Ensuring action plans contribute to major objectives & strategies

Action plans are tactical or operational programs and major or minor decisions that are taken in various sections or departments of an organization. If they do not reflect desired objectives and strategies, the result will be vague and result in useless actions. If care is not taken in this area, strategic planning is not likely to have a bottom-line impact, that is, to have an important effect on company profits.

There are various ways of making sure that action plans contribute to major goals. If every manager understands strategies, all managers can certainly review the recommendations of staff advisers and line subordinates to see that they contribute and are consistent. It might even be a good idea for major decisions to be reviewed by an appropriate small committee, such as one including a manager’s superior, the superior’s superior, and a staff specialist. Budgets should also be reviewed with objectives and strategies in mind.

Reviewing strategies regularly:

Even carefully developed strategies may cease to be suitable if conditions change. Therefore, they should be reviewed from time to time, certainly not less than once a year for major strategies and perhaps more often.

Developing contingency strategies and programs:

If considerable change in competitive factors or other elements in the environment may occur, strategies for such contingencies should be formulated. No one, of course, can wait to make plans until a future environment is certain. Even if there is considerable uncertainty and events may occur that make a given set of objectives, strategies, or programs obsolete, a manager has no choice but to proceed on the most credible set of premises he or she can come up with at a given time. But even then, one need not be totally unprepared if certain possible contingencies do occur. Contingency plans can provide a degree of preparation.

Making the organization structure fit planning needs:

The organization structure, with its system of delegations, should be designed to help managers accomplish goals and make the decisions necessary to put plans into effect. If possible, one person should be responsible for the accomplishment of each goal and for the implementation of strategies to achieve this goal. In other words, end result areas and key tasks should be identified and assigned to a single position as far down the organization structure as is feasible. Since such an assignment sometimes cannot be made, there may be no alternative but to utilize a form of matrix organization, a type of organization structure that will be discussed. If this is done, however, the responsibilities of the various positions in the matrix should be clearly defined.

The role of staff analysts in an organization structure should be so defined as to make it clear that the job of people in a staff position is to advice. Staff studies and recommendations then enter the decision system at the various points where decisions are actually made. Unless they do so, the end result will be independent staff work of no value for planning.

Continuing to emphasize planning and implementing strategy:

Even if an organization has workable system of objectives and strategies and their implementation, the system can easily fail unless responsible managers continue to stress the nature and importance of these elements. This process may seem tedious and unnecessarily repetitious, but it is the best way to make sure that members of an organization learn about them. Teaching does not necessarily mean conducting seminars; rather, much of the teaching can take place in the day-to-day interaction between superiors and subordinates.

Creating a company climate that forces planning:

People tend to allow problems and crises of today to interfere with effective planning for tomorrow. The planning intended for future results must take care of the current problems in the initial stages itself. The only way to ensure that planning will be done is to develop strategies carefully and to take pains to implement them.