Of all the disciplines associated with operating a business enterprises, it is management that is the most challenging and arguably the most rewarding. Business management refers to all the activities that are associated with the running of a company. Some of these activities include controlling the company, leading it, monitoring its progress, organizing it and, of course, the act of planning. It requires a working knowledge of all the other disciplines.
The first, most significant and fundamental act of management is planning. All other functions stem from planning. However, planning doesn’t always get the attention that it deserves; when it does, many managers discover that the planning process isn’t as easy as they thought it would be — or that even the best-laid plans, of mice and men, often go awry.
I like to compare the act of planning to the cultural holiday of Kwanzaa, which many of us just concluded its celebration. As Dr. Maulana Karenga, creator of the holiday, frequently argues that on the day of “meditation” we must reflect on profound and “centering questions”. Who are we? Are we really who we are? Are we all we ought to be? These are questions of identity, purpose and direction.
Before a manager can tackle any of the other functions, he or she must first devise a plan, which is largely based on these centering questions. It is the blueprint for achieving the goals you have determined and specifically lays out the necessary resource allocations, schedules, tasks and other actions.
A goal is a desired future state that the organization attempts to realize. Goals are important because an organization exists for a purpose, and goals define and state that purpose. It is often said, goals specify future ends; plans specify today’s means.
Planning incorporates both ideas: It means determining the organization’s goals and defining the means for achieving them. Planning allows managers the opportunity to adjust to the environment instead of merely reacting to it. Planning increases the possibility of survival in business by actively anticipating and managing the risks that may occur in the future.
In short, planning is preparing for tomorrow today. It’s the activity that allows managers to determine what they want and how they will achieve it.
Not only does planning provide direction and a unity of purpose for organizations, it also answers six basic questions in regard to any activity:
· What needs to be accomplished?
· When is the deadline?
· Where will this be done?
· Who will be responsible for it?
· How will it get done?
· How much time, energy and resources are required to accomplish this goal?
Once your planning is complete you must decide as to what is the best approach to the actual managing of your business. There are literally hundreds of theories on the most efficient and ethical forms of management developed since the industrial revolution. Peter F. Drucker, known as the father of modern business management, proposed a theory of “managing by objectives”, or MBO’s. In it, he argues that by clearly setting your objectives or goals with the participation and input of your staff your management techniques and strategies should be developed around the achievement of these objectives. That is why planning and goal-setting are so critical. Since managing by objectives introduction in 1953, this theory of management has been adapted by many successful corporations (Steve Jobs was a proponent), it has been refined and improved on, even though there have been significant challenges to several of its components. I have provided reading lists for further study of this topic with one book discussing all relevant and influential theories of business management developed in the last several decades allowing you to choose one that works for you.
Without a management strategy you will be practicing the “Charles Manson Management” strategy, otherwise known as “helter-skelter”, and we all know where that got him.
Further Reading: The Practice of Management By Peter F. Drucker and Management Ideas and Gurus By Tim Hindle