businesses identify market trends and opportunities, assess their competitive position, and make informed decisions about their marketing strategies, product development, and business operations.

By conducting market research, businesses can gain insights into their target audience's behavior and preferences, such as their purchasing habits, brand loyalty, and decision-making process. This can help businesses develop targeted marketing campaigns and create products that meet their customers' needs.

Market research can also help businesses assess their competitive position and identify gaps in the market. Businesses can differentiate themselves by analyzing their competitors' strengths and weaknesses and developing a unique value proposition.

Different Types of Market Research Methods

Businesses can use various types of market research methods, depending on their research objectives, budget, and time frame. Here are some of the most common market research methods:

Surveys are a common market research method that involves asking questions to a sample of people about their preferences, opinions, and behaviors. Surveys can be conducted through various channels like online, phone, or in-person surveys.

  • Focus Groups

Focus groups are a qualitative market research method involving a small group to discuss a specific topic or product. Focus groups can provide in-depth insights into customers' attitudes and perceptions and can help businesses understand the reasoning behind their preferences and behaviors.

Interviews are a qualitative market research method that involves one-on-one conversations between a researcher and a participant. Interviews can be conducted in person, over the phone, or through video conferencing and can provide detailed insights into a participant's experiences, perceptions, and preferences.

  • Observation

Observation is a market research method that involves observing customers' behavior and interactions in a natural setting such as a store or a website. Observation can provide insights into customers' decision-making processes and behavior that may not be captured through surveys or interviews.

  • Secondary Research

Secondary research involves collecting data from existing sources, like industry reports, government publications, or academic journals. Secondary research can provide a broad overview of the market and industry trends and help businesses identify potential opportunities and threats.

By combining these market research methods, businesses can comprehensively understand their target market and industry and make informed decisions about their business strategy.

Step 3: Conducting Market Research

Market research should always be a part of your strategic business planning. This step gathers information about your target audience, competitors, and industry trends. This information can help you make informed decisions about your product or service offerings, pricing strategy, and marketing campaigns.

the business planning process involves making decisions about

There are various market research methods, such as surveys, focus groups, and online analytics. You can also use tools like Google Trends and social media analytics to gather data about your audience's behavior and preferences.

Market research can be time-consuming and costly, but it's crucial for making informed decisions that can impact your business's success. Strikingly website builder offers built-in analytics and SEO optimization features that can help you track your website traffic and audience engagement.

Step 4: Identifying Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is essential in the business planning process. Your target audience is the group of people who are most likely to buy your product or service. Understanding their needs, preferences, and behaviors can help you create effective marketing campaigns and improve customer satisfaction.

You can identify your target audience by analyzing demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data. Demographic data include age, gender, income, and education level. Psychographic data includes personality traits, values, and lifestyle. Behavioral data includes buying patterns, brand loyalty, and online engagement.

Once you have identified your target audience, you can use tools such as buyer personas and customer journey maps to create a personalized and engaging customer experience. Strikingly website builder offers customizable templates and designs to help you create a visually appealing and user-friendly website for your target audience.

What is a Target Audience?

A target audience is a group most likely to be interested in and purchase a company's products or services. A target audience can be defined based on various factors such as age, gender, location, income, education, interests, and behavior.

Identifying and understanding your target audience is crucial for developing effective marketing strategies and improving customer engagement and satisfaction. By understanding your target audience's needs, preferences, and behavior, you can create products and services that meet their needs and develop targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with them.

Importance of Identifying Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is essential for the success of your business. By understanding your target audience's needs and preferences, you can create products and services that meet their needs and develop targeted marketing campaigns that resonate with them.

Here are reasons why identifying your target audience is important:

  • Improve customer engagement. When you understand your target audience's behavior and preferences, you can create a more personalized and engaging customer experience to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.
  • Develop effective marketing strategies. Targeting your marketing efforts to your target audience creates more effective and efficient marketing campaigns that can increase brand awareness, generate leads, and drive sales.
  • Improve product development. By understanding your target audience's needs and preferences, you can develop products and services that meet their specific needs and preferences, improving customer satisfaction and retention.
  • Identify market opportunities. If you identify gaps in the market or untapped market segments, you can develop products and services to meet unmet needs and gain a competitive advantage.

Examples of Target Audience Segmentation

Here are some examples of target audience segmentation based on different demographic, geographic, and psychographic factors:

  • Demographic segmentation. Age, gender, income, education, occupation, and marital status.
  • Geographic segmentation. Location, region, climate, and population density.
  • Psychographic segmentation. Personality traits, values, interests, and lifestyle.

Step 5: Developing a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap that outlines your marketing objectives, strategies, tactics, and budget. Your marketing plan should align with your business objectives and target audience and include a mix of online and offline marketing channels.

Marketing strategies include content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid advertising. Your marketing tactics can include creating blog posts, sharing social media posts, sending newsletters, optimizing your website for search engines, and running Google Ads or Facebook Ads.

To create an effective marketing plan , research your competitors, understand your target audience's behavior, and set clear objectives and metrics. You can also seek customer and employee feedback to refine your marketing strategy.

Strikingly website builder offers a variety of marketing features such as email marketing, social media integration, and SEO optimization tools. You can also use the built-in analytics dashboard to track your website's performance and monitor your marketing campaign's effectiveness.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company's marketing strategy and tactics. It typically includes an analysis of the target market, a description of the product or service, an assessment of the competition, and a detailed plan for achieving marketing objectives.

A marketing plan can help businesses identify and prioritize marketing opportunities, allocate resources effectively, and measure the success of their marketing efforts. It can also provide the marketing team with a roadmap and ensure everyone is aligned with the company's marketing goals and objectives.

Importance of a Marketing Plan in Business Planning

A marketing plan is critical to business planning. It can help businesses identify their target audience, assess their competitive position, and develop effective marketing strategies and tactics.

Here are a few reasons why a marketing plan is important in business planning:

  • Provides a clear direction. A marketing plan can provide a clear direction for the marketing team and ensure everyone is aligned with the company's marketing goals and objectives.
  • Helps prioritize marketing opportunities. By analyzing the target market and competition, a marketing plan can help businesses identify and prioritize marketing opportunities with the highest potential for success.
  • Ensures effective resource allocation. A marketing plan can help businesses allocate resources effectively and ensure that marketing efforts are focused on the most critical and impactful activities.
  • Measures success. A marketing plan can provide a framework for measuring the success of marketing efforts and making adjustments as needed.

Examples of Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Here are some examples of marketing strategies and tactics that businesses can use to achieve their marketing objectives:

  • Content marketing. Creating and sharing valuable and relevant content that educates and informs the target audience about the company's products or services.
  • Social media marketing. Leveraging social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to engage with the target audience, build brand awareness, and drive website traffic.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). Optimizing the company's website and online content to rank higher in search engine results and drive organic traffic.
  • Email marketing. Sending personalized and targeted emails to the company's email list to nurture leads, promote products or services, and drive sales.
  • Influencer marketing. Partnering with influencers or industry experts to promote the company's products or services and reach a wider audience.

By using a combination of these marketing strategies and tactics, businesses can develop a comprehensive and effective marketing plan that aligns with their marketing goals and objectives.

Step 6: Creating a Financial Plan

A financial plan is a detailed document that outlines your business's financial projections, budget, and cash flow. Your financial plan should include a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement, and it should be based on realistic assumptions and market trends.

To create a financial plan, you should consider your revenue streams, expenses, assets, and liabilities. You should also analyze your industry's financial benchmarks and projections and seek input from financial experts or advisors.

![Quantum Business Consulting Template - Strikingly]( https://user-images.strikinglycdn.com/res/hrscywv4p/image/upload/blog_service/2023-04-16-prl-quantum-business-consulting-strikingly (1).jpg)Image taken from Strikingly Templates

Strikingly website builder offers a variety of payment and e-commerce features, such as online payment integration and secure checkout. You can also use the built-in analytics dashboard to monitor your revenue and expenses and track your financial performance over time.

What is a Financial Plan?

A financial plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company's financial goals and objectives and the strategies and tactics for achieving them. It typically includes a description of the company's financial situation, an analysis of revenue and expenses, and a projection of future financial performance.

A financial plan can help businesses identify potential risks and opportunities, allocate resources effectively, and measure the success of their financial efforts. It can also provide a roadmap for the finance team and ensure everyone is aligned with the company's financial goals and objectives.

Importance of Creating a Financial Plan in Business Planning

Creating a financial plan is a critical component of the business planning process. It can help businesses identify potential financial risks and opportunities, allocate resources effectively, and measure the success of their financial efforts.

Here are some reasons why creating a financial plan is important in business planning:

  • Provides a clear financial direction. A financial plan can provide a clear direction for the finance team and ensure everyone is in sync with the company's financial goals and objectives.
  • Helps prioritize financial opportunities. By analyzing revenue and expenses, a financial plan can help businesses identify and prioritize financial opportunities with the highest potential for success.
  • Ensures effective resource allocation. A financial plan can help businesses allocate resources effectively and ensure that financial efforts are focused on the most critical and impactful activities.
  • Measures success. A financial plan can provide a framework for measuring the success of financial efforts and making adjustments as needed.

Examples of Financial Statements and Projections

Here are some examples of financial statements and projections that businesses can use in their financial plan:

  • Income statement. A financial statement that shows the company's revenue and expenses over a period of time, typically monthly or annually.
  • Balance sheet. A financial statement shows the company's assets, liabilities, and equity at a specific time, typically at the end of a fiscal year.
  • Cash flow statement. A financial statement that shows the company's cash inflows and outflows over a period of time, typically monthly or annually.
  • Financial projections. Forecasts of the company's future financial performance based on assumptions and market trends. This can include revenue, expenses, profits, and cash flow projections.

Step 7: Writing Your Business Plan

The final step in the business planning process is to write your business plan. A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines your business's mission, vision, objectives, strategies, and financial projections.

A business plan can help you clarify your business idea, assess the feasibility of your business, and secure funding from investors or lenders. It can also provide a roadmap for your business and ensure that you stay focused on your goals and objectives.

Importance of Writing a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is an essential component of the business planning process. It can help you clarify your business idea , assess the feasibility of your business, and secure funding from investors or lenders.

Here are some reasons why writing a business plan is important:

  • Clarifies your business idea. Writing a business plan can help you clarify your business idea and understand your business's goals, objectives, and strategies.
  • Assesses the feasibility of your business. A business plan can help you assess the feasibility of your business and identify potential risks and opportunities.
  • Secures funding. A well-written business plan can help you secure funding from investors or lenders by demonstrating the potential of your business and outlining a clear path to success.
  • Provides a roadmap for your business. A business plan can provide a roadmap and ensure that you stay focused on your goals and objectives.

Tips on How to Write a Successful Business Plan

Here are some tips on how to write a business plan successfully:

  • Start with an executive summary. The executive summary is a brief business plan overview and should include your business idea, target market, competitive analysis, and financial projections.
  • Describe your business and industry. Provide a detailed description of your business and industry, including your products or services, target market, and competitive landscape.
  • Develop a marketing strategy. Outline your marketing strategy and tactics, including your target audience, pricing strategy, promotional activities, and distribution channels.
  • Provide financial projections. Provide detailed financial projections, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, as well as assumptions and risks.
  • Keep it concise and clear. Keep your business plan concise and clear, and avoid using jargon or technical terms that may confuse or intimidate readers.

Role of Strikingly Website Builder in Creating a Professional Business Plan

the business planning process involves making decisions about

Strikingly website builder can play a significant role in creating a professional business plan. Strikingly provides an intuitive and user-friendly platform that allows you to create a professional-looking website and online store without coding or design skills.

Using Strikingly, you can create a visually appealing business plan and present it on your website with images, graphics, and videos to enhance the reader's experience. You can also use Strikingly's built-in templates and a drag-and-drop editor to create a customized and professional-looking business plan that reflects your brand and style.

Strikingly also provides various features and tools that can help you showcase your products or services, promote your business, and engage with your target audience. These features include e-commerce functionality, social media integration, and email marketing tools.

Let’s Sum Up!

In conclusion, the 7 steps of the business planning process are essential for starting and growing a successful business. By conducting a SWOT analysis, defining your business objectives, conducting market research, identifying your target audience, developing a marketing plan, creating a financial plan, and writing your business plan, you can set a solid foundation for your business's success.

Strikingly website builder can help you throughout the business planning process by offering a variety of features such as analytics, marketing, e-commerce , and business plan templates. With Strikingly, you can create a professional and engaging website and business plan that aligns with your business objectives and target audience.

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the business planning process involves making decisions about

1. Introduction to Principles of Management

Planning, organizing, leading, and controlling, learning objectives.

  • Know the dimensions of the planning-organizing-leading-controlling (P-O-L-C) framework.
  • Know the general inputs into each P-O-L-C dimension.

A manager’s primary challenge is to solve problems creatively. While drawing from a variety of academic disciplines, and to help managers respond to the challenge of creative problem solving, principles of management have long been categorized into the four major functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (the P-O-L-C framework). The four functions, summarized in the P-O-L-C figure, are actually highly integrated when carried out in the day-to-day realities of running an organization. Therefore, you should not get caught up in trying to analyze and understand a complete, clear rationale for categorizing skills and practices that compose the whole of the P-O-L-C framework.

It is important to note that this framework is not without criticism. Specifically, these criticisms stem from the observation that the P-O-L-C functions might be ideal but that they do not accurately depict the day-to-day actions of actual managers.   The typical day in the life of a manager at any level can be fragmented and hectic, with the constant threat of having priorities dictated by the law of the trivial many and important few (i.e., the 80/20 rule). However, the general conclusion seems to be that the P-O-L-C functions of management still provide a very useful way of classifying the activities managers engage in as they attempt to achieve organizational goals.

Figure 1.7   The P-O-L-C Framework

the business planning process involves making decisions about

Planning is the function of management that involves setting objectives and determining a course of action for achieving those objectives. Planning requires that managers be aware of environmental conditions facing their organization and forecast future conditions. It also requires that managers be good decision makers.

Planning is a process consisting of several steps. The process begins with   environmental scanning   which simply means that planners must be aware of the critical contingencies facing their organization in terms of economic conditions, their competitors, and their customers. Planners must then attempt to forecast future conditions. These forecasts form the basis for planning.

Planners must establish objectives, which are statements of what needs to be achieved and when. Planners must then identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives. After evaluating the various alternatives, planners must make decisions about the best courses of action for achieving objectives. They must then formulate necessary steps and ensure effective implementation of plans. Finally, planners must constantly evaluate the success of their plans and take corrective action when necessary.

There are many different types of plans and planning.

Strategic planning   involves analyzing competitive opportunities and threats, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and then determining how to position the organization to compete effectively in their environment. Strategic planning has a long time frame, often three years or more. Strategic planning generally includes the entire organization and includes formulation of objectives. Strategic planning is often based on the organization’s mission, which is its fundamental reason for existence. An organization’s top management most often conducts strategic planning.

Tactical planning   is intermediate-range (one to three years) planning that is designed to develop relatively concrete and specific means to implement the strategic plan. Middle-level managers often engage in tactical planning.

Operational planning   generally assumes the existence of organization-wide or subunit goals and objectives and specifies ways to achieve them. Operational planning is short-range (less than a year) planning that is designed to develop specific action steps that support the strategic and tactical plans.

Organizing is the function of management that involves developing an organizational structure and allocating human resources to ensure the accomplishment of objectives. The structure of the organization is the framework within which effort is coordinated. The structure is usually represented by an organization chart, which provides a graphic representation of the chain of command within an organization. Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as   organizational design   decisions.

Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out. Decisions made about the nature of jobs within the organization are generally called “job design” decisions.

Organizing at the level of the organization involves deciding how best to departmentalize, or cluster, jobs into departments to coordinate effort effectively. There are many different ways to departmentalize, including organizing by function, product, geography, or customer. Many larger organizations use multiple methods of departmentalization.

Organizing at the level of a particular job involves how best to design individual jobs to most effectively use human resources. Traditionally,   job design   was based on principles of division of labor and specialization, which assumed that the more narrow the job content, the more proficient the individual performing the job could become. However, experience has shown that it is possible for jobs to become too narrow and specialized. For example, how would you like to screw lids on jars one day after another, as you might have done many decades ago if you worked in company that made and sold jellies and jams? When this happens, negative outcomes result, including decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment, increased absenteeism, and turnover.

Recently, many organizations have attempted to strike a balance between the need for worker specialization and the need for workers to have jobs that entail variety and autonomy. Many jobs are now designed based on such principles as empowerment,   job enrichment   and   teamwork . For example, HUI Manufacturing, a custom sheet metal fabricator, has done away with traditional “departments” to focus on listening and responding to customer needs. From company-wide meetings to team huddles, HUI employees know and understand their customers and how HUI might service them best.

Leading involves the social and informal sources of influence that you use to inspire action taken by others. If managers are effective leaders, their subordinates will be enthusiastic about exerting effort to attain organizational objectives.

The behavioral sciences have made many contributions to understanding this function of management. Personality research and studies of job attitudes provide important information as to how managers can most effectively lead subordinates. For example, this research tells us that to become effective at leading, managers must first understand their subordinates’ personalities, values, attitudes, and emotions.

Studies of motivation and motivation theory provide important information about the ways in which workers can be energized to put forth productive effort. Studies of communication provide direction as to how managers can effectively and persuasively communicate. Studies of leadership and leadership style provide information regarding questions, such as, “What makes a manager a good leader?” and “In what situations are certain leadership styles most appropriate and effective?”

Controlling

Controlling involves ensuring that performance does not deviate from standards. Controlling consists of three steps, which include (1) establishing performance standards, (2) comparing actual performance against standards, and (3) taking corrective action when necessary. Performance standards are often stated in monetary terms such as revenue, costs, or profits but may also be stated in other terms, such as units produced, number of defective products, or levels of quality or customer service.

The measurement of performance can be done in several ways, depending on the performance standards, including financial statements, sales reports, production results, customer satisfaction, and formal performance appraisals. Managers at all levels engage in the managerial function of controlling to some degree.

The managerial function of controlling should not be confused with control in the behavioral or manipulative sense. This function does not imply that managers should attempt to control or to manipulate the personalities, values, attitudes, or emotions of their subordinates. Instead, this function of management concerns the manager’s role in taking necessary actions to ensure that the work-related activities of subordinates are consistent with and contributing toward the accomplishment of organizational and departmental objectives.

Effective controlling requires the existence of plans, since planning provides the necessary performance standards or objectives. Controlling also requires a clear understanding of where responsibility for deviations from standards lies. Two traditional control techniques are budget and performance audits. An audit involves an examination and verification of records and supporting documents. A budget audit provides information about where the organization is with respect to what was planned or budgeted for, whereas a performance audit might try to determine whether the figures reported are a reflection of actual performance. Although controlling is often thought of in terms of financial criteria, managers must also control production and operations processes, procedures for delivery of services, compliance with company policies, and many other activities within the organization.

The management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are widely considered to be the best means of describing the manager’s job, as well as the best way to classify accumulated knowledge about the study of management. Although there have been tremendous changes in the environment faced by managers and the tools used by managers to perform their roles, managers still perform these essential functions.

