Management of a business involves the four general functions of making plans, organizing, exercising leadership, and fostering coordination. Planning constitutes the process of determining goals and objectives, identifying strategies and techniques, and accessing or allocating the necessary resources to support implementation. Plans integrate the competencies and resources of the organization relative to the map of the actions designed and intended to achieve goals and objectives. Daft, 2000) As a fundamental management process, planning occurs at the different levels of the business organization.
Planning at Different Levels of Management Management levels can be hierarchical or functional. Hierarchical levels of management refer to the chain of command in the organizational structure reflecting the designation of decision-making, reporting and accountability. Functional levels of management pertain to management roles according to function. Daft, 2000) Generally, there are two hierarchical levels of management, the senior management and front line management. Senior management takes charge of strategic planning since the focus is conceptual, directional and visionary plans encompassing the direction of future actions, the expected outcomes, the availability and utilization of resources, and contingency ideas for issues likely to emerge. The thrust of planning at this level is long-term outcomes.
Front line management handles operational planning because the focus is specific, measurable, tactical, and applicable plans covering daily activities and issues such as task assignments, quotas, deadlines, funding, and other day-to-day issues requiring planning. The focus of front line management planning is short-term expectations and outcomes. Although differing in the nature of planning functions, strategic plans provide guidance to operations plan while operational plans influence future strategic planning. Daft, 2000) Functional management involves a wide network of horizontal and vertical levels usually designated into departments and sub-departments or working teams distinguished according to functions. There could be a number of departments in an organization including sales or marketing departments, purchasing department, accounting department, human resources department, and other departments depending on the nature, scope and scale of operation of the business organization.
Planning at the department level depends on the respective functions so that the scope of planning covers the designated functions. The sales or marketing department focuses on marketing planning and advertising planning covering goals such as brand equity building, value creation for consumers, distribution, promotional plans, and pricing. The human resource department engages in leadership development, management development, career development, performance, staffing, and training and development planning. The other departments take charge of planning on other function areas. Daft, 2000) The functions of these departments are interconnected since planning done by the marketing department has a link to the competence of human resources especially leadership. Within the departments is a hierarchy, with department managers or directors handling strategic planning and the managers of the different sub-departments or working teams handling operational planning with the plans focusing on functions. Integration of Various Kinds of Plans The overlap between hierarchical and functional management planning reflects the interconnections of various plans.
There are also a number of practical reasons for integrating different plans. One is the need to translate a vision and goal into action to support fulfillment (Griffin & Thomas, 1999). In the case of strategic and operational plans, strategic plans are conceptual in nature providing a guide or picture of the expected outcome while operational plans are practical by focusing on particular actions and techniques that support movement towards the achievement of envisioned concepts (Daft, 2000).
As such, integrating strategic and operational plans ensure that action finds guidance from the vision and goals translate into specific actions directed towards actualization. Another is the likely interconnectedness of plans. With regard to functional management, a plan requires alignment with other plans to ensure successful realization. (Griffin & Thomas, 1999). Customer service forms part of marketing planning and human resource planning so that training plans under the HR department should coincide with marketing plans for value creation.
Last is the essence of organizations as a single unit made up of different parts that need to work together to sustain the body. Successful organizations are those with aligned or integrated plans. Real Life Application Successful planning doe not only require integration but also relevance to changing market conditions. Strategic plans could change in order to make the organization more responsive to issues.
An example is the shift in the strategic plan of Wal-Mart from the vision of a retail store offering the lowest prices to consumers to a store providing employment to thousands of people in impoverished areas (Wal-Mart, 2008). This came as a response to the corporate social responsibility issue of its payment of wages below the minimum wage and resistance to the call of worker groups for unionization. By shifting its strategic plan, Wal-Mart reaffirms its commitment to corporate social responsibility by helping impoverished families with jobs created by establishing stores in these communities.
By focusing strategic plans towards communities, the company is able to express its concern not only towards consumers but also to its present and future employees who are members of the community. Conclusion Planning is an important aspect of organizational management. To succeed in planning, it is important to understand how planning occurs at the different management levels of the organization, the importance of integrative planning, and the consideration relevant and responsive planning by adjusting to changes in business context.