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Planning and Strategic Planning

Planning is much maligned terms of its formal structure and control aspects. Those in favour of planning argue that it is much more about a system for thinking rather than of control. Discuss this comment in an essay format. In your discussion be sure to identify the key concepts, the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches as well as addressing the divide specifically mentioned in the comment above. The employment and effectiveness of strategic planning varies greatly within organisations.

Literature describes planning as being effective relative to its contribution to organisational performance, or the end results that the planning system was meant to achieve (Greenley, 1989). Therefore, this paper examines the concept of planning and its subsequent implementation in organisational settings. It will determine that planning results in the articulated managerial intentions and the successive use of formal structures and controls in the strategy formation. Furthermore, the theory of strategy will be explored, with specific reference to planned and emergent strategies.

A significant number of theorists consider planning and, therefore planned strategy, as a means of formal structure and control. However, those in favour of planning regard it as a system for thinking and learning, rather than control. Moreover, this paper thoroughly

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explores the concept of emergent strategy and analyses this approach from both a ‘control’ and ‘thinking’ perspective. This divide between planned and emergent strategy will be addressed thoroughly throughout this paper.

Mintzberg (1988) concludes that there is no such thing as a pure planned or pure emergent strategy and therefore, strategies tend shift in one general direction or the other. Therefore, semi-controlled organisational structures can be referred to as a possible position of compromise between the suggested divide. As a side observation, consideration needs to be given to the word limitations and variable constraints of this paper and the process undertaken of information inclusion and exclusion.

Key Concepts – Planning and Strategic Planning Planning, according to Shiner (2001), can be viewed as the design of a desired future and includes the effective ways to implement this in the organisation. More specifically, planning is the ‘effort made by the planner to have a different system model from the previous one’ (Shiner, 2001, p. 23). Planning is a though-action process and according to Ackoff, cited in Shiner (2001), planning is important to the organisation in three different ways.

First, planning is the thought process that is done in advance of taking action. Second, planning is required when the desired future position involves interdependent decisions across many cross-functional teams and third, planning is a process that is directed towards producing desired future states that would not occur unless planning took place. According to Mintzberg & Waters (1985) planning suggests that these clear and articulated intentions are necessarily backed by formal controls to ensue their pursuit, in an environment that is acquiescent.

Strategic planning in an organisation refers to the planning of business activities for a long-term perspective (Shiner, 2001). Furthermore, strategic planning implies an attempt to alter a company’s strength relative to that of its competitors. According to Johnson & Scholes (1997) cited in O’Regan & Ghobadian (2002, p. 418), strategic planning is the ‘direction and scope of an organisation over the long term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a changing environment, to meet the need of markets and fulfill stakeholder expectations’.

Strategic planning, according to Mintzberg (1988) is present to program a strategy that is already formulated. It is necessary to understand the strategy’s implications formally. Strategic planning is essentially analytical in nature, based on decomposition, whereas strategy creation is essentially a process of synthesis. Key Concepts – Strategy Strategy can be defined in many different ways. Different definitions depend on what managerial purposes it fulfills in an organisation.

The meaning of strategy has evolved over the years and early explanations of strategy were concerned with its role on organisational boundaries. Ansoff (1965), cited in Dikmen & Birgonul (2003), defines strategy as a firm’s choices of products as well as markets. Similarily, Grinyer (1972), citied in Dikmen & Birgonul (2003), defines strategy in terms of the degree of diversification and geographic expansion. These definitions are concerned with the scope of an organisation and matching it to its surroundings.

Porter (1980) defines strategy in terms of competitive advantage and implies that this can be achieved through strategy. This reflects the importance of both core competencies and competitive forces acting on the organisation to formulate strategies. Finally, the definition employed by this paper is according to Mintzberg (1987), who defines strategy as a plan, ploy, pattern, perspective, or position according to various managerial intentions.

Different managerial intentions specify what type of strategy will be most effective in implementation. These include strategies from both the planned and emergent viewpoint. At the extremes are pure planned and pure emergent strategies. A purely planned strategy indicates that management articulated their precise intentions, so that the desired outcomes are clearly understood before action takes place. In contrast, a pure emergent strategy can only occur with consistency in action over time and the absence of intention (Shiner, 2001).

A key to managing strategy is the ability to detect emerging patterns and helping them take shape and their subsequent implementation. The planning activities of the organisation need to be able to preconceive strategies but also understand that these can emerge from activities elsewhere. Through research completed by Mintzberg & Waters (1985), it is highly unlikely that either pure emergent or pure planned strategies will be found in an organisational setting. These authors conclude that there would only be a tendency in one direction or the other.

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