Key Takeaway

The principles of management can be distilled down to four critical functions. These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This P-O-L-C framework provides useful guidance into what the ideal job of a manager should look like.

  • Located at : https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/management-principles-v1.1/s05-04-planning-organizing-leading-an.html . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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Business Planning

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by subject matter experts.

Updated on June 08, 2023

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Table of contents, what is business planning.

Business planning is a crucial process that involves creating a roadmap for an organization to achieve its long-term objectives. It is the foundation of every successful business and provides a framework for decision-making, resource allocation, and measuring progress towards goals.

Business planning involves identifying the current state of the organization, determining where it wants to go, and developing a strategy to get there.

It includes analyzing the market, identifying target customers, determining a competitive advantage, setting financial goals, and establishing operational plans.

The business plan serves as a reference point for all stakeholders , including investors, employees, and partners, and helps to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives.

Importance of Business Planning

Business planning plays a critical role in the success of any organization, as it helps to establish a clear direction and purpose for the business. It allows the organization to identify its goals and objectives, develop strategies and tactics to achieve them, and establish a framework of necessary resources and operational procedures to ensure success.

Additionally, a well-crafted business plan can serve as a reference point for decision-making, ensuring that all actions taken by the organization are aligned with its long-term objectives.

It can also facilitate communication and collaboration among team members, ensuring that everyone is working towards a common goal.

Furthermore, a business plan is often required when seeking funding or investment from external sources, as it demonstrates the organization's potential for growth and profitability. Overall, business planning is essential for any organization looking to succeed and thrive in a competitive market.

Business Planning Process

Step 1: defining your business purpose and goals.

Begin by clarifying your business's purpose, mission, and long-term goals. These elements should align with the organization's core values and guide every aspect of the planning process.

Step 2: Conducting Market Research and Analysis

Thorough market research and analysis are crucial to understanding the industry landscape, identifying target customers, and gauging the competition. This information will inform your business strategy and help you find your niche in the market.

Step 3: Creating a Business Model and Strategy

Based on the insights from your market research, develop a business model that outlines how your organization will create, deliver, and capture value. This will inform the overall business strategy, including identifying target markets, value propositions, and competitive advantages.

Step 4: Developing a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan details how your organization will promote its products or services to target customers. This includes defining marketing objectives, tactics, channels, budgets, and performance metrics to measure success.

Step 5: Establishing Operational and Financial Plans

The operational plan outlines the day-to-day activities, resources, and processes required to run your business. The financial plan projects revenue, expenses, and cash flow, providing a basis for assessing the organization's financial health and long-term viability.

Step 6: Reviewing and Revising the Business Plan

Regularly review and update your business plan to ensure it remains relevant and reflects the organization's current situation and goals. This iterative process enables proactive adjustments to strategies and tactics in response to changing market conditions and business realities.

Business Planning Process

Components of a Business Plan

Executive summary.

The executive summary provides a high-level overview of your business plan, touching on the company's mission, objectives, strategies, and key financial projections.

It is critical to make this section concise and engaging, as it is often the first section that potential investors or partners will read.

Company Description

The company description offers a detailed overview of your organization, including its history, mission, values, and legal structure. It also outlines the company's goals and objectives and explains how the business addresses a market need or problem.

Products or Services

Describe the products or services your company offers, emphasizing their unique features, benefits, and competitive advantages. Detail the development process, lifecycle, and intellectual property rights, if applicable.

Market Analysis

The market analysis section delves into the industry, target market, and competition. It should demonstrate a thorough understanding of market trends, growth potential, customer demographics, and competitive landscape.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Outline your organization's approach to promoting and selling its products or services. This includes marketing channels, sales tactics, pricing strategies, and customer relationship management .

Management and Organization

This section provides an overview of your company's management team, including their backgrounds, roles, and responsibilities. It also outlines the organizational structure and any advisory or support services employed by the company.

Operational Plan

The operational plan describes the day-to-day operations of your business, including facilities, equipment, technology, and personnel requirements. It also covers supply chain management, production processes, and quality control measures.

Financial Plan

The financial plan is a crucial component of your business plan, providing a comprehensive view of your organization's financial health and projections.

This section should include income statements , balance sheets , cash flow statements , and break-even analysis for at least three to five years. Be sure to provide clear assumptions and justifications for your projections.

Appendices and Supporting Documents

The appendices and supporting documents section contains any additional materials that support or complement the information provided in the main body of the business plan. This may include resumes of key team members, patents , licenses, contracts, or market research data.

Components of a Business Plan

Benefits of Business Planning

Helps secure funding and investment.

A well-crafted business plan demonstrates to potential investors and lenders that your organization is well-organized, has a clear vision, and is financially viable. It increases your chances of securing the funding needed for growth and expansion.

Provides a Roadmap for Growth and Success

A business plan serves as a roadmap that guides your organization's growth and development. It helps you set realistic goals, identify opportunities, and anticipate challenges, enabling you to make informed decisions and allocate resources effectively.

Enables Effective Decision-Making

Having a comprehensive business plan enables you and your management team to make well-informed decisions, based on a clear understanding of the organization's goals, strategies, and financial situation.

Facilitates Communication and Collaboration

A business plan serves as a communication tool that fosters collaboration and alignment among team members, ensuring that everyone is working towards the same objectives and understands the organization's strategic direction.

Benefits of Business Planning

Business planning should not be a one-time activity; instead, it should be an ongoing process that is continually reviewed and updated to reflect changing market conditions, business realities, and organizational goals.

This dynamic approach to planning ensures that your organization remains agile, responsive, and primed for success.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, organizations must embrace new technologies, methodologies, and tools to stay competitive.

The future of business planning will involve leveraging data-driven insights, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics to create more accurate and adaptive plans that can quickly respond to a rapidly changing environment.

By staying ahead of the curve, businesses can not only survive but thrive in the coming years.

Business Planning FAQs

What is business planning, and why is it important.

Business planning is the process of setting goals, outlining strategies, and creating a roadmap for your company's future. It's important because it helps you identify opportunities and risks, allocate resources effectively, and stay on track to achieve your goals.

What are the key components of a business plan?

A business plan typically includes an executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management structure, product or service line, marketing and sales strategies, and financial projections.

How often should I update my business plan?

It is a good idea to review and update your business plan annually, or whenever there's a significant change in your industry or market conditions.

What are the benefits of business planning?

Effective business planning can help you anticipate challenges, identify opportunities for growth, improve decision-making, secure financing, and stay ahead of competitors.

Do I need a business plan if I am not seeking funding?

Yes, even if you're not seeking funding, a business plan can be a valuable tool for setting goals, developing strategies, and keeping your team aligned and focused on achieving your objectives.

the business planning process involves making decisions about

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide , a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University , where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon , Nasdaq and Forbes .

Related Topics

  • Business Continuity Planning (BCP)
  • Business Exit Strategies
  • Buy-Sell Agreements
  • Capital Planning
  • Change-In-Control Agreements
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  • Decision Analysis (DA)
  • Employee Retention and Compensation Planning
  • Endorsement & Sponsorship Management
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Entity-Purchase Agreements
  • Family Business Continuity
  • Family Business Governance
  • Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs) and Buy-Sell Agreements
  • Human Resource Planning (HRP)
  • Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP II)
  • Plan Restatement

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1.5 Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling

Learning objectives.

  • Know the dimensions of the planning-organizing-leading-controlling (P-O-L-C) framework.
  • Know the general inputs into each P-O-L-C dimension.

A manager’s primary challenge is to solve problems creatively. While drawing from a variety of academic disciplines, and to help managers respond to the challenge of creative problem solving, principles of management have long been categorized into the four major functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (the P-O-L-C framework). The four functions, summarized in the P-O-L-C figure, are actually highly integrated when carried out in the day-to-day realities of running an organization. Therefore, you should not get caught up in trying to analyze and understand a complete, clear rationale for categorizing skills and practices that compose the whole of the P-O-L-C framework.

It is important to note that this framework is not without criticism. Specifically, these criticisms stem from the observation that the P-O-L-C functions might be ideal but that they do not accurately depict the day-to-day actions of actual managers (Mintzberg, 1973; Lamond, 2004). The typical day in the life of a manager at any level can be fragmented and hectic, with the constant threat of having priorities dictated by the law of the trivial many and important few (i.e., the 80/20 rule). However, the general conclusion seems to be that the P-O-L-C functions of management still provide a very useful way of classifying the activities managers engage in as they attempt to achieve organizational goals (Lamond, 2004).

Figure 1.7 The P-O-L-C Framework

image

Planning is the function of management that involves setting objectives and determining a course of action for achieving those objectives. Planning requires that managers be aware of environmental conditions facing their organization and forecast future conditions. It also requires that managers be good decision makers.

Planning is a process consisting of several steps. The process begins with environmental scanning which simply means that planners must be aware of the critical contingencies facing their organization in terms of economic conditions, their competitors, and their customers. Planners must then attempt to forecast future conditions. These forecasts form the basis for planning.

Planners must establish objectives, which are statements of what needs to be achieved and when. Planners must then identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives. After evaluating the various alternatives, planners must make decisions about the best courses of action for achieving objectives. They must then formulate necessary steps and ensure effective implementation of plans. Finally, planners must constantly evaluate the success of their plans and take corrective action when necessary.

There are many different types of plans and planning.

Strategic planning involves analyzing competitive opportunities and threats, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and then determining how to position the organization to compete effectively in their environment. Strategic planning has a long time frame, often three years or more. Strategic planning generally includes the entire organization and includes formulation of objectives. Strategic planning is often based on the organization’s mission, which is its fundamental reason for existence. An organization’s top management most often conducts strategic planning.

Tactical planning is intermediate-range (one to three years) planning that is designed to develop relatively concrete and specific means to implement the strategic plan. Middle-level managers often engage in tactical planning.

Operational planning generally assumes the existence of organization-wide or subunit goals and objectives and specifies ways to achieve them. Operational planning is short-range (less than a year) planning that is designed to develop specific action steps that support the strategic and tactical plans.

Organizing is the function of management that involves developing an organizational structure and allocating human resources to ensure the accomplishment of objectives. The structure of the organization is the framework within which effort is coordinated. The structure is usually represented by an organization chart, which provides a graphic representation of the chain of command within an organization. Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as organizational design decisions.

Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out. Decisions made about the nature of jobs within the organization are generally called “job design” decisions.

Organizing at the level of the organization involves deciding how best to departmentalize, or cluster, jobs into departments to coordinate effort effectively. There are many different ways to departmentalize, including organizing by function, product, geography, or customer. Many larger organizations use multiple methods of departmentalization.

Organizing at the level of a particular job involves how best to design individual jobs to most effectively use human resources. Traditionally, job design was based on principles of division of labor and specialization, which assumed that the more narrow the job content, the more proficient the individual performing the job could become. However, experience has shown that it is possible for jobs to become too narrow and specialized. For example, how would you like to screw lids on jars one day after another, as you might have done many decades ago if you worked in company that made and sold jellies and jams? When this happens, negative outcomes result, including decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment, increased absenteeism, and turnover.

Recently, many organizations have attempted to strike a balance between the need for worker specialization and the need for workers to have jobs that entail variety and autonomy. Many jobs are now designed based on such principles as empowerment, job enrichment and teamwork . For example, HUI Manufacturing, a custom sheet metal fabricator, has done away with traditional “departments” to focus on listening and responding to customer needs. From company-wide meetings to team huddles, HUI employees know and understand their customers and how HUI might service them best (Huimfg, 2008).

Leading involves the social and informal sources of influence that you use to inspire action taken by others. If managers are effective leaders, their subordinates will be enthusiastic about exerting effort to attain organizational objectives.

The behavioral sciences have made many contributions to understanding this function of management. Personality research and studies of job attitudes provide important information as to how managers can most effectively lead subordinates. For example, this research tells us that to become effective at leading, managers must first understand their subordinates’ personalities, values, attitudes, and emotions.

Studies of motivation and motivation theory provide important information about the ways in which workers can be energized to put forth productive effort. Studies of communication provide direction as to how managers can effectively and persuasively communicate. Studies of leadership and leadership style provide information regarding questions, such as, “What makes a manager a good leader?” and “In what situations are certain leadership styles most appropriate and effective?”

1.5

Quality control ensures that the organization delivers on its promises.

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center – Maize seed quality control at small seed company Bidasem – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Controlling

Controlling involves ensuring that performance does not deviate from standards. Controlling consists of three steps, which include (1) establishing performance standards, (2) comparing actual performance against standards, and (3) taking corrective action when necessary. Performance standards are often stated in monetary terms such as revenue, costs, or profits but may also be stated in other terms, such as units produced, number of defective products, or levels of quality or customer service.

The measurement of performance can be done in several ways, depending on the performance standards, including financial statements, sales reports, production results, customer satisfaction, and formal performance appraisals. Managers at all levels engage in the managerial function of controlling to some degree.

The managerial function of controlling should not be confused with control in the behavioral or manipulative sense. This function does not imply that managers should attempt to control or to manipulate the personalities, values, attitudes, or emotions of their subordinates. Instead, this function of management concerns the manager’s role in taking necessary actions to ensure that the work-related activities of subordinates are consistent with and contributing toward the accomplishment of organizational and departmental objectives.

Effective controlling requires the existence of plans, since planning provides the necessary performance standards or objectives. Controlling also requires a clear understanding of where responsibility for deviations from standards lies. Two traditional control techniques are budget and performance audits. An audit involves an examination and verification of records and supporting documents. A budget audit provides information about where the organization is with respect to what was planned or budgeted for, whereas a performance audit might try to determine whether the figures reported are a reflection of actual performance. Although controlling is often thought of in terms of financial criteria, managers must also control production and operations processes, procedures for delivery of services, compliance with company policies, and many other activities within the organization.

The management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are widely considered to be the best means of describing the manager’s job, as well as the best way to classify accumulated knowledge about the study of management. Although there have been tremendous changes in the environment faced by managers and the tools used by managers to perform their roles, managers still perform these essential functions.

Key Takeaway

The principles of management can be distilled down to four critical functions. These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This P-O-L-C framework provides useful guidance into what the ideal job of a manager should look like.

  • What are the management functions that comprise the P-O-L-C framework?
  • Are there any criticisms of this framework?
  • What function does planning serve?
  • What function does organizing serve?
  • What function does leading serve?
  • What function does controlling serve?

Huimfg.com, http://www.huimfg.com/abouthui-yourteams.aspx (accessed October 15, 2008).

Lamond, D, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,” Management Decision 42, no. 2 (2004): 330–56.

Mintzberg, H. The Nature of Managerial Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1973); D. Lamond, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,” Management Decision 42 , no. 2 (2004): 330–56.

Principles of Management Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

The Definitive Guide to Business Decision-Making

By Kate Eby | August 24, 2018

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Making decisions — both large and small — is critical to the success of a business. Decisions come from the need to solve a problem or the need for a potential opportunity. Gathering the right amount of information and input from key stakeholders is essential for making informed decisions. Following one of the few accepted processes to collect intel and objectively weigh the pros and cons of the data can help steer you away from making unsound decisions. In this article, you’ll learn about popular decision-making processes and how to apply them to your own business.

What Is the Decision-Making Process?

The decision-making process involves identifying a goal, getting the relevant and necessary information, and weighing the alternatives in order to make a decision. The concept sounds simple, yet many people overlook some of the critical stages and risks that occur when making decisions. Wherever possible, it’s important to make the best decisions under the circumstances.

There are at least four strong benefits to making good decisions:

1. Good decisions last longer. You will rarely need to revisit a decision that was made using a well thought out process, and it can sometimes last the entire lifespan of an organization.

2. Good decisions weigh internal and external factors. A decision-maker should consider a company holistically. A sound decision won’t have one part of the business succeed at the expense of another. Both internal and external factors can affect the decision and the company's road map.

3. Good decisions eliminate conflicts of interest. With transparency and stakeholder buy-in during the decision-making process, questions or concerns after the fact become far less likely. The benefits of this process keep the organization on track and focused, and reduce churn.

4. Good decisions actually work better overall. Good decisions actually get the decision-maker, department, and company closer to their goal, and solve the initial problem.

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What Is the Decision Making Process Model?

Following a formal process with specific steps can help businesses make more informed decisions (see more benefits to using a formal process ) and propel it forward. In fact, using a decision-making process tailored to the business world reaps enormous benefits that include the following:

  • Less Second-Guessing: If you follow a formal business decision-making process, you can demonstrate you've already considered various other options.
  • Translatable and Sharable Decisions and Progress: You can share the processes and steps upward to top management and the C suite, as well as downward into the ranks of those who'll be involved in executing the decision.
  • Guide or Roadmap: Capturing the decision-making process in writing can be useful to show stakeholders an explanation of the steps and strategy behind it, as well as provide backup details.

The late Harvard business professor and author J. Richard Hackman wrote many books about effective business leadership, teamwork, and decision-making, including Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances . Empowering teams to make their own decisions and following the processes that work for them, Hackman explains in his book, results in cohesion and strength. But in making strong decisions, he adds, “Teams taking in too much data to make decisions can result in an overload trap , which can result in a team metaphorically drowning in data.” Therefore, it’s critical to be strategic at every step of the process.

How to Improve the Decision-Making Process

It’s critical to build evaluation into the process. Ensure that at least one of the steps includes evaluation and revisiting the process and its outcome, especially for future use. Additionally, get sign-off from all stakeholders in advance (even for the steps in the process) and keep them in the loop. Capture metrics along the way that show successes, failures, the comparative benefits of options you’ve considered, and research into what competitors have done, to help support your responses and keep the process moving smoothly.

Types of Traditional Processes in Business Decision-Making

Before we examine the various stepped plans in decision-making, we will explore a few specific types of decision-making. There are also several different actual processes that can be used in decision-making that involve a number of steps. The most popular and well-used processes have five, six, seven, or eight steps.

The number of steps will vary, of course, if you break down tasks that could be contained in a single step into additional steps. Regardless of the process you choose, evaluation is the last step, and smart companies will take the time to do this. Over time, organizations using this evaluation step can gain critical efficiencies in time and focus. It also helps ensure institutional learning for the overall health and strength of the company. All of the processes described in the following sections are in use today.

What Is the Five-Step Process in Decision-Making?

Many organizations follow the five-step process when making decisions. As you compare the following processes with the varying numbers of steps, you’ll see that some, like this one, combine activities, while others list them as separate steps. Here are the five steps in this process:

  • Identify the end goal.
  • Gather all your information needed to inform your decision.
  • Evaluate all the risks and consequences.
  • Make the decision and execute it.
  • Evaluate the decision after the fact.

What Is the Six-Step Process in Decision-Making?

The six-step process focuses more on up-front research and information-gathering. This method front-loads the process with data that can make the rest of the process run smoothly. Here are the six steps in this process:

  • Gather all the necessary information, and identify all the alternatives (without selecting one yet).
  • Compare all these alternatives against the relevant criteria.
  • Make the decision.
  • Execute the decision.

What Is the Ethical Decision-Making Process?

The ethical decision-making process is a process that stipulates that any and all decisions must include evaluating and selecting options that are consistent with ethical concerns. This means making the most ethical choices, regardless of the impact to the bottom line. Ethical decision-making also means eliminating any options that are not consistent with ethical values from the beginning.

