2.1.1 What is planning?
Planning is a critical management function that aims to achieve an optimum balance between needs or demands and available resources. The planning process identifies the goals or objectives to be achieved, formulates the strategies to achieve them, organizes or creates the means required and establishes performance measurement frameworks as well as determining the resources required. Planning forms the basis of the implementation process and directs all steps in their proper sequence.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Figure 8: Why planning?
2.1.2 Why planning?
Planning, especially results-based planning is the first phase of the results-based management approach. It uses a combination of methodologies and tools. We plan because:
- Planning enables an organization to set its vision, mission, goals, values and strategies for achieving results as well as the means for measuring performance.
- Planning enables alignment of project and programme objectives with organizational goals and strategies — without planning the organization may not be in a position to achieve corporate goals and impact, as projects and programmes could deliver services and products that do not effectively contribute to the organizational mission.
- Planning clarifies and outlines what should be done when — without proper planning, projects or programmes may be implemented at the wrong time or in the wrong manner and could result in poor outcomes.
- Planning helps mitigate and manage crises and ensure smoother implementation
- There will always be unexpected situations in programmes and projects. However, a proper planning exercise helps reduce the likelihood of these, and prepares the team to deal with them when they occur. The planning process should also involve assessing risks and assumptions and thinking through possible unintended consequences of the activities being planned. The results of these exercises can be very helpful in anticipating and dealing with problems.
- Planning improves focus on priorities and leads to more efficient use of time, money and other resources —Having a clear plan or roadmap helps focus limited resources on priority activities; that is, the ones most likely to bring about the desired change. Without a plan, it is easy to get distracted by competing demands. Similarly, projects and programmes are less likely to go off track and become ineffective and inefficient.
- Planning helps determine what success will look like – a proper plan helps individuals and units to assess whether the results achieved are those that were intended, and to assess any discrepancies. Of course, this requires effective monitoring and evaluation of what was planned. For this reason, good planning includes a clear strategy for monitoring and evaluation and use of the information from these processes.
- Planning helps senior management by providing guidelines and frameworks for future decisions. The planning process seeks to answer the following questions: “Who are we? Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? How do we measure our progress?”
In most organisations, planning takes place at the corporate level as well as at the operational level. At the corporate level, corporate goals and strategies are formulated in a strategic planning process. In many organisations implementation is often organised through projects and programmes. In this case the operational planning process is also called project/programme planning.
In UN-Habitat, corporate or programme level planning takes place at four levels:
- The six-year strategic plan
- Biennial strategic frameworks
- Biennial work programme and budget, and
- Annual work plans
Figure 9: Corporate Level Planning in UN-Habitat
At project level, planning is guided by concept notes, and project documents. Projects are vehicles for implementing outputs included in the annual work plans and the biennial work programme and budget.
Planning at both programme and project levels is also used to translate mandates received from intergovernmental bodies into results.