For effective planning in today’s dynamic environments, different techniques and tools must be used, such as forecasting, contingency planning, scenario planning, benchmarking, and participatory planning.
Forecasting is an attempt to predict what may happen in the future. All planning types, without exception, make use of forecasting. Business periodicals like the The Economist, Business Week, and Fortune Magazine, publish forecasts such as employment and unemployment rates, increase or decrease of interest rates, stock market data, GNP/GDP data, and others. Forecasts used may either be quantitative or qualitative. Opinions of prominent economists are used in qualitative forecasts while mathematical calculations and statistical analyses of surveys/researches are used in quantitative forecasts. These, however, are just aids to planning and must be treated with caution. As the name implies, forecasts are predictions and may be inaccurate, at times, due to errors of human judgment.
Contingency factors may offer alternative courses of action when the unexpected happens or when things go wrong. Contingency plans must be prepared by managers, ready for implementation when things do not turn out as they should be. Contingency factors called “trigger points” indicate when the prepared alternative plan should be implemented.
Meanwhile, planning for future states of affairs is a long-term version of contingency planning and is also known as scenario planning. Several future states of affairs must be identified and alternative plans must be prepared in order to be able to meet the changes or challenges that may occur in each of the future scenarios. This is a big help for organizations because it allows them to plan ahead and make necessary adjustments in their strategies and operations. Some examples of changes or challenges that may arise in future scenarios are environmental pollution, human rights violations, climate and weather changes, earthquake damages to communities, and others.
Benchmarking is another planning technique that generally involves external comparisons of a company’s practices and technologies with those of other companies. Its main purpose is to find out what other people and organizations do well and then plan how to incorporate these practices into the company’s operations. A common benchmarking technique is to search for best practices used by other organizations that enabled them to achieve superior performance. This is known as external benchmarking. Internal benchmarking is also practiced by some organizations when they encourage all their employees working in their different work units to learn and improve by sharing one another’s best practices.
Participatory planning is a planning process that includes the people who will be affected by the plans and those who will be asked to implement them in all planning steps. Creativity, increased acceptance and understanding of plans, and commitment to the success of plans are the positive results of this planning technique.