According to the University of California San Diego , which cites the Josephson Institute of Ethics , ethical decision-making involves the 3 Cs:

  • Commitment: Never wavering from choosing or doing the ethical thing, whether it costs more or not.
  • Consciousness: Infusing your team and project members with enough awareness to own the ability to act ethically every day with moral certainty.
  • Competency: The ongoing process of evaluating information as you go and weighing options that allow you to continually make the right ethical decisions. As conditions in the world change, having a strong competency to evaluate these changes is mission-critical to staying the course in being ethical.

How to Make a Decision Using the Analytic Hierarchy Process

The analytic hierarchy process ensures that you are using specific criteria and rating those criteria, instead of simply comparing alternatives you've used in the past. The process involves creating an actual hierarchy of sub-issues, which you then evaluate and examine. Then, you measure these sub-issues against each other and assign each a relative value on the hierarchy. In short, alternative solutions are examined, and then weighed against each other.

While some businesses use the analytic hierarchy process, it is often used in academic or policy-related scenarios. In this method, a decision is made with the most important issues considered or weighted more heavily, and higher on the hierarchy, than others.

What Is the Rational Decision-Making Process?

As its name implies, rational decision-making relies strictly on data, measurable steps, and calculated values. This process focuses on minimizing costs and maximizing benefits to the organization. To use this process effectively, it’s critical to factor in personal biases of those involved and solve for them. The five-step process is usually used in rational decision-making.

As opposed to ethical decision making, there's no subjective judgement about criteria and steps to reach a decision in rational decision-making. However, it's possible the same decision could be reached using both processes.

What Is the Managerial Decision-Making Process?

The phrase managerial decision-making process is similar to and sometimes used interchangeably with the more general term business decision-making . But in fact, managers may have more decisions per day, including those affecting employees, beyond the typical business decisions that need to be made in an organization. Managerial decision-making often follows the five-step process.

According to the educational group Management Study Guide, there are three main types of managerial decisions:

  • Strategic: These kinds of decisions are typically made rarely. Not all levels of an organization are or need to be involved as the decision is being considered and decided. Examples of strategic managerial decisions include resource and investment, expansion or downsizing, mergers or acquisitions, investments, etc. These can take significant amounts of time and should not be rushed.
  • Operational: These decisions also take time to be fully explored and made. Higher level ones may involve only the C-suite and/or directors, and can include decisions affecting output, company-wide policies, and culture. Lower-level decisions of this type affect daily operations, so are often handled by upper and middle management.
  • Managerial: These are made by managers at every relevant level, from middle managers to the executive suite. They may cover issues like allocation of resources, the decisions to phase out or revise current products, the creation and introduction of new products, and the like. Every manager in an organization needs to be aligned and often involved in decisions at this level.

What Are the Best Practices in Any Business Decision-Making Process?

If you’re using a team to make a decision, it’s important to have the number of people involved. Hackman’s recommendation is to have about five people on a decision-making team. More than seven members, he writes, makes your decision-making group lose effectiveness.

Sometimes individuals need to make the decision, or perhaps just two C-level executives appoint themselves to make a decision. But Hackman’s study shows that overall, teams make 75 percent better decisions than individuals.

It’s also imperative to identify and fill the correct roles in your decision-making team. Otherwise you are guaranteeing frustration and churn. The Harvard Business Review suggests using the RAPID methodology (recommend, agree, perform, input, and decide). This option provides a high-level way to capture the flow of the step-by-step processes.

As a first step, send your team members out to do research and ask them to answer these questions:

  • What are the most important goals for the decision?
  • What are the top realistic choices?

Audit and combine the results with the team to collectively agree on the top choices or identify gaps. Be sure to communicate and build in time for feedback and questions all along your process. This ensures buy-in all through the process. Sometimes using a decision-making matrix can also help your team identify and weigh options.

Eisenhower Box Decision Matrix Template

Read “Make Up Your Mind: Free Downloadable Decision Matrix Templates” to earn more about using decision-making matrices.

5 Potential Pitfalls to Avoid when Using a Formal Decision-Making Process

Before embarking on a decision-making process, it’s useful to keep some potential pitfalls in mind. Following a process is important, but avoid following the process “out the window.” Here are five potential issues that could arise when using a formal decision-making process:

  • Proceeding without Enough Information, or Relying on a Single Source: If you’re going to follow a formal process, you’ll need data. Document each step and get buy-in from your colleagues. Information is power, and gathering information from relevant but diverse sources is critical to being strategic.
  • Gathering Too Much Information: Too much or irrelevant information can be overwhelming and confusing, and can lead decision makers astray from the issue that needs the decision, as well as how best to arrive at it.
  • Placing Too Much Confidence in an Option that May Cause Bad Results: Try to identify a valid option or options as you hone in on a process and  decision. Gather enough data throughout the process so you can play out scenarios for each option.
  • Solving for the Wrong Problem: Front-loading research can be critical if you don't understand what's causing the issue. For example, if your production output has been slipping, don't assume that you need more staff, or more factory hours, or any one thing, unless and until you can identify the true reason for the slowdown.
  • Being Too Rigid with or Wedded to the Process: It’s possible to follow a decision-making process so strictly that the organic nature of a business, staff, and their needs are sidelined or ignored. Even when you are strategically and confidently following a business decision-making process, you and your team need to have the ability to pivot if needed.

Examples of Decision-Making Processes Successes

In a sense, a company’s entire history is a reflection of making decisions. Some of the top companies in the world have turned a failure into a success by focusing on the last crucial step in all decision-making processes: evaluating the decision after the fact.

One example of this is Coca-Cola in 1985. Business and leadership expert John Addison writes that the company decided to address the changing soda marketplace by launching “new Coke.” Unfortunately, the rebrand failed miserably within three months, which forced the company to reintroduce the original Coca-Cola. The big takeaway: Reversing direction isn’t a sign of failure; rather, it’s evidence of a leader’s commitment to keeping the company’s health a top priority. What’s more, it shows how important it is to revisit and evaluate decisions.

Companies often use data to try a pilot or program, and if it doesn’t work, they might revisit the decision and change course. In other cases, large companies are constantly assessing data to find actionable paths. These three companies found success by making decisions based on data and stakeholder reviews:

  • According to Harvard Business Review , Google created a people analytics department to help the company make HR decisions using data, including deciding if managers make a difference in their teams’ performance. The department used performance reviews and employee surveys to answer this question. The company learned that a laser focus on performance did not indicate the best or happiest teams; instead, managers with strong people skills had the best-performing groups — as well as employees who were happier and stayed longer at the company.
  • When Amazon was still a startup, its data gatherers noticed that customers who bought a certain book or CD or DVD also were more inclined to buy another product. Perhaps these related products were by the same author or artist, or maybe the movies starred the same actors or had similar subject matter. Or, maybe they were just hot titles the customer wanted. Editors at this time had been taking on the role of “trusted adviser,” making recommendations based on purchases through emails and other human-created collateral, but the company thought that an automated tool could augment what the human editors could suggest. Ultimately, Amazon decided to use that data to create its first, rudimentary personalization tool. By presenting customers with products that other customers also bought, the company realized a significant spike in sales.
  • Southwest Airlines famously studied its customer data to determine the perks and upgrades that would appeal to its regular flyers. Offering those perks and upgrades resulted in a boost in ridership and fierce loyalty among its customers.

These are examples of successes that relied on strong decision making, but of course, not all decisions succeed. Continually assessing and revisiting decisions is a sign of a mature company; otherwise, decisions could result in public failure. In the next section, we’ll look at some examples of failed decision making.

Examples of Decision-Making Process Failures

The failure of companies to adapt, change, or compete effectively probably can’t be tied to one bad decision or process failure. Still, in not rigorously gathering data, weighing options, and evaluating decisions, organizations can doom themselves. Here are some examples of companies that failed to use, or learn from, their decision-making processes:

  • Blockbuster and Borders: Both of these once-successful brick-and-mortar companies   used data to reaffirm their own preconceptions instead of evaluating data objectively. Instead of adapting to the challenges and opportunities of the internet, their web properties and physical locations ultimately failed.
  • Kodak: For decades this company was synonymous with photography in all its forms. But it didn’t fearlessly look at the changing landscape of digital photography. Even when it acquired Ofoto, it failed to maximize and monetize the opportunity. The company arrived late and quietly to the online photo gallery space with Kodak Gallery, which was subsequently acquired by Shutterfly.
  • Newspapers: It’s hard to see a whole industry collapse because of bad decision-making and denial, but this is what began to happen in the late 1990s to newspapers. While some organizations, like the New York Times and Washington Post, have adapted to digital media, most city newspapers are struggling. Clinging to old business models never helped any business make strong, forward-looking decisions.

Team Building Exercises to Improve Decision-Making

If you’re ready to get your team energized to focus on making its decision, team-building exercises are a great place to start. These exercises help team members get to know and understand each other, which helps them get on the same page more quickly and ultimately improve their decisions. Here are some resources that can help you find the right team-building exercises for your decision-making group:

  • Activities recommended by business experts
  • More top activities recommended by business leaders
  • Top team-building questions
  • Top 20 team-building activities

The Decision-Making Processes in Non-Business Fields

In non-business fields, decision-making can involve more or fewer factors, with different kinds of weight assigned to each step. Here is a quick overview of some other types of decision-making processes:

  • Consumer Decision-Making Processes: It’s important for marketers to recognize the steps consumers typically use to make a purchase decision. They include the following:
  • Identify need. (I need a new winter coat.)
  • Gather research and information. (What are the newest styles and warmest types of winter coats?)
  • Evaluate the research. (So do I really need a new winter coat, or can I layer up with what I already have? If I need a new one, which one is best for my needs?)
  • Buy the item.
  • Evaluate the decision. (Was this winter coat a good decision? Am I happy I made it, and would I recommend this coat to other people, or buy it again for myself?)
  • Military and Governmental Decision-Making Processes: For those in the military and other types of government roles, decision-making can be a matter of life and death. Therefore, the protocol for making military operations decisions is detailed and strict. 
  • Education Decision-Making Processes: Many schools and school districts embrace shared decision-making , a process that involves members of the community, parents, students and former students, teachers, and anyone else invested in the success of a school or district. 

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Strategic Planning Process Definition, Steps and Examples

Published: 03 January, 2024

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Stefan F.Dieffenbacher

Digital Strategy

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Organizations use Strategic Planning to gather all their stakeholders to evaluate the collection of current circumstances and decide upon their ongoing goals and benchmarks. They decide upon long-term objectives and establish a vision for the company’s future.

The efforts behind an organization’s Strategic Planning Processes are vital to its success, and yet, while many organizations acknowledge they need to do this kind of planning, they often don’t understand how to make it a reality. In this article, we explain the reasons behind Strategic Planning and how to make your Strategic Planning Process as powerful as possible.

What is a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is a systematic process wherein the leaders of an organization articulate their vision for the future and delineate the goals and objectives that will guide the trajectory of the organization.

What is the Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning is a process of defining an organization’s direction and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this direction . It involves creating a long-term plan that outlines the organization’s vision, mission, values, and objectives, as well as the strategies and tactics that will be used to achieve them.

Strategy is often misunderstood, which is surprising because fundamentally it’s a pretty basic concept. Strategy is a clearly expressed direction and a verified plan on how to get there. Your Strategic Planning Process formalizes the steps you’ll take to decide on your plan. The Strategic Planning Process facilitates using a Strategic Execution Framework that articulates where you’ll invest in innovation and where you can cut costs.

As far as business development planning is concerned, your Strategic Execution Framework is a vital tool for driving innovation, but first you must define the process you’ll undertake to determine how you and your team see the future of your organization. In this article, we discuss how to create your Strategic Plan and define its relationship to other concepts and documents that direct your business and its activities.

Innovation Strategy Execution Framework

While it’s true that every business is different and must develop their own processes, we believe there are some process  of strategic planning stepsthat benefit all organizations.

Below are our recommendations for the steps to take when undergoing your Strategic Planning Process, along with the questions we suggest you answer during each specific step.

Step One: Analyze your Business Environment

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What relevant market data do you have, and what do you still need?
  • What technology has emerged that impacts your business model?
  • How have customer expectations changed since your last Strategic Plan?
  • What advantages do you have over competitors?
  • Where is your company weaker compared to competitors?
  • What predictable complications are on the horizon?
  • Which unpredictable complications seem most likely or most potentially impactful?

Step Two: Set your Strategic Direction

  • What is your overall Business Purpose ?
  • How have your operations reflected your Purpose and Goals recently?
  • How should your operations reflect your Purpose and Goals?
  • Where do you see your business going in the next year?
  • In two years? In three years?
  • What are the metrics you’ll use to measure success?
  • What are your make-or-break necessities?

Step Three: Set and develop Strategic Goals and Strategic Objectives

  • Have you considered short-, mid-, and long-term business goals , and what are they?
  • How do your Strategic Goals reflect your Mission Statement?
  • How do your Strategic Goals reflect your company values and vision?
  • What daily operations must be completed to work toward your Strategic Objectives?
  • How will you communicate your Strategic Goals and Strategic Objectives?
  • Who is responsible for reporting on success?
  • How will strategic data be collected?

Related: Strategic Goals: Examples, Importance, Definitions and How to Set Them

Step Four: Drill down to Department-Level Objectives

  • What are specific department concerns?
  • How will your budget influence and be influenced by your Strategic Goals and Objectives?
  • Which departments have resources that could be shared to better advantage?
  • What roles do individual departments play in your overall Strategic Goals?
  • What ongoing projects become a priority because of your new Strategic Goals?
  • Are Departmental Objectives complementing each other and the overall Business Model?

Step Five: Manage and Analyze Performance

  • Who is on the Strategic Planning team?
  • Are tasks and job descriptions properly aligned to ensure the right work is getting completed?
  • What is the schedule for the meeting for Strategic Planning?
  • What are your metrics for measuring performance and success?
  • Have you clearly articulated and shared KPIs?
  • Who is responsible for gathering data?
  • How will data be collected?
  • How will data be reported?
  • What’s at stake for strategy success or failure?

Step Six: Review and develop your Strategic Plan

  • How should your Strategic Plan look on paper?
  • What is your Strategy Execution Framework —how will you guarantee the Strategic Plan Team’s decisions are respected and executed?
  • What is the review process?
  • How often do you evaluate your Strategic Plan?
  • How will you communicate your final Strategic Plan?

Strategic Planning Process Examples

1) apple strategic plan process.

  • Vision and Mission: Apple’s strategic planning begins with a clear vision and mission. Apple’s vision is to create innovative products that inspire and enrich people’s lives.
  • Environmental Analysis: Apple conducts thorough environmental analyses, considering technological trends, market demands, and competitive landscapes. This includes staying at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies.
  • SWOT Analysis: Apple evaluates its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, one of Apple’s strengths is its strong brand image, while a weakness might be dependence on a limited product line.
  • Setting business Goals and Objectives: Apple sets specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This could include objectives like maintaining a certain market share, launching new products, or achieving specific financial targets.
  • Strategies and Tactics: Apple develops strategies based on its goals. For instance, a strategic move might be expanding its ecosystem by integrating hardware, software, and services. Tactics could include aggressive marketing campaigns and product launches.
  • Implementation and Execution: Apple’s strategic plans are meticulously executed. The launch of iconic products like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac series demonstrates effective implementation of their strategies.
  • Monitoring and Adjusting: Apple constantly monitors its performance metrics, customer feedback, and market dynamics. If necessary, adjustments are made to the strategic plan to stay responsive to changing conditions.

2) Tesla Strategic Plan Process

  • Vision and Mission: Tesla’s strategic planning revolves around its mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The vision includes producing electric vehicles and renewable energy solutions.
  • Market Analysis: Tesla analyzes global markets for electric vehicles, renewable energy, and energy storage. This involves understanding regulatory environments, consumer behaviours, and technological advancements.
  • Risk Assessment: Tesla conducts risk assessments related to manufacturing, supply chain, and market volatility. For instance, it considers risks associated with battery production and global economic conditions.
  • Setting Bold Objectives: Tesla is known for setting ambitious objectives, such as achieving mass-market electric vehicle adoption and establishing a robust network of charging stations worldwide.
  • Innovative Strategies: Tesla’s strategic planning involves innovation in technology and business models . For instance, the “Gigafactories” for mass production of batteries and the “Autopilot” feature in vehicles reflect innovative strategies.
  • Agile Adaptation: Due to the rapidly changing automotive and energy sectors, Tesla maintains an agile approach. The company adapts its plans swiftly to capitalize on emerging opportunities, as seen in the expansion of its energy products.
  • Continuous Improvement: Tesla places emphasis on continuous improvement. The iterative development of electric vehicle models, software updates, and advancements in battery technology showcase a commitment to refinement.

These examples demonstrate how strategic planning is a dynamic and integral part of the business processes of leading companies. They highlight the importance of a well-defined vision, rigorous analysis, adaptability, and innovation in the strategic planning process.

Tactical vs. Strategic Planning Process

An easy way to distinguish your company’s Tactical Planning from your Strategic Planning is to separate your wants from your HOWs.

In your Strategic Planning, you identify what you WANT for the company. These are big-picture dreams (achievable, but big ) that are your definition of success. In your Tactical Planning, you identify the HOW for reaching those dreams, including the smaller necessary steps.

Each kind of planning is vital for securing the organization’s future, but they require different sorts of attention and philosophy, and teams that are good at planning one way may not necessarily be good at the other kind of planning.

Strategic Planning vs. Your Business Purpose

Your Strategic Planning Process will of course be deeply connected to your Business Purpose .

We like to think of Business Purpose in broad terms, choosing especially to think of a business’s role in massive transformation. Embedded within a Business Purpose is the Business Plan that directs operations and how a company delivers value to its customers.

What is the relationship between your Strategic Planning and your Business Purpose? One feeds into the other. Your Business Purpose must point to a larger impact you’ll have on the people who purchase your goods and services, and your Strategic Planning takes into account how you’ll grow and expand that Purpose as you reach more customers more successfully.

Strategic Planning vs Business Planning

Strategic planning and business planning are two distinct processes that are often used interchangeably, but they have some key differences.

Strategic planning is a top-level process that focuses on determining the direction of an organization over the long term. It involves setting goals, determining the key resources and actions necessary to achieve those goals, and allocating those resources in a way that best serves the organization’s future. The outcome of strategic planning is typically a long-term strategic plan that outlines the organization’s vision, mission, values, and objectives.

Business planning , on the other hand, is a more tactical process that focuses on the implementation of specific initiatives and projects to support the organization’s long-term goals. Business plans typically outline the steps necessary to launch a new product, enter a new market, or achieve a specific objective. They may also include budgets, marketing plans, and other operational details.

In short, strategic planning is about setting the direction for an organization, while business planning is about implementing specific initiatives to support that direction. Both processes are important for the success of an organization and should be used in conjunction to ensure that resources are allocated effectively and that the organization is moving in the right direction.

Why is Strategic Planning Important?

