The nature of planning can be visualized from the following features of planning;
1. Planning is purposeful:
Planning is not an end in itself. Rather it is a means towards the accomplishment of objectives. Managerial planning seeks to achieve a consistent, coordinated structure of operations focused on desired ends. Planning has no meaning unless it contributes to the achievement of desired goals.
All plans emanate from objectives. The goals may be implicit or explicit but well-defined goals are essential for efficient planning. Thus, planning is goal-oriented. It is directed towards efficiency.
2. Planning is a primary function:
Planning is the basis of the management process. All other functions of management are designed to attain the goals set under planning. Planning provides the basis for efficient organizing, staffing, directing and controlling. Without planning there is nothing to organize, no one to actuate and no need to control.
The management process begins with planning, and ends at planning. Every’ managerial function must be properly planned if it is to be effective. However, planning cannot be a substitute for other management functions. It precedes other functions.
3. Planning is all pervasive:
Planning is the function of each and every manager irrespective of the level and area of his her operation. It is the job of all managers in all types of organizations. Planning is an essential ingredient of management at all executive levels and in all areas of business.
However, the nature and scope of planning varies with the level of authority. Managers at higher levels are concerned with strategic and long term planning while lower level managers prepare short term and operational plans. Higher level managers generally spend more time on planning than lower level managers.
4. Planning is an intellectual process:
Planning is a mental process involving imagination, foresight and sound judgment. It is not guess work or wishful thinking. It requires a mental disposition of thinking before doing and acting in the light of facts, rather than guesses.
Planning is a rational exercise or a logical process performed in a systematic way in the light of hard facts and scientific forecasts.
According to Koontz and O’Donnell, “planning is an intellectually demanding process; it requires the conscious determination of courses of action and the basing of decisions on purpose, knowledge, facts and considered estimates.”
5. Planning is a continuous process:
Planning is an on-going and dynamic exercise. As the assumptions and events on which plans are based change, old plans have to be revised or new ones have to be prepared. As a manager carries out his functions, he continues to plan, revising his old plans and choosing alternative plans as the need arises.
Sound plans should be flexible enough to permit necessary modifications. “Effective planning requires continual checking on events and forecasts and the redrawing of plans to maintain a course toward a desired goal.”
A manager should constantly monitor the environment of his organisation to determine if changes are required in the plans. One plan begets other plans and planning is a never-ending process.
6. Planning is forward looking:
All planning is done with an eye on the future. Planning involves looking ahead and preparing for the future. Therefore, forecasting is the essence of planning.
Forecasting involves assessing the uncertain future and making provision for it. A plan is really a synthesis of various forecasts. No plan can be prepared without knowledge of future events. Planning is not only looking ahead but preparing for it.
7. Planning involves choice:
Planning is basically a problem of decision making or choosing among alternative courses of action. There is no need for planning if there is only one way of doing something. Plans are decisions made in advance of operations.
According to Billy E.Goetz, “planning is fundamentally choosing and a planning problem arises only when an alternative course of action is discovered. Planning presupposes the existence of alternatives and there are a few business decisions for which some kind of alternatives does not exist.
“Planning involves a careful evaluation of various alternatives to select the most appropriate alternative. Planning is decision making of a special kind. Decision making is the core of planning.
8. Planning is an integrated process:
Planning does not just happen, it! has to be initiated. Planning is a structured process and different plans’ constitute a hierarchy. Different plans are interdependent and interrelated.
Every lower level plan serves as a means towards the ends of higher plans. This is known as the ‘ends means chain. Planning is a’ time-bound concept and every plan has a definite time horizon.