Planning: A Problem Solving Tool

Many people ask questions as to how planning becomes a problem-solving tool. To see and answer the question on the relationship between planning and problem solving, let us remind ourselves on what is planning and narrate the role of organizational efficiency and planning effectiveness in realizing the benefits of planning to the organization. One of the planning benefit is to minimize the possibility of organizational problems.

What is planning

Planning is the primary of the four fundamental management functions: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Planning plays a vital role in ensuring organizational efficiency. Organizational efficiency occurs where the manager can use the least possible inputs to produce the highest possible outputs in terms of goods or services. Using the minimum amount of inputs to produce maximum outputs is not occurring overnight but rather a product of effective planning. It is the role of the manager to ensure effective planning by implementing planned activities with the minimum resources available. Thus, organizational efficiency is a result of smart goals doctored by effective organizational manager of a particular organization. .

Organizational Efficiency

Efficiency is about the controlled balance between inputs and outputs. According to Investopedia “Efficiency signifies a peak level of performance that uses the least amount of inputs to achieve the highest amount of output” . Thus, Organizational efficiency is the ability of the organization to maintain an optimal balance between inputs and the produces output. To achieve organizational efficiency requires the use of least quantity of inputs (resources) and produce the maximum possible products or services.  Thus, it is the role of the manager to ensure that the goals are realizable with least resources (Smart goals). You need an effective manager to produce effective planning for organizational efficiency. Borrowing from Investopedia I consider the following as important take away.

  • Efficiency is the fundamental reduction in the amount of wasted resources that are used to produce a given number of goods or services (output).
  • Economic efficiency results from the optimization of resource-use to best serve an economy.
  • Market efficiency is the ability for prices to reflect all of the available information.
  • Operational efficiency is a measure of how well firms convert operations into profits.

Effective Planning

Effective planning is about setting SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realizable and Time bound. Without setting smart goals you can work hard but you may not see going anywhere. With smart goals you can clarify your ideas, focus on your efforts, use your time and other resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want to achieve in your business.

  • Specific: Means having well defined goals, clear and without ambiguity. Specific goal incorporates an action plan that outlines how you will achieve the goal. In order to set a specific goal one need to ask and answer the following questions:
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • Why is this goal important?
    • Who is involved?
    • Where is it located?
    • Which resources or limits are involved?
  • Measurable: Refers to the capability to be measured. Measurable goals provides a way for tracking performance progress. Like the specific goal element, in ensuring that the goal is measurable the manager should ask oneself the following questions.
    • How much?
    • How many?
    • How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • Achievable: Effective planning bring in goal that achievable. Achievable goals have the qualification of being realistic and attainable.  The goal must be achieved despite the level of stretch of the organization’s ability. When you set an achievable goal, it is possible that you identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to it. Important questions to answer here include the following:-
    • How can I accomplish this goal?
    • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?
  • Realistic: This is about relevance and alignment of the goal to other goals. In other words it is about  ensuring that your goal matters to you, and that it also aligns with other relevant goals. It should however noted that despite the support we want from other members we still need to retain control over the goal in ensuring its achievement.
    • Does this seem worthwhile?
    • Is this the right time?
    • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
    • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
    • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?
  • Time-bound: This is about setting targets for the goal. Setting deadlines facilitates focus and avoids ad-hoc changing of priorities. A time-bound goal will usually answer these questions:
    • When?
    • What can I do six months from now?
    • What can I do six weeks from now?
    • What can I do today?

How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors

Organizational Problems Solving

A gap between the current organizational state of affairs and the desired state of affairs is considered an organizational problem. Thus, analyzing the situation and developing a solution to bridge the gap is known as organizational problem-solving. Having a problem solved is a goal that a manager sets and plan for its implementation. The following are the planning stages towards the problem-solving goal:-

  • A manager develops a working hypothesis about why a given problem exists develops a proposed solution to the problem.
  • The second step is to implement, or do, the proposed remedy.
  • The manager studies or checks the action taken to determine whether the proposed solution achieved the desired result, i.e. ‘was the problem solved?’

Depending on the interpretation of the check on results, the manager determines the next stage. The question is, ‘was the problem solved’? If the problem is solved, the manager acts to institutionalize the proposed solution which,  might mean establishing controls or changing policy manuals to ensure that the new way of doing business continues. If the problem is not solved, the manager sets another round of the problem-solving process.

Thus, problem solving is a goal like any other organizational goal whose achievement requires effective planning.