Imagine this scenario: A warehouse full of goods sits, unsold and unmoved. A collection of brilliant people languishes at desks all day. Outside, the world spins and changes. It’s ready for what these people could do, can do, and yet nothing happens. Needs remain unmet. Progress is halted. Everyday life takes several backwards steps. This is what your business will look like without proper Strategic Planning.

Strategic Planning forces you to consider your Strategic Objectives and critically compare them to the resources you have available. As you continuously evaluate the circumstances of your business and your customers, your Strategic Plan evolves to match your goals and business capabilities.

The process involved pushes decision-makers to practice Strategic Thinking . It limits wasteful spending, especially when upper-level managers are willing to forgo pet projects in favor of operations with a broader use and appeal.

Strategic Planning is important because it directs your resources to efficiently meet your overall Business Goals. Without Strategic Planning, you are likely to waste resources, make conflicting decisions, or fail to grow your business to its greatest potential.

When Do You Create a Strategic Plan?

Most businesses find value in reviewing their Strategic Plan every three years. This allows enough time to pass that you can evaluate the success of previous plans, reflect on the achievement of your Strategic Goals, consider developments outside your organization that affect your business, and begin formulating new goals that will become the next version of your plans.

When businesses first begin, they often have too many fires burning at once. They remain focused on existing today rather than planning for tomorrow. Most entrepreneurs remember those stressful early days of starting their businesses and can understand why formalities like Strategic Plans can fall by the wayside. We believe if your business lasts longer than a year it’s important to develop a plan for the future. Think of Strategic Planning as a celebration of a first anniversary—a sign that you’re poised to continue moving forward for years to come.

However, Strategic Planning is not a one-off event that is over once the cookies are all gone and the room clears. Your Strategic Planning team should meet regularly to measure how effective the plans are at helping you reach your Strategic Goals. Ad hoc subcommittees can play a role in gathering evidence to ensure that your plans remain appropriate, especially if conditions change.

For example, we recommended a close review of Strategic Plans and Strategic Goals once the COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that business was going to be affected at least short- to mid-term. We continue to recommend teams regularly revisit their Strategic Plans with global circumstances in mind to recognize opportunities and prepare for challenges.

The Benefits of Strategic Planning

As we’ve mentioned, there are many benefits of Strategic Planning . Some of those benefits include:

  • Shared sense of power and importance
  • United direction
  • Clear path and purpose for decision-making and operations
  • Boosted operational effectiveness
  • Responsible, efficient use of available resources
  • Meaningful work done on a daily basis
  • Tracking of progress
  • Ability to adjust to changing circumstances

What is a business without Strategic Planning? In most cases, it’s not much, nor is it long for the world. While it’s possible to accidentally find success without much planning, most successful businesses are a result of careful thought mixed with the urge to pounce on the opportunity.

What prepares you to pounce?

Your Strategic Planning and the processes that make it possible.

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Strategic Planning Process: Why Is Strategic Planning Important for Organizations in 2024?

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What to read next:

Playing chess without a strong opening is a guaranteed way to disadvantage yourself. Just like in chess, organizations without an adequate strategic planning process are unlikely to thrive and adapt long-term. 

The strategic planning process is essential for aligning your organization on key priorities, goals, and initiatives, making it crucial for organizational success.   

This article will empower you to craft and perfect your strategic planning process by exploring the following:  

  • What is strategic planning
  • Why strategic planning is important for your business  
  • The seven steps of the strategic planning process   

Strategic planning frameworks

  • Best practices supporting the strategic planning process  

By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge needed to perfect the key elements of strategic planning. Ready? Let’s begin.  

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning charts your business's course toward success. Using your organization’s vision, mission statement , and values — with internal and external information — each step of the strategic planning process helps you craft long-term objectives and attain your goals with strategic management.  

The key elements of strategic planning includes a SWOT analysis, goal setting , stakeholder involvement, plus developing actionable strategies, approaches, and tactics aligned with primary objectives.  

In short, the strategic planning process bridges the gap between your organization’s current and desired state, providing a clear and actionable framework that answers:   Where are you now?   Where do you want to be?   How will you get there?

7 key elements of strategic planning 

The following strategic planning components work together to create cohesive strategic plans for your business goals. Let’s take a close look at each of these:  

  • Vision : What your organization wants to achieve in the future, the long-term goal  
  • Mission : The driving force behind why your company exists, who it serves, and how it creates value  
  • Values : Fundamental beliefs guiding your company’s decision-making process  
  • Goals : Measurable objectives in alignment with your business mission, vision, and values  
  • Strategy : A long-term strategy map for achieving your objectives based on both internal and external factors  
  • Approach : How you execute strategy and achieve objectives using actions and initiatives   
  • Tactics : Granular short-term actions, programs, and activities  

Why is the strategic planning process important?

Just as a chess player needs a gameplan to reach checkmate, a company needs a solid strategic plan to achieve its goals.   

Without a strategic plan, your business will waste precious time, energy, and resources on endeavors that won’t get your company closer to where it needs to be.   

Your ideal plan should cover all key strategic planning areas, while allowing you to stay present by measuring success and course-correcting or redefining the strategic direction when necessary. Ultimately, enabling your company to stay future-proof through the creation of an always-on strategy that reflects your company's mission and vision.   

An always-on strategy involves continuous environmental scanning even after the strategic plan has been devised, ensuring readiness to adapt in response to quick, drastic changes in the environment.

Let’s dive deeper into the steps of the strategic planning process.  

What are the 7 stages of the strategic planning process?

You understand the overall value of implementing a strategic planning process — now let’s put it in practice. Here's our 7-step approach to strategic planning that ensures everyone is on the same page:  

  • Clarify your vision, mission, and values  
  • Conduct an environmental scan  
  • Define strategic priorities  
  • Develop goals and metrics  
  • Derive a strategic plan  
  • Write and communicate your strategic plan  
  • Implement, monitor, and revise   

1. Clarify your vision, mission, and values 

The first step of the strategic planning process is understanding your organization’s core elements: vision, mission, and values. Clarifying these will align your strategic plan with your company’s definition of success. Once established, these are the foundation for the rest of the strategic planning process.   

Questions to ask:

  • What do we aspire to achieve in the long term?
  • What is our purpose or ultimate goal?
  • What do we do to fulfill our vision?
  • What key activities or services do we provide?
  • What are our organization's ethics?
  • What qualities or behaviors do we expect from employees?

Read more: What is Mission vs. Vision  

A green flag with hollow filling placed to the left of an outline of an eye, with the iris also outlined in green, all on a green background, to signal mission vs. vision

2. Conduct an environmental scan

Once everyone on the same page about vision, mission, and values, it's time to scan your internal and external environment. This involves a long-term SWOT analysis, evaluating your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  

Internal factors 

Internal strengths and weaknesses help you understand where your organization excels and what it could improve. Strengths and weaknesses awareness helps make more informed decisions with your capabilities and resource allocation in mind.  

External factors

Externally, opportunities and threats in the market help you understand the power of your industry’s customers, suppliers, and competitors. Additionally, consider how broader forces like technology, culture, politics, and regulation may impact your organization.   

  • What are our organization's key strengths or competitive advantages?
  • What areas or functions within our organization need improvement?
  • What emerging trends or opportunities can we leverage?
  • How do changes in technology, regulations, or consumer behavior impact us?

3. Define strategic priorities

Prioritization puts the “strategic” in strategic planning process. Your organization’s mission, vision, values, and environmental scan serve as a lens to identify top priorities. Limiting priorities ensures your organization intentionally allocates resources.  

These categories can help you rank your strategic priorities:  

  • Critical : Urgent tasks whose failure to complete will have severe consequences — financial losses, reputation damage, or legal consequences  
  • Important : Significant tasks which support organizational achievements and require timely completion  
  • Desirable : Valuable tasks not essential in the short-term, but can contribute to long-term success and growth  
  • How do these priorities align with our mission, vision, and values?
  • Which tasks need to be completed quickly to ensure effective progress towards our desired outcomes?
  • What resources and capabilities do we need to pursue these priorities effectively?

4. Develop goals and metrics

Next, you establish goals and metrics to reflect your strategic priorities. Purpose-driven, long-term, actionable strategic planning goals should flow down through the organization, with lower-level goals contributing to higher-level ones.  

One approach that can help you set and measure your aligned goals is objectives and key results (OKRs). OKRs consist of objectives, qualitative statements of what you want to achieve, and key results, 3-5 supporting metrics that track progress toward your objective.  

OKRs ensure alignment at every level of the organization, with tracking and accountability built into the framework to keep everyone engaged. With ambitious, intentional goals, OKRs can help you drive the strategic plan forward.  

  • What metrics can we use to track progress toward each objective?
  • How can we ensure that lower-level goals and metrics support and contribute to higher-level ones?
  • How will we track and measure progress towards key results?
  • How will we ensure accountability?

Get an in-depth look at OKRs with our Ultimate OKR Playbook

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5. Derive a strategic plan

The next step of the strategic planning process gets down to the nitty-gritty “how” — developing a clear, practical strategic plan for bridging the gap between now and the future.   

To do this, you’ll need to brainstorm short- and long-term approaches to achieving the goals you’ve set, answering a couple of key questions along the way. You must evaluate ideas based on factors like:  

  • Feasibility : How realistic and achievable is it?  
  • Impact : How conducive is it to goal attainment?  
  • Cost : Can we fund this approach, and is it worth the investment?  
  • Alignment : Does it support our mission, vision, and values?  

From your approaches, you can devise a detailed action plan, which covers things like:  

  • Timelines : When will we take each step, and what are the deadlines?  
  • Milestones : What key achievements will ensure consistent progress?  
  • Resource requirements : What’s needed to achieve each step?  
  • Responsibilities : Who's accountable in each step?  
  • Risks and challenges : What can affect our ability to execute our plan? How will we address these?  

With a detailed action plan like this, you can move from abstract goals to concrete steps, bringing you closer to achieving your strategic objectives.  

6. Write and communicate your strategic plan

Writing and communicating your strategic plan involves everyone, ensuring each team is on the same page. Here’s a clear, concise structure you can use to cover the most important strategic planning components:  

  • Executive summary : Highlights and priorities in your strategic overview   
  • Introduction : Background on your strategic plan  
  • Connection : How your strategic plan aligns with your organization’s mission, vision, and values  
  • Environmental scan : An overview of your SWOT analysis findings  
  • Strategic priorities and goals : Informed short and long-term organizational goals  
  • Strategic approach : An overview of your tactical plan   
  • Resource needs : How you'll deploy technology, funding, and employees  
  • Risk and challenges : How you’ll mitigate the unknowns if and when they arise  
  • Implementation plan : A step-by-step resource deployment plan for achieving your strategy  
  • Monitoring and evaluation : How you’ll keep your plan heading in the right direction  
  • Conclusion : A summary of the strategic plan and everything it entails  
  • What information or context do stakeholders need to understand the strategic plan?
  • How can we emphasize the connection between the strategic plan and the overall purpose and direction of the organization?
  • What initiatives or strategies will we implement to drive progress?
  • How will we mitigate or address risks?
  • What are the specific steps and actions we need to take to implement the strategic plan?
  • Any additional information or next steps we need to communicate?

7. Implement, monitor, and revise performance 

Finally, it’s time to implement your strategic plan, making sure it's up to date, creating a persistent, always-on strategy that doesn't lag behind. As you get the ball rolling, keep a close eye on your timelines, milestones, and performance targets, and whether these align with your internal and external environment.   

Internally, indicators like completions, issues, and delays provide visibility into your process. If any bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or misalignment arises, take corrective action promptly — adjust the plan, reallocate resources, or provide additional training to employees.  

Externally, you should monitor changes such as customer preferences, competitive pressures, economic shifts , and regulatory changes. These impact the success of your strategic action plan and may require tweaks along the way.   

Remember, implementing a strategic plan isn’t a one-time task — continual evaluation is essential for an always-on strategy. It involves extending beyond planning stages and contextualizing the strategy in real-time, allowing for swift adaptations to changing circumstances to ensure your plan remains relevant.

  • Are there any bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or misalignments we need to address?
  • Are we monitoring and analyzing external factors?
  • Are we prepared to make necessary tweaks or adaptations along the way?
  • Are we agile enough to promptly correct deviations from our strategic plan while maintaining an "always-on" strategy for continual adjustments?

You can use several frameworks to guide you through the strategic planning process. Some of the most influential ones include:

  • Balanced scorecard (BSC) : Takes an overarching approach to strategic planning, covering financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth, aligning short-term operational tasks with long-term strategic goals.
  • SWOT analysis : Highlights your business's internal strengths and weaknesses alongside external opportunities and threats to enable informed decisions about your strategic direction.
  • OKRs : Structures goals as a set of measurable objectives and key results. They cascade down from top-level organizational objectives to lower-level team goals, ensuring alignment across the entire organization. Get an in-depth look at OKRs here . 
  • Scenario planning : Involves envisioning and planning for various possible future scenarios, allowing you to prepare for a range of potential outcomes. It's particularly useful in volatile environments rife with uncertainties.
  • Porter's five forces : Evaluates the competitive forces within your industry — rivalry among existing competitors, bargaining power of buyers and suppliers, threat of new entrants, and threat of substitutes — to shape strategies that position the organization for success.

different strategic planning frameworks

Common problems with strategic planning and how to overcome them

While strategic planning provides a roadmap for business success, it's not immune to challenges. Recognizing and addressing these is crucial for effective strategy implementation. Let's explore common issues encountered in strategic planning and strategies to overcome them.

Static nature

Traditional strategic planning models often follow a linear, annual, and inflexible process that doesn't accommodate quick changes in the business landscape. Strategies formulated this way may quickly become outdated in today's fast-paced environment.

To overcome the rigidity of traditional strategic planning, your organization should integrate continuous environmental scanning processes. This includes monitoring market changes, competitor actions, and technological advancements, ensuring real-time insights inform strategic decision-making. Additionally, adopting agile methodologies allows for iterative planning, breaking down strategies into smaller, manageable components reviewed and adjusted regularly, ensuring adaptability in today's fast-paced landscape.

Disconnect between strategic plan and execution

There's often a significant gap between the strategic objectives and their actual implementation, leading to misalignment, confusion, and inefficiency within the organization.

To bridge the gap, ensure accountability, alignment, and feedback-driven processes across the business. Linking team roles and responsibilities to lower-level objectives can fosters alignment and accountability, whereas aligning these with overarching strategic objectives ensure coherence in execution. To ensure goals are optimized on an ongoing basis, implement a feedback mechanism that continuously evaluates progress against goals, enabling regular adjustments based on market feedback and internal insights.

Lack of real-time insights

Traditional planning models rely on historical data and periodic reviews, which might not capture real-time changes or emerging trends accurately. This can result in misaligned strategies unsuitable for the current business landscape.

Leverage advanced analytics tools and AI-driven technologies. Invest in technologies that offer real-time tracking and reporting of key performance indicators, with dashboards and monitoring systems that provide up-to-date insights. These allow you to gather, process, and interpret real-time data for proactive decision-making that aligns with the current business landscape. 

Failure to close the feedback loop

The absence of a feedback loop between strategy formulation, execution, and evaluation can impact learning and improvement. Companies might therefore struggle to refine their strategies based on real-time performance insights.

Establish a structured feedback loop encompassing strategy formulation, execution, and evaluation stages. Encourage employees to actively contribute insights on strategy execution, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.

Best practices during the strategic planning process

Navigating strategic planning goes beyond overcoming challenges. A successful strategic plan requires you to embrace a set of guiding best practices, helping you navigate the development and implementation of your strategic planning process.   

1. Keep the planning process flexible

With ever-changing business environments, a one-and-done approach to strategic planning is insufficient. Your strategic plan needs to be adaptable to ensure its relevancy and its ability to weather the effects of changing circumstances.  

2. Pull together a diverse group of stakeholders

By including voices from across the organization, you can account for varying thoughts, perspectives, and experiences at each step of the strategic planning process, ensuring cross-functional alignment .  

3. Document the process

Continuous documentation of the strategic management process is crucial in capturing and communicating the key elements of strategic planning. This keeps everyone on the same page and your strategic plan up-to-date and relevant.  

4. Make data-driven decisions

Root your decisions in evidence and facts rather than assumptions or opinions. This cultivates accurate insights, improves prioritization, and reduces biased (flawed) decisions.  

5. Align your company culture with the strategic plan 

Your strategic plan can only be successful if everyone is on board with it — company culture supports what you’re trying to achieve. Behaviors, rules, and attitudes optimize the execution of your strategic plan.  

6. Leverage AI 

Using AI in strategic planning supports the development of an always-on strategy — amplifying strategic agility, conducting comprehensive environmental scans, and expediting planning phases. It can streamline operations, facilitate data-driven decision-making, and provide transparent insights into progress to drive accountability, engagement, and alignment with the strategic plan.

The strategic planning process in a nutshell

Careful strategy mapping is crucial for any organization looking to achieve its long-term goals while staying true to its mission, vision, and values. The seven steps in the strategic planning process outlined in this article provide a solid framework your organization can follow — from clarifying your organization’s purpose and developing a strategic plan, to implementing, monitoring, and revising performance. These steps will help your company meet goal measurements and create an always-on strategy that's rooted in the present. 

It’s important to remember that strategic planning is not a one-time event. To stay effective and relevant, you must continuously monitor and adapt your strategy in response to changing circumstances. This ongoing process of improvement keeps your organization competitive and demonstrates your commitment to achieving your goals.  

Quantive empowers modern organizations to turn their ambitions into reality through strategic agility. It's where strategy, teams, and data come together to drive effective decision-making, streamline execution, and maximize performance.  

As your company navigates today’s competitive landscape, you need an Always-On Strategy to continuously bridge the gap between current and desired business outcomes. Quantive brings together the technology, expertise, and passion to transform your strategy from a static plan to a feedback-driven engine for growth.  

Whether you’re a visionary start-up, a mid-market business looking to conquer, or a large enterprise facing disruption, Quantive keeps you ahead — every step of the way. For more information, visit www.quantive.com . 

Additional resources

How top companies are closing the strategy execution gap, strategy execution in 4 steps: keys to successful strategy, 7 best practices for strategy execution, why your business needs strategy execution software, subscribe for our newsletter.

17.1 Is Planning Important

  • Understand the importance of planning and why organizations need to plan and control.

Planning is the process by which managers establish goals and specify how these goals are to be attained. Plans have two basic components: outcome or goal statements and action statements. Outcome or goal statements represent the end state—the targets and outcomes managers hope to attain. Action statements reflect the means by which organizations move forward to attain their goals. British prime minister Theresa May is determined to change the way that public companies’ boards are comprised by advocating that employees be part of every board. As a part of her action statement, she advocated putting an employee representative in every boardroom, just like Mick Barker, a railway worker since the 1970s, has been quietly helping to shape decision-making as a member of the board of directors at the top of transport giant First Group. 2

Planning is an intellectual activity. 3 It is difficult to see managers plan, because most of this activity unfolds in the mind of those doing the planning. While planning, managers have to think about what has to be done, who is going to do it, and how and when they will do it. Planners think both retrospectively (about past events) and prospectively (about future opportunities and impending threats). Planning involves thinking about organizational strengths and weaknesses, as well as making decisions about desired states and ways to achieve them. 4

Planning for organizational events, whether in the internal or external environment, should be an ongoing process—part of a manager’s daily, weekly, and monthly duties and a routine task for all members of high-involvement organizations. Plans should be continually monitored. Managers and other organizational members should check to see if their plans need to be modified to accommodate changing conditions, new information, or new situations that will affect the organization’s future. Plans need to be administered with flexibility, as organizations learn about new and changing conditions. Clearly, the Calico Candy Company failed to monitor its plans in this way. By thinking of planning as a continuous activity, methods can be formulated for handling emerging and unforeseen opportunities and threats. Planning is one process through which organizational activity can be given meaning and direction.

