Planning is the most basic or primary function of management. It precedes other functions because a manager plans before he acts. Planning involves determining the objectives and selecting courses of action that will lead to the achievement of predetermined objectives.
It implies looking ahead and deciding in advance what is to be done, when and where it is to be done, how and by whom it is to be done. It involves Thinking before acting i.e., anticipating problems and developing their solution. According to Henry Fail, “planning means to assess the future and make provision for it”.
Planning is a mental process requiring hi use of intellectual faculties, foresight and sound judgment. It consists of forecasting, decision making and deliberation. A plan is a predetermined future (projected) course of action. It is today’s design for tomorrow and an outline of steps to be taken in future.
Planning provides answers to the following questions:
(i) What actions are necessary to achieve the desired objectives;
(ii) Why are these actions necessary;
(iii) Who is responsible for these actions;
(iv) where will these actions take place;
(v) When will these actions take place; and
(vi) How will these actions take place.
The process of planning consists of(a) determination of objectives, (b) forecasting or anticipating the future, (c) decision making i.e. choosing a course of action from available alternatives, (d) formulation of policies, programmers, budgets, schedules, etc. to achieve the objectives,; (e) laying down of procedures and standards of performance. Planning may be long term or short term.
Planning is a pervasive function and managers at all levels have to prepare plans. Planning is always goal-oriented and it involves choice among alternative courses of action. Planning is also a continuous or on-going process. Planning enables us to do things in an orderly and efficient manner.
It is helpful in more effective achievement of goals. Planning enables an organization to face uncertainty and change. It correlates the organization with its future. Planning is a prerequisite to every effective action.