Why Should Managers Plan?

Managers have several reasons for formulating plans for themselves, their employees, and various organizational units: (1) to offset uncertainty and change; (2) to focus organizational activity on a set of objectives; (3) to provide a coordinated, systematic road map for future activities; (4) to increase economic efficiency; and (5) to facilitate control by establishing a standard for later activity.

Several forces contribute to the necessity for organizational planning. First, in the internal environment, as organizations become larger and more complex, the task of managing becomes increasingly complex. Planning maps out future activities in relation to other activities in the organization. Second, as the external environment becomes increasingly complex and turbulent, the amount of uncertainty faced by a manager increases. Planning enables organizations to approach their environment systematically.

A study out of Cornell University and Indiana University found that absenteeism cost companies $40 billion per year; the absence of planning was one of the biggest problems businesses face. Firms that follow a clearly defined plan in their day-to-day operations will be more successful than those that do not. The authors state, “organizational controlled consequences that would tend to deter absenteeism.” Interestingly, this may be as simple as inspecting the organizational policies that provide the “rules” for employee absenteeism. 5

Do Managers Really Plan?

Managers should plan formally, but do they? Some observers contend that managers typically are too busy to engage in a regular form of systematic planning. McGill University management professor Henry Mintzberg notes:

When managers plan, they do so implicitly in the context of daily actions, not in some abstract process reserved for two weeks in the organization’s mountain retreat. The plans of the chief executives I have studied seemed to exist only in their heads—as flexible, but often specific, intentions. . . . The job of managing does not breed reflective planners; the manager is a real-time responder to stimuli. 6

Others disagree. After reviewing a number of studies focused on the degree to which planning and other managerial activities are inherent parts of managing, management professors J. Carroll and J. Gillen state that “the classical management functions of Fayol, Urwick, and others are not folklore as claimed by some contemporary management writers but represent valid abstractions of what managers actually do and what managers should do.” 7 Barbara Allen, president of Sunbelt Research Associates, notes that she did a considerable amount of planning before launching her new business. Now that she is operating successfully, she reviews and updates her plans periodically. 8

Managers often are very busy people. Some act without a systematic plan of action; however, many managers do plan systematically. 9 For example, many managers develop systematic plans for how their organization will react to a crisis. United Airlines, for example, created a crisis planning group. The group developed United’s crisis contingency plan book, which specifies what the airline’s crisis management team should do in the event of a crisis. Keri Calagna, principal, Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, Deloitte & Touche LLP, comments that up to 20.7% of a firm’s value resides in reputation but that CEOs and 77% of board of directors members identified reputation risk as the area about which they felt most vulnerable and that only 39% had a plan to address it. 10

The question about whether managers really plan and the observation that many times they are simply too busy to retreat to the mountaintop and reflect on where the organization should be going and how it should get there miss the point: there are different types of planning.

Concept Check

  • What is the process where managers establish goals and outline how these goals will be met called?.
  • How do the internal and external environments of the organization and its strengths and weaknesses impact the planning process?
  • Why should managers plan?

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  • Planning Process

Planning is the first primary function of management that precedes all other functions . The planning function involves the decision of what to do and how it is to be done? So managers focus a lot of their attention on planning and the planning process . Let us take a look at the eight important steps of the planning process.

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The planning function of management is one of the most crucial ones. It involves setting the goals of the company and then managing the resources to achieve such goals. As you can imagine it is a systematic process involving eight well thought out steps. Let us take a look at the planning process.

1] Recognizing Need for Action

An important part of the planning process is to be aware of the business opportunities in the firm’s external environment as well as within the firm.  Once such opportunities get recognized the managers can recognize the actions that need to be taken to realize them. A realistic look must be taken at the prospect of these new opportunities and SWOT analysis should be done.

Say for example the government plans on promoting cottage industries in semi-urban areas. A firm can look to explore this opportunity.

What are the Types of Plan?

2] Setting Objectives

This is the second and perhaps the most important step of the planning process. Here we establish the objectives for the whole organization and also individual departments . Organizational objectives provide a general direction, objectives of departments will be more planned and detailed.

Objectives can be long term and short term as well. They indicate the end result the company wishes to achieve. So objectives will percolate down from the managers and will also guide and push the employees in the correct direction.

Importance, Features, and Limitation of Planning here in detail .

3] Developing Premises

Planning is always done keeping the future in mind, however, the future is always uncertain. So in the function of management certain assumptions will have to be made. These assumptions are the premises. Such assumptions are made in the form of forecasts, existing plans, past policies, etc.

These planning premises are also of two types – internal and external. External assumptions deal with factors such as political environment, social environment , the advancement of technology , competition, government policies , etc. Internal assumptions deal with policies, availability of resources, quality of management , etc.

These assumptions being made should be uniform across the organization. All managers should be aware of these premises and should agree with them.

4] Identifying Alternatives

The fourth step of the planning process is to identify the alternatives available to the managers. There is no one way to achieve the objectives of the firm, there is a multitude of choices. All of these alternative courses should be identified. There must be options available to the manager.

Maybe he chooses an innovative alternative hoping for more efficient results. If he does not want to experiment he will stick to the more routine course of action. The problem with this step is not finding the alternatives but narrowing them down to a reasonable amount of choices so all of them can be thoroughly evaluated.

5] Examining Alternate Course of Action

The next step of the planning process is to evaluate and closely examine each of the alternative plans. Every option will go through an examination where all there pros and cons will be weighed. The alternative plans need to be evaluated in light of the organizational objectives.

For example, if it is a financial plan. Then it that case its risk-return evaluation will be done. Detailed calculation and analysis are done to ensure that the plan is capable of achieving the objectives in the best and most efficient manner possible.

6] Selecting the Alternative

Finally, we reach the decision making stage of the planning process. Now the best and most feasible plan will be chosen to be implemented. The ideal plan is the most profitable one with the least amount of negative consequences and is also adaptable to dynamic situations.

The choice is obviously based on scientific analysis and mathematical equations. But a managers intuition and experience should also play a big part in this decision. Sometimes a few different aspects of different plans are combined to come up with the one ideal plan.

7] Formulating Supporting Plan

Once you have chosen the plan to be implemented, managers will have to come up with one or more supporting plans. These secondary plans help with the implementation of the main plan. For example plans to hire more people, train personnel, expand the office etc are supporting plans for the main plan of launching a new product. So all these secondary plans are in fact part of the main plan.

8] Implementation of the Plan

And finally, we come to the last step of the planning process, implementation of the plan. This is when all the other functions of management come into play and the plan is put into action to achieve the objectives of the organization. The tools required for such implementation involve the types of plans- procedures, policies, budgets, rules, standards etc.

Solved Question for You

Q: _______ involves scientific analysis of the decision process

  • Linear Programming
  • Risk Analysis
  • Operations Research
  • None of the above

Ans: The correct option is C. Operation research is the application of scientific and mathematical methods to study and analyse problems involving complex systems. It is a powerful tool for decision making.

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  • Types of Plan
  • Introduction, Meaning, Importance, Features and Limitations of Planning

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You made a good point that I should be wary of dynamic situations when dealing with business planning. Nevertheless, I still think that having a good business plan is essential for the game development company that I’m planning to start in the future. Perhaps hiring a business planning consultant would be a good way to have a good footing from the very beginning of the venture.

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Planning And Decision Making: Characteristics, Importance, Elements, Limitations

In everyday life, all of us make and execute certain plans to achieve our goals. For example, before going on a trip, we make a plan i.e. where and when to go, how to reach the destination, the duration of the trip, where to stay and luggage to carry, etc. All these tasks require creating an effective plan which consists of certain activities for the successful execution of a trip. Process of making such plans to achieve some goal or objective is called “Planning . “ In other terms, in order to execute activities in future, prior forethought is necessary and this forethought comes under the concept of “planning.”

From an organizational point of view, planning is defined as “process by which an organization identifies its short-term and long-term goals, design, and implement strategies to achieve them.” One of the important aspects of planning is to allocate resources and manpower in an organization.

The planning function was put forth by Henri Fayol, known for his Management Theories i.e. 14 principles of management and 5 basic functions of management.

Planning is one of the six management functions/processes of Henri and the management process starts with planning function in any organization.

For example, manpower planning or human resource planning is a crucial planning process which ensures the right kind of people at the right place, and at the right time to fulfil the right type of jobs in the organizations. This process includes different activities in the planning process to meet organizational goals.

The Purpose Of Planning

1. achievement of goals, 2. cost-effective decision-making, 3. forecasting, 4. productive utilisation of available resources, 5. facilitate other management functions, 6. risk-management, characteristics/nature of planning, 1. basic and important management function.

Planning is not only the base for the rest of the management functions i.e. staffing, directing, organizing, and controlling, but it is also one of the most crucial processes for any organization to meet goals. All the above management functions involve effective planning as without proper planning no function can be performed well. Therefore, the results might be ambiguous.

2. Goal-Oriented

Planning is focused on defining organizational goals or objectives, identifying different action plans, deciding and implementing the best action plan to achieve goals.

3. Omnipresent

Planning is involved at all the levels i.e. top, middle, and bottom. The effective functioning of different departments of organizations like sales, purchase, IT, HR, finance among others depends on planning their systems, optimum use of resources, etc. The scope may vary in different functions.

4. Continuous Process

Planning is a continuous process in an organization which involves making plans for a particular time period i.e. monthly or quarterly, half-yearly, yearly, etc. New plans are initiated after the previous plans lapse to fulfil organizational goals.

5. Demands Strong Analytical Skills

Planning requires robust analytical abilities i.e. analyzing information, problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking, etc. at each level and function.

6. Forecast

Planning process demands forecasting future needs, i.e. analyzing and detecting future requirements, challenges in accomplishing organizational goals, etc.

Importance Of Planning

1. increase in efficiency.

Planning helps in increasing efficiency by aiming at cost-reduction and generating maximum output. It controls the wastage of available resources and their duplicity.

2. Minimize Risks

Risk-management is an important aspect of any organization, especially in forecasting. Planning predicts various risks related to business and further helps in generating action plans to control and reduce these risks. So, with effective planning, organizations prepare themselves for any future uncertainty.

3. Smooth Coordination

Planning ensures effective coordination at different levels, between various departments or functions. Plans are formulated at each level i.e. top, middle, and bottom as well as in different departments. Effective execution of these plans requires proper coordination which is possible through effective planning. Similarly, different plans like short-, mid-, and long-term plans require coordination to achieve organizational goals where planning plays an important role.

4. Optimum Utilization Of Available Resources

An organization needs different resources like funds, manpower, physical assets to disburse activities of different departments. These resources are limited. So, it’s necessary to utilize and organize them efficiently to produce maximum output. Planning helps in organizing these resources carefully.

5. Smooth Supervision And Direction

Planning paves a path for supervising subordinates, providing right instructions, and rendering top-notch guidance. It aims to provide help, direction for performing various tasks, and methods for carrying out different activities.

6. Facilitates Control

Performance of staff can be controlled or improved by devising plans for improvement in performance according to the variance in performance plans and actual performance at work. Without planning, this process of control could not be smooth.

7. Staff Motivation

Attractive monetary and non-monetary benefits can be designed through proper planning which is helpful in boosting the morale of the staff. This leads to high motivation among staff and reduces turnovers of quality staff.

8. Trouble-Free Decision-Making

Making effective and right decisions in an organization is essential to achieve goals. A supervisor has to make different plans and strategies for the smooth functioning of the department and to decide the most appropriate plan. So, planning helps in smooth decision-making in an organization.

9. Goal-Oriented

Proper planning ensures that the best strategies and decisions are made to fulfil organizational goals. Different plans made at different levels are aimed at achieving individual, departmental, and organizational goals.

10. Encouraging Creativity And Innovative Ideas

Planning demands thinking and implementing the best ideas or strategies for organizational success. Both supervisors and subordinates are encouraged to exploit their creative skills and present their innovative plans.

Elements/Components Of Planning

The planning process revolves around different aspects as shown in the diagram below:

Mission or purpose is the base of planning in any organization. The mission of an organization specifies its reason for existence, customers, products or services, service locations, etc. and mostly in written form. It acts as a direction towards achieving organizational goals. Mission also includes an organization’s values and belief system. It also clears the organization’s viewpoint on staff. Organizational goals are defined based on the mission statement of an organization.

The ultimate aim of the functioning of each department in an organization is to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Planning also requires setting of goals to make a plan further. Goals can be individual or team based. For example:

  • Individual goal of Hiring Manager in the HR department: To recruit top talent in the organization in given time-frame.
  • Team goal of Human Resource Department: To ensure the development of employees by fulfilling an individual’s personal, professional needs and by meeting organizational goals.

Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Short-term goals can be for less than a year and long-term goals are defined for a time-period of more than a year.

3. Policies

Planning is also based on defined policies of an organization. Policies are a set of guidelines to accomplish any task effectively and also includes procedure and actions. These are defined as a set of plans to handle different situations. Different policies like an insurance policy, travel policy, HR policies are designed to facilitate smooth functioning in any organization. Similarly, if an organization policy says that the minimum annual salary increment of staff will be 10% of the salary then increment can’t be less than 10%. So, policies act as a decision-making element as well.

Planning is connected to a process, and it is an important element of planning. A process defines guidelines to execute different activities, i.e. action plan. In any planning activity, the process is practical. A process like planning is aimed at achieving something. These are step-by-step inter-related activities to be performed and require different resources like money, manpower, machinery, etc. to produce the desired output. For example, in a manufacturing company, different processes are present like production process, quality control and quality assurance process, maintenance process etc.

Plans that are made for estimating income and expenses for a specific period are defined as “budget.” Budget is a set of financial plans which are made for a specific period and reviewed at regular intervals. Whether it is an organization or a family or an individual; all make budget plans to utilize their financial resources efficiently. For example, in an organization business budget is present that includes fixed and variable costs, expected sales, profits, etc.

A well-designed budget also helps in planning during a financial crisis.

6. Projects

Project in an organization refers to the set of inter-related activities which are planned to fulfil certain goals in a specific time period at a given cost using limited resources. Project planning includes defining goals, project schedule, resources, budget, project quality, manpower, and risk management. So, this element of planning consists of other planning elements as well. For example, software companies work on different projects for their clients.

7. Strategies

Strategies are a set of plans and actions that are defined to meet certain results. Proper planning and implementation of strategies are essential for organizational success and to meet certain goals.

Types Of Planning

Planning is mainly of four types i.e. Operational, Strategic, Tactical, and Contingency.

a) Operational Planning

Operational plan or work plan refers to the planning process aimed at achieving departmental and organizational goals. It is related to the day-to-day functioning of organizations. These plans clear planned activities of departments for the near future in detail. The operational plan provides answers of: -What goals have to be achieved and what strategies to use?

-Who will be responsible for different activities?

-What is the time limit to complete activities?-

-How much budget in terms of financial resources is required and available to complete activities?

For example, the goal of the marketing team of an engineering college is to increase the number of students by increasing marketing promotional activities. Marketing operational plan is explained in the diagram below:

Operational planning is of two types i.e. single use plans or ongoing plans. Single-use plans are developed for one-time activities or tasks like sales or marketing event or seminar. Ongoing plans have a defined set of policies, rules, and procedures to achieve goals and are continued for the future as well, like a performance management system for employees.

b) Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is defined as the strategies made by management to achieve its objectives. It also includes defining directions and allocating resources for execution. Strategic planning is meant for long-term business decisions. A strategic plan starts with the vision and the mission statement of an organization.

The process of strategic planning includes vision clarity, collecting and analyzing information, strategy formulation, and implementation of strategy, evaluating, and controlling. For example, the strategic plan of an organization which aims to reduce the current turnover rate is explained in the below diagram:

Models of Strategic Planning

There are five models of strategic planning which represents its designs or blueprints. Selection of the right model depends on an organization’s goals, mission, and vision. These models are:

1. The basic model of strategic planning

These are used by new organizations having less experience in using strategic business planning. It is mainly useful for small-scale organizations and business. This planning includes defining mission, goals, identifying strategies, creating action plans, evaluation etc.

2. Goal-oriented model

This one is an extended version of the basic strategic planning model and is used by established organizations which aim at introducing an improved strategic process. The process of this model includes a SWOT analysis (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat), identifying goals and mission, making strategies, action plans, operational plans, budget allocation, and evaluation on yearly basis.

3. Scenario-based model

This model is more of a technical model. It is used by organizations to face different challenges or scenarios which arise due to external factors or environmental change. Change can be demographic or in the form of rules and regulations. The process includes identifying problem areas in business and different scenarios- both best and worst, designing suggestions for an action plan of business in different scenarios, selecting common strategies to handle changes, and identifying common issues through which business is being affected or will be affected in the near future.

4. Alignment model

This model is useful in making a balance between an organization’s mission and available resources as well as aligning resources to the mission. It helps in identifying any gaps in planning i.e. gap between actual results and expected results. Organizations facing huge efficiencies prefer this strategic planning model to rectify issues.

The process includes identifying an organization’s mission, resources, process, etc, inspecting which areas are working in the right direction and which areas need improvement. It also requires finding ways of improvement and incorporating these improvements in the form of strategies in the plan.

5. Organic model

This strategic model is the self-organizing model which is based more on the value system and less on the process. The process includes clearing values and vision to stakeholders in a meeting; an action plan is established by each person as per values and vision, everyone clears results of actions and update values, vision accordingly.

c) Tactical Planning

This type of planning is for short duration i.e. plans and actions by functions for short-term and aims at contributing to the strategic plan of an organization. Tactical planning is based on today’s need and is a bit more detailed. This planning needs to be flexible to meet unexpected issues which are not predefined. It answers what to do to achieve the strategic objective rather than how-to-do as in case of operational plans. Below is an example of tactic planning by HR Hiring Manager to achieve the goal of hiring twenty sales representatives in the first quarter:

d) Contingency Planning

These type of plans are need-based and are formulated when the need for change arises or during the occurrence of any unexpected circumstance. It is also called alternate plans as it comes under picture once other plans fail to produce desired results. The process includes formulating policy, identifying critical factors of a business, risk analysis, preventive control measures, developing recovery strategies, and testing, training, monitoring plan.

An example of contingency planning can be seen in the diagram below which is a crisis situation of organization i.e. what-if HR Head, who is taking care of all HR gamut of organization, left suddenly. To handle such unexpected situations, contingency plans are made. Like in the below diagram, an organization has formulated a plan i.e. performance development program to train the rest of the HR staff to work at the capacity of HR Head in such crisis situations.

Planning Process

The planning process is defined as the steps to define goals and making the best action plans to achieve it.

Steps In Planning Process

1. Defining goal or objective

Goal setting is the first and important step in the planning process. Goals are defined at the organizational, department, and individual level and are meant to be achieved in future in a specific time period. A goal can be short-term, mid-term or long-term. Plans are devised which are aimed at achieving these predefined goals. Goals specify what to achieve by defined rules, policies, process, resources, strategies, etc.

2. Collecting information

Gathering information like facts and figures required to achieve goals is a necessary part of planning. Target audience, circumstances, market information, competitor’s strategy, etc. are required to make a right and effective plan.

3. Analyzing information

The next step in the planning process is interpreting information as per goals. Analyzing information includes organizing collected information as per importance, identifying accuracy and relevancy of information from different sources, its unique features, sources and reliability for the organization.

4. Making a plan

Once relevant information is collected and analyzed, the next step is to formulate a plan to achieve defined goals; the plan includes identifying different activities, required resources, timelines, etc. to implement a plan.

5. Implement the plan

Implementing a plan refers to allocate defined activities, resources, time guidelines to individuals. In this step, strategies and plans are converted into actions to achieve goals. Implementation of plans also requires allocation of responsibility in the team which is responsible for accomplishing the plan.

6. Monitor the plan

Once a plan is implemented, it’s necessary to evaluate and monitor its effectiveness and impact according to desired goals.

The planning process can be understood further in below example of an organization plan to formulate competitive compensation and benefits structure or plan for employees.

Planning Limitations

Although planning has lots of advantages for any organization aiming to achieve its goals; it also has certain constraints or limitations. Few of them are:

1. Costly process

Planning requires much investment as lots of aspects, i.e. funds, resources, manpower etc, are included in the process of planning. Due to limited capital or funds in small and medium organizations, it is quite challenging to have comprehensive plans. It is hard to allocate funds for information gathering, predicting future needs, developing strategies, and hiring specialists. If a plan is more detailed, then the cost is high too.

2. Time-consuming task

The planning process is a bit time-consuming and, sometimes, there is a delay in decision-making especially in immediate decisions. Due to this, the planning process can’t be detailed in some organizations.

3. Fewer employee initiatives

Planning demands work under predefined policies and rigid processes. This, in turn, marks an impact on initiatives and innovative ideas from the employees. Complexity arises in managerial work as well.

4. Change resistance

The planning process is backed by a change in methods, policies, rules, etc. Employees resist this change due to insecurity, the uncertainty of new plans’ success, and getting used to the current plan. This fails the new plan.

5. Budget constraints

The planning process requires an appropriate or fixed financial budget for future actions. An investment in purchasing fixed assets by organizations puts a constraint on the budget required for implementing the planning process.

6. Scope of inaccuracy

Planning cannot be 100% accurate and reliable as it is based on forecasting and the future is uncertain, data and information used in making plans may not be accurate, vague decisions made by incompetent planner etc. There is no surety of risks in future.

Apart from these, there are few other external factors like change in government policies i.e. tax policy, import-export policy etc. The trade-unions may also hinder a smooth planning process.

Decision-Making

Decision-making is defined as the process by which different possible solutions or alternatives are identified and the most feasible solution or course of action is finalized. It is an integral part of planning. Decision-making results in selecting the right action among different available options.

It is also one of the important management functions and effective decision-making leads to fulfilling expected goals by sorting out different problems related to such decisions. Decision-making is also a time-bound process and eliminates confusions to reach a conclusion. It has a minimum of two or more alternatives or solutions to a problem so that the best can be decided. If only one alternative is available, then there is no requirement of decision-making.

Relation Between Planning And Decision-Making

Both planning and decision-making are connected to each other. These are the most important aspects of management functions. Planning requires a series of decisions to be incorporated in advance. The foundation of planning is decision-making. The role of a planner demands good decision-making abilities also as the planner has to take a lot of decisions simultaneously. So, decision-making is an important task in planning. Simultaneous and a number of decisions make a plan. In the absence of decision-making, it’s not possible to answer what, how, when, and who is planning. To execute planned activities, decision-making is compulsory.

So, planning has an important role to play in decision-making.

Characteristics of Decision-Making

Different characteristics of decision-making are mentioned below:

1. Process-oriented

Decision-making consists of a process to choose the best solution to a problem among available alternatives. The process includes identifying and analyzing problems, collecting different facts and figures, finding different solutions, and, finally, narrowing down and implementing the best one to meet organizational goals.

2. Demands creativity and Intellectual mind

Decision-making process requires creativity and logical thinking. It demands a lot of mental exercise and other components, i.e. education, experience level, intelligence, etc.

3. Demonstrates commitment

Decision-making process ensures better results based on the decisions made. So, it indicates the commitment of desired results. It requires joint efforts of the team.

4. Ensures the best solution

Decision-making also provides the best solution to any problem as the best solution is decided after evaluating different available alternatives.

5. Impacts of decision-making

Decision-making can be either positive or negative. A positive or right decision can bring positive results and negative or wrong decisions can bring negative results.

6. Decision-making is a final process

After disbursing different activities and tasks, decision-making takes place to get the results of the work done. It is the end result of discussions, comparisons, etc.

7. An ongoing and changing process

Organizations take decisions on a regular basis; so, decision-making is a continuous process. Every decision consists of separate situations that make decision-making a changing process.

Decision-Making Process

There are different steps in effective decision-making process;

a. Situation analysis and information gathering

The first step of the decision-making process is analyzing any situation, defining a problem, collecting relevant information, and identifying goals. This step includes collecting data and information to identify a real issue or problem. Problem identification is necessary for furthering the decision-making process. Once the problem is identified, an effective solution is determined. Problems are solved as per priority. After the solution is improvised, an action plan is designed to achieve the solution.

b. Plan and make alternatives

After collecting information, the next step is to develop different action plans or an alternative course of action. It requires imagination skills of a decision maker. Sometimes, additional information is also required to define better alternatives.

c. Evaluating and selecting the best alternative

This step in the decision-making process not only includes the analysis of different alternatives available or solutions but also an examination of each one of them based on results they are going to produce. The actual results of these solutions are not known as it’s based on performance in the future. So, it comes with uncertainty. It also includes choosing the best solution to achieve objectives. Different alternatives or solutions are judged based on different criteria, i.e. risk involvement, the least effort, the least timing based on the urgency of the situation, limited resources etc.

d. Implementing and evaluating decisions

After deciding the best solution to address a problem, the next step is to make and implement plans. This requires getting and allocating resources, budgets, time frame, etc. Once made, decisions are evaluated to know the progress by preparing progress reports.

Evaluating and monitoring decisions will clear different aspects, i.e. if everything is going as per the plan, different internal and external factors influencing decisions, the performance of subordinates as expected etc.

Example of the decision-making process is shown in the below visual presentation to solve the problem of high employee turnover in an organization;

Factors Affecting Decision-Making

1. timelines.

The quality of decisions depends on how much time has been devoted to making decisions. Most of the time decision-makers have to take decisions in a limited time frame as instructed by the management. Due to the time limit, decision-makers are not able to collect all the necessary information that influences decisions and are, also, not able to look for more alternatives.

2. Value and beliefs of decision-makers

In addition, the quality of decisions also depends upon the value and belief system of the decision-makers. Anyone’s reaction to a particular situation is more likely to depend on the individual’s values, likes and dislikes, thoughts, and beliefs. It is also a behavioural aspect of the decision-makers and reflects in their decisions related to goals, strategy-making activities. So, value-based decisions help in prioritizing tasks and making goals, identifying different solutions to problems, and finalizing the best solution or alternative.

3. Policies of organization

Decisions are affected by the policies of an organization. Decisions taken have to be in the boundary or within the limits of these policies. Decisions which violate policies are not considered for implementation. Though there is a scope to make changes in policies as per decision, most of the time decisions should be at par with the policy guidelines. However, a change in policy is a time-consuming task and requires lots of things to be considered before any change. Comparatively, a change in proposed decisions is much easier.

4. Other factors like budget, manpower, values of management also influence decision-making .

Types of decisions.

Decisions can be of different types depending upon their nature and influence:

1. Programmed and non-programmed decisions

Programmed decisions are meant for daily routine issues and for those problems that repeat frequently. A Set of tasks are defined to handle such problems or issues and are mostly initiated by the entry-level decision-makers.

For example, HR department issues like handling grievances related to leaves or attendance of employees require programmed decisions. Non-programmed decisions are made for tough situations where defining different alternatives is a challenging task. These types of decisions strategically affect organizations.

For example, decisions related to expanding the operation of an organization to other countries, launching a new product, introducing performance management system for the first time to the employees are non-programmed decisions where decision-making is a challenging task and these decisions are mostly taken by management or at the top-level.

2. Routine and strategy-oriented decisions

Routine decisions are a regular activity in an organization once identified. These are quick decisions and don’t require deep thinking or analysis. These decisions are generally taken by the bottom-management staff. Different alternatives are not required in these as everyone is aware of what action to take on a daily basis.

Examples of such decisions include what reports to generate from the biometric system of attendance by the HR staff.

Decisions, in which involvement of organizational goals, resources, and policies is required, are termed as strategic decisions. Strategy-based decisions are future-related and executed by the top management. These are for the long term and are centrally focused. A large amount of investment is required to execute strategic decisions. Different alternatives or course of actions are considered and evaluated to finalize such decisions.

For example, developing a performance management system (PMS) strategy for employees demands strategic decisions. Steps involved in strategic decision-making for formulating PMS strategy starts with identifying goal which might be retaining and motivating the quality staff. Further steps involved are: developing a process for monitoring performance and formulating a comprehensive PMS plan.

3. Policy-related and operational decisions

Decisions related to policy issues are policy-related or tactical decisions. These decisions come under the preview of the top management and leave a long-term impact. For example, changing leave structure or office timings are policy-related decisions.

Operating decisions are for operational functioning and on a daily basis. Middle- and bottom-level management is responsible for such decisions. Different departments or functions of an organization like sales, IT, production, purchase, accounts, or HR take operations decisions.

For example, Diwali bonus payment to employees is a policy matter and calculation of such bonus to handover to employees is considered an operational decision.

4. Organization-based and personal decisions

Decisions, taken by an individual as office staff, are organizational decisions. For example, conducting a campus interview decision by hiring executives is an organizational decision. Wherein, personal decisions are related to an individual’s decision to meet personal commitments. These are also known as life decisions. Buying a house is a personal decision.

5. Major and minor decisions

Major decisions are those which require much time, effort, and thinking to finalize and have a long-term impact. For example, a decision regarding higher studies whether to continue in own country or to go abroad is a major decision. Minor decisions are routine decisions and don’t require much time and deep thinking. Like purchasing stationery for different departments is a minor decision.

6. Individual and group decisions

Individual decisions are taken by one person i.e. routine decisions; as the decision of making an excel sheet for attendance management to keep the attendance record is an individual decision.

Decisions which are taken by a group of people aiming to achieve a common goal are group decisions. For example, employee engagement activities demand HR staff to work as a group and take decisions for better employee engagement programs.

Importance of Decision-Making

1. optimum utilization of resources.

With the help of decision-making, all resources of organizations i.e. money, men, material, machine, market and method are used carefully and as per requirement.

2. Problem-solving approach

By decision-making, organizations can determine and face different problems in working. It not only helps in identifying problems but also solving them by making correct and fast decisions.

3. Contributes to organizational growth

As decision-making ensures optimum utilization of resources, making the right decisions to solve problems or issues helps in achieving organizational goals and overall growth.

4. Encourage initiatives and innovations

Decision-making task is performed at all levels of organization i.e. top, middle and bottom. This motivates the staff members to contribute to decisions through brainstorming or alternatives to solve the problem. Thus, it encourages innovative thoughts and ideas which, in turn, help the organization to be at a competitive place in the market.

5. Employee motivation

Good decisions help in increasing the productivity of organizations that result in more profits. Surplus profits help in increasing compensation benefits to employees which ultimately boosts their morale and keeps them motivated.

To conclude, planning is a systematic process that supports organizations to carry out all its present and future activities to achieve desired objectives. Planning, being a continuous function, works well in adverse situations too. Plans can be modified and restructured as per requirement and available information.

Decision making is also an important activity that supports the organization by reducing risks in projects with quick and better decisions.

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1.5: Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling

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Learning Objectives

  • Know the dimensions of the planning-organizing-leading-controlling (P-O-L-C) framework.
  • Know the general inputs into each P-O-L-C dimension.

A manager’s primary challenge is to solve problems creatively. While drawing from a variety of academic disciplines, and to help managers respond to the challenge of creative problem solving, principles of management have long been categorized into the four major functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling (the P-O-L-C framework). The four functions, summarized in the P-O-L-C figure, are actually highly integrated when carried out in the day-to-day realities of running an organization. Therefore, you should not get caught up in trying to analyze and understand a complete, clear rationale for categorizing skills and practices that compose the whole of the P-O-L-C framework.

It is important to note that this framework is not without criticism. Specifically, these criticisms stem from the observation that the P-O-L-C functions might be ideal but that they do not accurately depict the day-to-day actions of actual managers (Mintzberg, 1973; Lamond, 2004). The typical day in the life of a manager at any level can be fragmented and hectic, with the constant threat of having priorities dictated by the law of the trivial many and important few (i.e., the 80/20 rule). However, the general conclusion seems to be that the P-O-L-C functions of management still provide a very useful way of classifying the activities managers engage in as they attempt to achieve organizational goals (Lamond, 2004).

PLOC framework as described in paragraphs above and below

Planning is the function of management that involves setting objectives and determining a course of action for achieving those objectives. Planning requires that managers be aware of environmental conditions facing their organization and forecast future conditions. It also requires that managers be good decision makers.

Planning is a process consisting of several steps. The process begins with  environmental scanning  which simply means that planners must be aware of the critical contingencies facing their organization in terms of economic conditions, their competitors, and their customers. Planners must then attempt to forecast future conditions. These forecasts form the basis for planning.

Planners must establish objectives, which are statements of what needs to be achieved and when. Planners must then identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives. After evaluating the various alternatives, planners must make decisions about the best courses of action for achieving objectives. They must then formulate necessary steps and ensure effective implementation of plans. Finally, planners must constantly evaluate the success of their plans and take corrective action when necessary.

There are many different types of plans and planning.

Strategic planning  involves analyzing competitive opportunities and threats, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and then determining how to position the organization to compete effectively in their environment. Strategic planning has a long time frame, often three years or more. Strategic planning generally includes the entire organization and includes formulation of objectives. Strategic planning is often based on the organization’s mission, which is its fundamental reason for existence. An organization’s top management most often conducts strategic planning.

Tactical planning  is intermediate-range (one to three years) planning that is designed to develop relatively concrete and specific means to implement the strategic plan. Middle-level managers often engage in tactical planning.

Operational planning  generally assumes the existence of organization-wide or subunit goals and objectives and specifies ways to achieve them. Operational planning is short-range (less than a year) planning that is designed to develop specific action steps that support the strategic and tactical plans.

Organizing is the function of management that involves developing an organizational structure and allocating human resources to ensure the accomplishment of objectives. The structure of the organization is the framework within which effort is coordinated. The structure is usually represented by an organization chart, which provides a graphic representation of the chain of command within an organization. Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as  organizational design  decisions.

Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out. Decisions made about the nature of jobs within the organization are generally called “job design” decisions.

Organizing at the level of the organization involves deciding how best to departmentalize, or cluster, jobs into departments to coordinate effort effectively. There are many different ways to departmentalize, including organizing by function, product, geography, or customer. Many larger organizations use multiple methods of departmentalization.

Organizing at the level of a particular job involves how best to design individual jobs to most effectively use human resources. Traditionally,  job design  was based on principles of division of labor and specialization, which assumed that the more narrow the job content, the more proficient the individual performing the job could become. However, experience has shown that it is possible for jobs to become too narrow and specialized. For example, how would you like to screw lids on jars one day after another, as you might have done many decades ago if you worked in company that made and sold jellies and jams? When this happens, negative outcomes result, including decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment, increased absenteeism, and turnover.

Recently, many organizations have attempted to strike a balance between the need for worker specialization and the need for workers to have jobs that entail variety and autonomy. Many jobs are now designed based on such principles as empowerment,  job enrichment  and  teamwork . For example, HUI Manufacturing, a custom sheet metal fabricator, has done away with traditional “departments” to focus on listening and responding to customer needs. From company-wide meetings to team huddles, HUI employees know and understand their customers and how HUI might service them best (Huimfg, 2008).

Leading involves the social and informal sources of influence that you use to inspire action taken by others. If managers are effective leaders, their subordinates will be enthusiastic about exerting effort to attain organizational objectives.

The behavioral sciences have made many contributions to understanding this function of management. Personality research and studies of job attitudes provide important information as to how managers can most effectively lead subordinates. For example, this research tells us that to become effective at leading, managers must first understand their subordinates’ personalities, values, attitudes, and emotions.

Studies of motivation and motivation theory provide important information about the ways in which workers can be energized to put forth productive effort. Studies of communication provide direction as to how managers can effectively and persuasively communicate. Studies of leadership and leadership style provide information regarding questions, such as, “What makes a manager a good leader?” and “In what situations are certain leadership styles most appropriate and effective?”

Two men on either side of a conveyor belt covered with grain removing bad stuff

Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\):Quality control ensures that the organization delivers on its promises. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center –  Maize seed quality control at small seed company Bidasem  – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Controlling

Controlling involves ensuring that performance does not deviate from standards. Controlling consists of three steps, which include (1) establishing performance standards, (2) comparing actual performance against standards, and (3) taking corrective action when necessary. Performance standards are often stated in monetary terms such as revenue, costs, or profits but may also be stated in other terms, such as units produced, number of defective products, or levels of quality or customer service.

The measurement of performance can be done in several ways, depending on the performance standards, including financial statements, sales reports, production results, customer satisfaction, and formal performance appraisals. Managers at all levels engage in the managerial function of controlling to some degree.

The managerial function of controlling should not be confused with control in the behavioral or manipulative sense. This function does not imply that managers should attempt to control or to manipulate the personalities, values, attitudes, or emotions of their subordinates. Instead, this function of management concerns the manager’s role in taking necessary actions to ensure that the work-related activities of subordinates are consistent with and contributing toward the accomplishment of organizational and departmental objectives.

Effective controlling requires the existence of plans, since planning provides the necessary performance standards or objectives. Controlling also requires a clear understanding of where responsibility for deviations from standards lies. Two traditional control techniques are budget and performance audits. An audit involves an examination and verification of records and supporting documents. A budget audit provides information about where the organization is with respect to what was planned or budgeted for, whereas a performance audit might try to determine whether the figures reported are a reflection of actual performance. Although controlling is often thought of in terms of financial criteria, managers must also control production and operations processes, procedures for delivery of services, compliance with company policies, and many other activities within the organization.

The management functions of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are widely considered to be the best means of describing the manager’s job, as well as the best way to classify accumulated knowledge about the study of management. Although there have been tremendous changes in the environment faced by managers and the tools used by managers to perform their roles, managers still perform these essential functions.

Key Takeaway

The principles of management can be distilled down to four critical functions. These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This P-O-L-C framework provides useful guidance into what the ideal job of a manager should look like.

  • What are the management functions that comprise the P-O-L-C framework?
  • Are there any criticisms of this framework?
  • What function does planning serve?
  • What function does organizing serve?
  • What function does leading serve?
  • What function does controlling serve?

Huimfg.com,  http://www.huimfg.com/abouthui-yourteams.aspx  (accessed October 15, 2008).

Lamond, D, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,”  Management Decision  42, no. 2 (2004): 330–56.

Mintzberg, H.  The Nature of Managerial Work  (New York: Harper & Row, 1973); D. Lamond, “A Matter of Style: Reconciling Henri and Henry,”  Management Decision 42 , no. 2 (2004): 330–56.

Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): The P-O-L-C Framework

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7 important steps in the decision making process

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The decision making process is a method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and making a final choice with the goal of making the best decision possible. In this article, we detail the step-by-step process on how to make a good decision and explain different decision making methodologies.

We make decisions every day. Take the bus to work or call a car? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Whole milk or two percent?

There's an entire process that goes into making those tiny decisions, and while these are simple, easy choices, how do we end up making more challenging decisions? 

At work, decisions aren't as simple as choosing what kind of milk you want in your latte in the morning. That’s why understanding the decision making process is so important. 

What is the decision making process?

The decision making process is the method of gathering information, assessing alternatives, and, ultimately, making a final choice. 

Decision-making tools for agile businesses

In this ebook, learn how to equip employees to make better decisions—so your business can pivot, adapt, and tackle challenges more effectively than your competition.

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The 7 steps of the decision making process

Step 1: identify the decision that needs to be made.

When you're identifying the decision, ask yourself a few questions: 

What is the problem that needs to be solved?

What is the goal you plan to achieve by implementing this decision?

How will you measure success?

These questions are all common goal setting techniques that will ultimately help you come up with possible solutions. When the problem is clearly defined, you then have more information to come up with the best decision to solve the problem.

Step 2: Gather relevant information

​Gathering information related to the decision being made is an important step to making an informed decision. Does your team have any historical data as it relates to this issue? Has anybody attempted to solve this problem before?

It's also important to look for information outside of your team or company. Effective decision making requires information from many different sources. Find external resources, whether it’s doing market research, working with a consultant, or talking with colleagues at a different company who have relevant experience. Gathering information helps your team identify different solutions to your problem.

Step 3: Identify alternative solutions

This step requires you to look for many different solutions for the problem at hand. Finding more than one possible alternative is important when it comes to business decision-making, because different stakeholders may have different needs depending on their role. For example, if a company is looking for a work management tool, the design team may have different needs than a development team. Choosing only one solution right off the bat might not be the right course of action. 

Step 4: Weigh the evidence

This is when you take all of the different solutions you’ve come up with and analyze how they would address your initial problem. Your team begins identifying the pros and cons of each option, and eliminating alternatives from those choices.

There are a few common ways your team can analyze and weigh the evidence of options:

Pros and cons list

SWOT analysis

Decision matrix

Step 5: Choose among the alternatives

The next step is to make your final decision. Consider all of the information you've collected and how this decision may affect each stakeholder. 

Sometimes the right decision is not one of the alternatives, but a blend of a few different alternatives. Effective decision-making involves creative problem solving and thinking out of the box, so don't limit you or your teams to clear-cut options.

One of the key values at Asana is to reject false tradeoffs. Choosing just one decision can mean losing benefits in others. If you can, try and find options that go beyond just the alternatives presented.

Step 6: Take action

Once the final decision maker gives the green light, it's time to put the solution into action. Take the time to create an implementation plan so that your team is on the same page for next steps. Then it’s time to put your plan into action and monitor progress to determine whether or not this decision was a good one. 

Step 7: Review your decision and its impact (both good and bad)

Once you’ve made a decision, you can monitor the success metrics you outlined in step 1. This is how you determine whether or not this solution meets your team's criteria of success.

Here are a few questions to consider when reviewing your decision:

Did it solve the problem your team identified in step 1? 

Did this decision impact your team in a positive or negative way?

Which stakeholders benefited from this decision? Which stakeholders were impacted negatively?

If this solution was not the best alternative, your team might benefit from using an iterative form of project management. This enables your team to quickly adapt to changes, and make the best decisions with the resources they have. 

Types of decision making models

While most decision making models revolve around the same seven steps, here are a few different methodologies to help you make a good decision.

​Rational decision making models

This type of decision making model is the most common type that you'll see. It's logical and sequential. The seven steps listed above are an example of the rational decision making model. 

When your decision has a big impact on your team and you need to maximize outcomes, this is the type of decision making process you should use. It requires you to consider a wide range of viewpoints with little bias so you can make the best decision possible. 

Intuitive decision making models

This type of decision making model is dictated not by information or data, but by gut instincts. This form of decision making requires previous experience and pattern recognition to form strong instincts.

This type of decision making is often made by decision makers who have a lot of experience with similar kinds of problems. They have already had proven success with the solution they're looking to implement. 

Creative decision making model

The creative decision making model involves collecting information and insights about a problem and coming up with potential ideas for a solution, similar to the rational decision making model. 

The difference here is that instead of identifying the pros and cons of each alternative, the decision maker enters a period in which they try not to actively think about the solution at all. The goal is to have their subconscious take over and lead them to the right decision, similar to the intuitive decision making model. 

This situation is best used in an iterative process so that teams can test their solutions and adapt as things change.

Track key decisions with a work management tool

Tracking key decisions can be challenging when not documented correctly. Learn more about how a work management tool like Asana can help your team track key decisions, collaborate with teammates, and stay on top of progress all in one place.

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Why Managers Should Involve Their Team in the Decision-Making Process

Team reviewing charts and collaborating during meeting

  • 05 Mar 2020

Decision-making is a critical component of every manager’s day-to-day. Whether reshuffling the department’s budget, delegating tasks , or implementing a new strategy , the daily choices managers make have a direct impact on their organization’s success.

But that decision-making process isn’t always easy. In a survey by management consulting firm McKinsey , only 28 percent of executives touted the quality of their company’s strategic decisions, while 60 percent reported that bad decisions are about as frequent as good ones.

The Role of a Team in Decision-Making

One way to increase your likelihood of success is to include your team in the process. Research shows that diversity leads to better decision-making. By bringing people into the conversation with different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, you can enhance creativity and gain a fresh perspective on the task or problem at hand.

“Map out the technical, political, and cultural underpinnings of the decision that needs to be made and then build your group accordingly,” says Harvard Business School Professor Len Schlesinger, who’s featured in the online course Management Essentials . “You’re looking for a broad array of experience. You want some newcomers who are going to provide a different point of view, as well as people who have profound knowledge and deep experience with the problem.”

Some managers might shy away from integrating their team into the process to avoid additional complexity or a potential clash of opinions. Yet the ideas that could come out of that dialogue are often far more valuable and critical to business success. Here’s a closer look at how successful team decision-making can benefit your organization.

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Benefits of Team Decision-Making

1. overcoming consensus.

Managers often defer to consensus, or the majority of opinion, to avoid conflict and foster group harmony. But Schlesinger argues that it’s not always the right choice.

“Consensus is likely to lead to a lower evaluation of the problem and a less creative solution,” Schlesinger says. “You need to be willing to engineer in conflict, which is often perceived as uncomfortable, but is essential to uncovering some of the hidden assumptions and data that leads people to make less-informed decisions.”

Schlesinger suggests one approach of establishing a process of devil’s advocacy and encouraging individuals to poke holes in arguments and problem framing. As a result, your team will likely conduct a more in-depth critical evaluation, which could lead to a greater number of alternative solutions.

“Managers often get to convergence too quickly, which is one of the most negative byproducts of the consensus-oriented model and why it’s only appropriate for the most simplistic decisions,” Schlesinger says. “Unless you’re intentional about trying to overcome consensus, you’re going to be stuck with it and then get a group together who’s going to manifest a decision-making process that’s essentially no better than what you would come up with by yourself.”

As a team leader, it’s critical to encourage diverse thoughts and opinions around the table to discover more innovative solutions.

2. Increasing Employee Engagement

By involving your team members in the decision-making process, you show that you trust and value their opinion, which is a key element of building employee engagement .

According to analytics and advisory firm Gallup , highly engaged employees produce substantially better outcomes, are more likely to stay at their organization, and experience less burn-out. They can’t reach that level, though, unless they feel invested in their work, are given opportunities to develop their strengths, and understand how their role contributes to the company’s overall success.

Every decision you’re asked to make is a moment for you to empower others on your team by leveraging their strengths, experiences, and expertise.

Management Essentials | Get the job done | Learn More

3. Enabling Collaboration and Communication

According to a Queens University of Charlotte study , nearly 75 percent of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important,” yet 39 percent of employees say their organization doesn't collaborate enough. In a separate study , 86 percent of respondents attributed workplace failures to a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication.

By involving others in the decision-making process, you create an opportunity for colleagues to share ideas, learn from each other, and work toward a common goal. In turn, you foster collaboration and help break down organizational silos. You might even surface overlapping initiatives within the company, which could save the organization resources and employees from duplicating work.

Related : 7 Skills You Need to Effectively Manage Teams

4. Surfacing Your Own Blind Spots

Self-awareness is a vital management skill , and has proven to be what sets high performers apart in the workplace. It’s a core tenet of emotional intelligence and describes your ability to understand your strengths, weaknesses, and managerial tendencies.

While you might think you know your blind spots, research suggests otherwise. According to organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich , 95 percent of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10 to 15 percent actually are. Meaning, if you’re making every decision by yourself, there’s likely cultural, informational, or technical data you’re missing.

Involving your team in the decision-making process can help surface your blind spots and enable you to cultivate self-awareness in the process.

5. Getting Buy-In from the People Who Need to Implement

The people you include in the decision-making process should be those who need to implement the agreed-upon solution.

“Getting to the ‘right answer’ without anybody who is supporting it or having to execute it is just a recipe for failure,” Schlesinger says.

If, upfront, you assembled a team with an array of skills, experience levels, and backgrounds, established clear goals, and explored all viable solutions, you should reach a stage where you’re ready to not only make a decision but execute.

“In the general manager’s job, the quality of the decision is only one part of the equation,” Schlesinger says. “All of this is oriented toward trying to make sure that once a decision is made, you have the right groupings and support to implement.”

Related : 5 Tips to Becoming a Better Manager

Should You Always Involve Your Team in Decision-Making?

Managers might fear they’ll slow work down if they involve their team in every decision. When faced with the choice of involving your colleagues or going solo, you must determine whether there’s absolute clarity and enough widespread, shared data that the decision is on the cusp of obvious. Yet, even then, Schlesinger recommends bringing the issue to a group in a short meeting or touch base since these decisions likely affect every aspect of the organization.

“Even the most obvious of decisions analytically still have enormous consequences from an implementation perspective,” Schlesinger says. “I encourage people, for decisions that have reasonably significant organizational consequences, to recognize that the decision-making group has both analytical and executional responsibilities. Even if the analysis is obvious, the execution generally is not.”

What Are the Different Types of Decision-Making?

There are several important decisions leaders must make on a daily basis to maintain their organization’s success. As a manager, it’s important to find ways to involve your team in this critical decision-making process in some capacity, whether strategic, tactical, or operational.

  • Strategic decision-making : Decisions that have a significant or long-term impact on the organization, such as department restructuring or acquiring a new client. Being transparent about bigger-picture decisions and long-term organizational goals is one way to show your team they have a say in the company’s future.
  • Tactical decision-making: Topics of discussion that focus on the immediate steps your organization needs to take to achieve long-term goals, like hiring a new team member or intern. Since these are smaller actions that likely affect the team’s daily routine, their input is invaluable.
  • Operational decision-making: Decisions that involve the team's high-volume, daily operational tasks. Team involvement is crucial because it encourages valuable ideas and possible solutions to make systems or processes run smoothly. Teams are likely to perform well when they’re involved in the day-to-day efficiency of the organization.

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Improving the Decision-Making Process

Involving your team in the decision-making process can benefit your entire organization. The quality of the decisions made will improve because you’ll have the right mix of skills and expertise at the table, but you’ll also have the people in place who are prepared, and in sync on what, to implement.

Are you interested in further developing your managerial skills? Explore our eight-week online Management Essentials course , and discover how you can gain the tools and strategies to excel in decision-making, implementation, organizational learning, and change management.

This post was updated on June 6, 2022. It was originally published on March 5, 2020.

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Oracle's deadly gamble

Larry Ellison bet $28 billion he could revolutionize healthcare. So why are so many patients dying?

Larry Ellison's vision for the future of medicine crystallized for him in a doctor's office.

Oracle's billionaire cofounder needed medication to help manage his cholesterol. He said his "very fancy doctor," a molecular biologist, prescribed a statin called Crestor. The choice was informed by Ellison's age, sex, ethnicity, and family history. But it was still, Ellison realized, just "a pretty good guess."

Which got him thinking: What if, instead of guesswork, doctors could lean on generative AI to comb through a patient's medical records, along with those of millions of other patients? With such a massive database, doctors could spot the warning signs of disease faster, reduce the need for trial and error, and make better-informed decisions about treatment.

Ellison told this story last fall at Oracle's CloudWorld conference in Las Vegas. At 79, Ellison cut a trim figure in a black T-shirt, with a visage that hinted at significant investments in antiaging. The moral of the story seemed to be that whatever the world's fifth-richest person demanded for himself could ultimately benefit everyone.

That was the promise of Cerner , the medical-records company Oracle bought in 2021 for $28.3 billion — Oracle's biggest acquisition. At the time, Cerner managed the electronic health records for a quarter of all American hospitals, including those run by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ellison's plan was to pump all that medical data into Oracle's AI models and develop an EHR of the future.

"You have this wealth of data that will help doctors make much better decisions of what therapeutics to give you, and that will deliver better outcomes at a much lower cost," Ellison said onstage in Las Vegas, adding, "I'm not sure there's anything we're working on here at Oracle that's more important than this."

There was just one problem: Cerner was a total mess. While Ellison was fixated on the wildly exciting possibilities of marrying Cerner's medical records with Oracle's technology, Cerner was failing at even the most elementary tasks of data management. The company's rollout at the VA, which serves 9 million vets, had been a slow-moving catastrophe. One feature of its electronic records system had caused more than 11,000 orders for medical care to disappear into an "unknown queue." As a result, thousands of patients didn't receive the treatment their doctors had ordered. VA staffers were left in what one hospital leader called "a constant state of hypervigilance and distress" as they scrambled to retrieve and reenter the missing orders, which wound up harming 149 patients. Even worse, errors in the system's underlying design were contributing factors in three deaths.

I'm not sure there's anything we're working on here at Oracle that's more important than this. Larry Ellison

Cerner's electronic records, in short, were a deadly disaster for the VA. Never mind the futuristic, AI-driven healthcare system Ellison envisioned. In purchasing Cerner, Oracle had saddled itself with a huge liability. The company found itself in a race against time to fix the broken and dysfunctional system it had inherited from Cerner — before more veterans were injured or killed.

Ellison first approached Cerner about an acquisition two decades ago.

It was the mid-2000s, and the healthtech sector was red hot. The RAND Corporation had released a report estimating that the mass digitization of medical records would cut healthcare costs by $81 billion a year. While some saw the prediction as excessively rosy — it was paid for, in part, by Cerner — the report helped pave the way for a massive infusion of federal stimulus dollars to supercharge the adoption of electronic health records at American hospitals. Never mind that EHRs were more cumbersome than advertised; RAND would later conclude there were barely any savings. The promise of bringing hospitals into the digital age was deemed too important to put off.

Meanwhile, Big Tech was starting to invest heavily in healthcare IT, and Oracle wanted in.

Neal Patterson, Cerner's cofounder and its CEO at the time, was not impressed with Ellison's pitch. Like other executives at the company, he was distrustful of Silicon Valley. Big Tech, they felt, brought more chutzpah than expertise to the healthcare table. For years executives at Cerner passed around an internal slide that cataloged tech investments in healthcare and the raft of embarrassing exits by companies like GE and Siemens. Patterson rebuffed Ellison's advances, according to a former Cerner executive familiar with the discussions.

A decade later, Cerner scored a huge win. In 2015, it beat out Epic, its main competitor, for a $4.3 billion contract to handle electronic health records for the Defense Department. Two years later, it landed a similar contract for the VA, worth an estimated $10 billion, without even having to bid. The thinking was that giving both contracts to a single company would ensure seamless care for service members, especially in the period immediately after they're discharged, when they're most vulnerable to mental illnesses and substance-use disorders. "I wanted to move towards a single instance of an electronic record with the Department of Defense to make sure that this issue was resolved finally, once and for all," says Dr. David Shulkin, who served as the secretary of veterans affairs at the time.

But Cerner didn't have long to savor its victory. A month after it landed the VA contract, Patterson died of cancer. A bruising succession process ensued. Cerner was losing ground to Epic, and its stock had plateaued. In 2019, the activist investor and private-equity shop Starboard Value gained seats on Cerner's board, putting public pressure on the company to turn things around.

What's more, taking on two vast government systems turned out to be overwhelming. In the fall of 2020, as Cerner's inaugural system was rolled out at the VA health center in Spokane, Washington, things began to go wrong. Doctors and nurses complained that the system was slow and difficult to use, requiring them to spend more time inputting data and less time caring for patients. "You're spending all your time messing around on Cerner and taking like 10 minutes with your patients," one VA provider says. While VistA, the bespoke EHR that Cerner had replaced, was outdated and vulnerable to cyberattacks, it was generally reliable and user-friendly. With the new system, completing basic tasks was maddeningly complex, impeding the care Cerner was designed to streamline.

As records disappeared into Cerner's unknown queue, patients with serious illnesses went untreated. In one instance, a scathing report by the VA's inspector general said, a provider entered an order for a homeless patient at risk of suicide to receive follow-up care, but the order never went through, and the patient later had to be hospitalized after threatening to kill himself.

The unknown queue had been designed to capture orders Cerner couldn't deliver to the intended location. But the system didn't send an alert when this happened, and the inspector general found that Cerner had failed to train VA staff on the feature, putting the burden on the VA to identify the issue and request a fix. One VA leader compared Cerner's attitude about the missing medical orders to the post office stuffing "undeliverable mail behind a bush instead of placing them back in your mailbox."

While the VA had promised to "do right by both veterans and taxpayers," the switch to Cerner was doing harm. One Spokane veteran, Charlie Bourg, blames Cerner for a delay in getting a prostate-cancer diagnosis, after a referral was diverted into the unknown queue. By the time the mistake was discovered, Bourg's cancer had spread to the lymph nodes between his spine and stomach, and it was too late to do anything about it. The cancer was terminal. "I never gave the VA permission to gamble with my life," Bourg says.

As Cerner was rolled out to more VA and Defense Department health centers, their shared activity and data — more than Cerner had ever handled at once — pushed the company's aging hardware to a breaking point. And since its system wasn't on the cloud, Cerner was struggling to meet the increasing demand. It had agreed to process tens of millions of crucial medical records, but it couldn't handle the subsequent deluge of data.

The longer Cerner's system ran, the more the problems piled up. By the time Oracle approached the company for the second time, Cerner was no longer in a position to say no.

IIn the years after Ellison first approached Cerner, he became preoccupied with matters of health and longevity. "Larry and I both share a sadness with all the folks we've lost to cancer," says Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO and longtime Ellison protégé. "He wants to extend human life and help people live healthier lives. He's quite advanced in age, and aging, and may not be able to benefit himself."

Medicine has been a lifelong obsession for Ellison. He once thought of becoming a doctor, but he didn't stick with school long enough to get a degree, much less a medical degree. Once he became wealthy, he started to view death, as his biographer Mike Wilson put it, as "just another kind of corporate opponent he can outfox."

Ellison views healthcare as "a remarkably backward business," says Dr. David Agus, a renowned oncologist who met Ellison in the mid-2000s, right around the time Oracle first approached Cerner. Agus was treating Ellison's nephew for prostate cancer, and he'd later treat the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, Ellison's close friend, who died in 2011. Since then, Agus and Ellison have collaborated on healthcare investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including the Ellison Institute of Technology and Sensei, a wellness-retreat company that includes a health utopia built on the Hawaiian island Ellison owns almost in its entirety.

"We've met with hospital administrators, researchers, and doctors," Agus says. "He commits to them, 'I can solve this problem.' And he does. Larry actually solves the problem, not just gives money."

Ellison saw medical records as another area where he could solve a problem. EHRs stand at the center of modern healthcare, used for storing a patient's medical information, ordering follow-up appointments, calling in prescriptions, and more. And yet the systems are treated mostly, as Ellison likes to say, as a "bag of words" — you can't easily extract data from them on a mass scale. All that medical information was going to waste.

Epic may have been a more obvious target for Oracle, since it had a larger share of the market and dominated among large hospitals and research facilities. But Cerner, the go-to EHR for small and midsize hospitals, had a quality that would have appealed to Ellison: It was widely seen as taking a more relaxed approach to data privacy. The company was investing in the technology infrastructure to help hospitals share data with one another — and with third parties.

As it happens, the pandemic strengthened Oracle's case for scooping up Cerner. In the race to defeat the coronavirus, both companies were afforded greater latitude in handling patient records, including those that fall under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. That would enable Oracle to get started on Ellison's EHR of the future right away. Buying Cerner would also help the tech giant compete with Amazon and Microsoft in the massively profitable cloud-computing business and establish a foothold in the healthcare industry, which, at $4.4 trillion, accounted for roughly 18% of the American economy in 2022. It seemed like nothing but upside for Oracle.

Oracle and Cerner announced the deal in December 2021, and the acquisition was finalized on June 8, 2022. Oracle believed it was finally in a position to fulfill Ellison's dream of revolutionizing modern medicine. In reality, it had acquired a high-tech filing system that couldn't even perform the simplest of filing tasks.

The stark reality of what Oracle had just paid for was made clear six weeks after the deal closed, when the tech giant was summoned to Washington, DC, for a grilling before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

In the months since Oracle had announced its intention to buy Cerner, the mess at the VA had only gotten worse. Outages were increasingly common, and one Cerner executive says the entire system was on the verge of failing: "We were going to go off a cliff and die." The system was considered so dangerous that its rollout to the remaining 166 VA medical centers had been put on hold. Senators listed 36 fixes they expected Cerner — now Oracle — to address before additional sites could make the switch.

Oracle, incredibly, claimed it hadn't been aware of the magnitude of the challenges facing Cerner when it made the biggest acquisition in its history. "I would say there's always things that you discover after the fact," Mike Sicilia, the Oracle executive leading Cerner, told the irate lawmakers . "You know, we certainly had read the press, and we certainly had read things that were publicly disclosed. But there's nothing like owning something to fully understand what's going on."

Still, Sicilia assured lawmakers that Oracle intended to turn things around. The company, he said, had already shifted its top talent, including senior engineers, to work on the VA project. Within nine months, Oracle would move the project onto the cloud, remedying bugs and cutting costs. It would also design a state-of-the-art program for pharmacy, a trouble-ridden area for the project. "Everything here is fixable and addressable" and Cerner would soon be the "gold standard" among EHRs, Sicilia said, adding, "We intend to exceed expectations."

Oracle, incredibly, claimed it hadn't been aware of the magnitude of the challenges facing Cerner when it made the biggest acquisition in its history.

Behind the scenes, Oracle was throwing resources at the situation. To address the raft of blackouts and slowdowns, Oracle installed expensive new hardware and made tweaks that stabilized the system and reduced outages dramatically, the Cerner executive told BI. Ellison was directly involved, holding a monthly meeting with 50 or 60 executive and senior vice presidents in the Oracle Health unit to review incidents and brainstorm solutions, according to a high-level employee who attended the meetings. "Oracle is still learning what they have actually acquired from Cerner," an Oracle executive concedes.

But as Sicilia was trying to assuage concerns on Capitol Hill, a fresh disaster was unfolding at the VA. Only this time, it was happening on Oracle's watch.

Anthony Jones Jr., a 28-year-old Ohio native who had served in the Navy for four years, had a history of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts. In May 2022, he was due to see a VA psychologist, but he failed to show up.

At the time, the Columbus VA had just switched over to Cerner. One feature of the EHR was that if a vet missed an appointment, the no-show would trigger VA staff to follow up. For mental-health cases, VA rules require that vets get three calls, on separate days, followed by a letter. The extra layer of precaution is vital because vets are far more likely to die from suicide or a drug overdose than nonveterans. But because of a design error, that didn't happen. In Jones' case, the record of the no-show "just kind of evaporated," says a Columbus provider familiar with his care. Jones got two calls, but not a third.

Six weeks later, on July 4, Jones was found unresponsive in the shower with the water running. The coroner's report noted that numerous empty cans of inhalants were found scattered around the apartment.

By the time of Jones' death, Oracle was fully in charge of the electronic records system — but it didn't discover and fix the error until August. This led to the VA sending out 70,000 letters to veterans who might have been affected by the error, including 24,000 in central Ohio alone, according to a letter to lawmakers from Donald Remy, the VA's deputy secretary at the time — a copy of which was obtained by BI.

The VA's inspector general later issued a report on the scheduling error that described a case mirroring Jones'. It concluded that "the lack of contact efforts may have contributed to the patient's disengagement from mental health treatment and ultimately the patient's substance use relapse and death."

In another case linked to the same scheduling error, a vet with cirrhosis of the liver failed to appear for an appointment with staff to discuss his drinking, according to a provider familiar with his care. When the vet didn't show up, VA staff — unaware of the scheduling error — left a single voicemail. The vet died in late August of complications from liver damage.

The vet's disease was already so progressed that it's unlikely a single appointment could have made the difference. But because of Oracle's oversight, there's no way to know if better follow-up could have saved the veteran's life.

"Could you imagine in a case like that where we did all the outreach we could have — but that one call," the VA provider says. "And then having to tell that family member he should have got one more call."

A month later, there was another death in Columbus, this time linked to an error in Cerner's pharmacy app. Antibiotics ordered for a vet who had been treated in a community hospital didn't arrive. When the vet's family called the VA pharmacy to see what was holding it up, they were given a tracking number — confirming, it seemed, that the medication had been shipped. But according to Remy's letter to lawmakers, the Cerner EHR had generated a bogus tracking number; the medication had been slated for pickup. The vet never received the medication, and his condition worsened while at home. He died of hypoxia in late September.

Problems with ordering medications were widespread. When Cerner was first deployed in Columbus, delays kept patients with severe schizophrenia waiting for their medication, a Columbus provider says. In the old system, ordering the shots they needed took about two minutes. It required 30 or so steps — and making a single mistake meant starting over. Vulnerable patients, already resistant to treatment and prone to stress, were kept waiting. In one case, staffers had to retrieve a patient who'd bolted for the parking lot bus stop. "By the time we go through all of this difficulty of ordering the medication — which should be a simple thing — the patient can't hardly take it and they go running outside," the provider says.

After Oracle took over, it took months for improvements to be made — and the orders still take 10 minutes to complete.

N early two years after its blockbuster deal with Cerner, Oracle says it has made thousands of improvements. "Our veterans and the people who care for them deserve a world-class EHR system," Seema Verma, the head of Oracle Health and Life Sciences, said in a statement to BI, "and Oracle is delivering it."

The VA also insists it is addressing the problem. "We know from listening to both veterans and VA clinicians that the electronic health record is not meeting expectations — and we're holding Oracle Health and ourselves accountable to get this right," says Dr. Neil Evans, who heads the VA's EHR modernization office. The rollout of the system remains on pause, and the VA will impose higher penalties on Oracle if the company fails to meet performance targets.

But Oracle is still struggling to stabilize the system it bought. The company hasn't fully moved Cerner onto the cloud, as Sicilia promised. While outages have decreased, the VA says they remain "an area of significant attention." According to one Columbus provider, the system went down for 90 minutes in late April, forcing staff to write notes by hand. "Ninety minutes is an eon in clinical time," the provider says. "No scheduling, charting, ordering, reading — nothing."

And while Oracle said it largely resolved the issues with the unknown queue within months of buying Cerner, two VA clinicians described a case from last fall where the disappearance of lab results caused a delay in a patient receiving critical medication. The records, they suspect, went into the unknown queue.

Ellison continues to push for his EHR of the future. But one Oracle executive described the VA contract as a "shackle," absorbing time and attention from Ellison's grander vision for the database he spent so much to purchase. And while Ellison is pushing the AI envelope, there's a chance Oracle could lose a lot of the health data that made Cerner such an attractive bet in the first place. Cerner has continued to lose ground to Epic, its main competitor. Intermountain Health and UPMC, two massive longtime Cerner clients, recently announced they were switching to Epic.

EHR deployments can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and require extensive training, making hospitals reluctant to bet on a company struggling to get the job done. "Folks feel like Cerner is circling the drain," says Sara Vaezy, a chief strategy and digital officer at Providence, a health system in Washington with more than 50 hospitals. "You don't want to pick a dud that you're going to have to replatform in a few years because they don't exist anymore or their product is so bad."

One Oracle executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that many of Cerner's clients were unhappy, in part because cuts to Cerner's workforce had left them with less day-to-day support. "There's not a whole lot we have to tell clients other than please hang in there," he says.

A growing chorus of lawmakers has been calling for the contract to be scrapped. "It's a political and governmentwide failure," says Ed Meagher, a former top official at the VA. "The DOD made a terrible decision, and then that forced a terrible decision on the VA."

It's clear that shifting a vast government-run system like the VA over to a standard EHR designed for the private sector proved far more complex than either Cerner or the VA anticipated. The EHR that Cerner replaced, VistA, was built specifically for the VA, and it was constantly tweaked and upgraded to suit the needs of individual providers and hospitals. The VA brought this mentality to the Cerner project, flooding the company with requests for special customizations — and Oracle has grown so frustrated that it has stopped taking on individual requests that haven't been formally contracted.

Within Oracle's health team, morale has suffered. "Morale is at an all-time low," an Oracle-Cerner manager says. "We have so much important work to do. Everybody's velocity is lower because basically everybody is depressed or upset."

In Spokane, where Cerner was unveiled, it's not clear that things have gotten any better since Oracle took over. During a recent visit to the VA, Charlie Bourg — the vet whose referral was lost in the unknown queue — noticed that the computer was down and that his providers from different departments seemed to have trouble communicating about his case. "I had to watch them struggle," he says.

Bourg knew the issues to be on the lookout for. He and another vet, Charlie Monroe, have become something of a rapid-response team for vets in Spokane and elsewhere. Known to providers and patients as "the Charlies," Bourg and Monroe are among the first to know when a new problem with Cerner is discovered. Lawmakers call them to find out what's going on. Relatives call when they need help advocating for a patient. "People come up to us out of the blue," Monroe says. "They know who we are. 'Can you do something about this? Can you talk to somebody about this?' No. Yeah. Maybe."

In February, the Charlies helped connect the family of a recently deceased vet with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a congresswoman representing Spokane who has called for the termination of the VA's contract with Cerner. Based on initial information from the VA, the vet's daughter was concerned that Cerner might have led to his being given the wrong antibiotic, contributing to his death from sepsis.

Bourg and Monroe are about as different as two vets with long white hair could be. Bourg is soft-spoken and has a flat delivery, even when the topic turns to how much time he has left and how much he worries about his wife and grandkids. (Last December he sued the VA and Oracle for an undisclosed amount.) Monroe, who wears the yellow logo of the Seabees, the Navy's construction regiment, is loud and likes to say he's the better-looking of the two. "We're just two veterans that got involved with this shit because we were screwed over," Monroe says.

When Oracle entered the picture, the Charlies were confused by the company's name, believing it to be a video-game company. They don't know much about Ellison's grand vision for revolutionizing medicine. They just want vets to get the high-quality care they deserve.

Late last year, not long after Ellison's appearance at CloudWorld, the Charlies received a surprise invitation to meet with the VA's leadership in Spokane. Bourg says meetings like that take a toll on his body and mind. Back in 2022, the two had traveled to Washington to meet with lawmakers only to return feeling like it had been a waste of time. "I was totally mentally and physically exhausted," Bourg recalled, "and it still didn't do anything."

Bourg expected to come out of the Spokane meeting feeling the same way. Instead, he delivered a simple message to the assembled leaders. Given Oracle's track record of botched care, he said, there's only one thing for the VA to do: put an end to a contract that has proved so disastrous for so many veterans before someone else gets hurt.

"If they aren't telling me they are shutting it down," Bourg said, "there's nothing to say."

Ashley Stewart is a chief technology correspondent at Business Insider. Blake Dodge is a correspondent at Business Insider covering technology in healthcare.

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Through our Discourse journalism, Business Insider seeks to explore and illuminate the day’s most fascinating issues and ideas. Our writers provide thought-provoking perspectives, informed by analysis, reporting, and expertise. Read more Discourse stories here .

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COMMENTS

  1. 17.2: The Planning Process

    Planning is a process. Ideally, it is future-oriented, comprehensive, systematic, integrated, and negotiated. 11 It involves an extensive search for alternatives and analyzes relevant information, is systematic in nature, and is commonly participative. 12 The planning model described in this section breaks the managerial function of planning into several steps, as shown in Figure 17.2.1.

  2. The Business Planning Process: Steps To Creating Your Plan

    The Better Business Planning Process. The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows: Do Your Research. Strategize. Calculate Your Financial Forecast. Draft Your Plan. Revise & Proofread. Nail the Business Plan Presentation. We've provided more detail for each of these key business plan steps below.

  3. 17.2 The Planning Process

    The planning process seldom stops with the adoption of a general plan. Managers often need to develop one or more supportive or derivative plans to bolster and explain their basic plan. Suppose an organization decides to switch from a 5-day, 40-hour workweek (5/40) to a 4-day, 40-hour workweek (4/40) in an attempt to reduce employee turnover.

  4. Business Planning Process: Everything You Need to Know

    Start the business planning process with a pitch, which gives a simple outline of your business strategy. Your pitch should include: Your main proposition. A summary of the problem you are solving. Your solution to this problem. Description of who your target customer is. An overview of who your company's competitors are.

  5. The 7 Steps of the Business Planning Process: A Complete Guide

    The first step in the business planning process is to conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This analysis will help you understand your business's internal and external environment, and it can help you identify areas of improvement and growth.

  6. Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling

    Planning is the function of management that involves setting objectives and determining a course of action for achieving those objectives. Planning requires that managers be aware of environmental conditions facing their organization and forecast future conditions. It also requires that managers be good decision makers.

  7. Business Planning

    Business planning is a crucial process that involves creating a roadmap for an organization to achieve its long-term objectives. It is the foundation of every successful business and provides a framework for decision-making, resource allocation, and measuring progress towards goals. Business planning involves identifying the current state of ...

  8. 1.5 Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling

    Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as organizational design decisions. Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out.

  9. Business Decision-Making Guide

    The decision-making process involves identifying a goal, getting the relevant and necessary information, and weighing the alternatives in order to make a decision. The concept sounds simple, yet many people overlook some of the critical stages and risks that occur when making decisions.

  10. Strategic Planning: 5 Planning Steps, Process Guide [2024] • Asana

    Step 1: Assess your current business strategy and business environment. Before you can define where you're going, you first need to define where you are. Understanding the external environment, including market trends and competitive landscape, is crucial in the initial assessment phase of strategic planning.

  11. Strategic Planning Process Definition, Steps and Examples

    What is the Strategic Planning Process. Strategic planning is a process of defining an organization's direction and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this direction. It involves creating a long-term plan that outlines the organization's vision, mission, values, and objectives, as well as the strategies and tactics that ...

  12. Strategic Planning Process: 7 Crucial Steps to Success

    Write and communicate your strategic plan. Implement, monitor, and revise. 1. Clarify your vision, mission, and values. The first step of the strategic planning process is understanding your organization's core elements: vision, mission, and values. Clarifying these will align your strategic plan with your company's definition of success.

  13. 8 Steps in the Decision-Making Process

    1. Frame the Decision. Pinpointing the issue is the first step to initiating the decision-making process. Ensure the problem is carefully analyzed, clearly defined, and everyone involved in the outcome agrees on what needs to be solved. This process will give your team peace of mind that each key decision is based on extensive research and ...

  14. 17.1 Is Planning Important

    Planning involves thinking about organizational strengths and weaknesses, as well as making decisions about desired states and ways to achieve them. 4 Planning for organizational events, whether in the internal or external environment, should be an ongoing process—part of a manager's daily, weekly, and monthly duties and a routine task for ...

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    Planning Process. The planning function of management is one of the most crucial ones. It involves setting the goals of the company and then managing the resources to achieve such goals. As you can imagine it is a systematic process involving eight well thought out steps. Let us take a look at the planning process. 1] Recognizing Need for Action

  16. Strategic Planning

    Strategic planning is a comprehensive management process that organizations implement to establish a clear vision, allocate resources effectively, and achieve their long-term goals and objectives. It serves as a framework for decision-making and guides an organization's actions, ensuring its efforts align with its mission.

  17. Planning And Decision Making: Characteristics, Importance, Elements

    Strategic planning is defined as the strategies made by management to achieve its objectives. It also includes defining directions and allocating resources for execution. Strategic planning is meant for long-term business decisions. A strategic plan starts with the vision and the mission statement of an organization.

  18. 1.5: Planning, Organizing, Leading, and Controlling

    Decisions made about the structure of an organization are generally referred to as organizational design decisions. Organizing also involves the design of individual jobs within the organization. Decisions must be made about the duties and responsibilities of individual jobs, as well as the manner in which the duties should be carried out.

  19. 7 important steps in the decision making process

    Step 3: Identify alternative solutions. This step requires you to look for many different solutions for the problem at hand. Finding more than one possible alternative is important when it comes to business decision-making, because different stakeholders may have different needs depending on their role.

  20. Why Managers Should Involve Their Team in Decision-Making

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    The decision-making process typically involves several sequential steps. Here's a breakdown of these steps: 1. Identification of the Decision: Recognize that a decision needs to be made. This could be prompted by a problem, opportunity, or a need for improvement. 2.

  22. Chapter 5 SmartBook Flashcards

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