Managers across organizations and across countries have to deal with numerous issues while managing operations within the organizations. They have the responsibility to identify issues, plan, and implement policies and ideas to tackle those issues. The present paper discusses the question whether managers should focus on planning or making strategies. The focus of this paper would be to reveal whether managers should always involve in strategic planning or they should also evolve new strategies. In doing so, the paper will analyze the views of Mintzberg (1994), on strategic planning and strategy making. Further, the paper will also include others scholars’ views, who oppose planning and support strategy making.
Planning as key management function
Basic principle of planning requires looking ahead along with chalking out the future action courses which should follow. In management function, planning can be considered to a preparatory step. It is a detailed map that projects the future program based on the list of available resources. It is essential to establish effective co-ordination, contribution as well as perfect adjustment of the physical as well as the human resources. Plan can be also perceived as a formulation for achieving the optimum balance of demands and/or needs, with the currently available resources. To quote the statement of Urwick, Planning is basically the mental predisposition for performing the deliverables in an orderly way, which professes the perception of thinking before taking an action and acting in light of the facts in place of apprehensions and guesses. The steps involved in planning stage starts with establishing the objectives, followed by establishment of the premises of planning (Armstrong and Taylor 2014). The planning phase also requires he formulation of the course of an alternative action. The next stage is the most crucial involving formulation of the derivative action plans. The last two stages of accomplishment of a plan would require securing a well-built co-operation among the stakeholders of the plan and lastly appraisal and improvement of the current plan. Planning as a management function have various advantages also. Planning involves an acumen of all the business objectives that are laid before the company at the moment (Austin and Pinkleton 2015). This reflects the strengths and weaknesses as well as the feasibilities and limitations of the business for which the plan have been formulated. The planning in prior to the execution reduces the count of uncertainties during execution, bring a sense of control in the execution and always leaves scope for innovation in execution.
Arguments against strategic planning
The argumentation against strategic planning is presented here in alignment with the general dissatisfaction showed by Henry Mintzberg against the strategic planning process. He have displayed himself as an old critic of analysis driven and formulae based strategic planning. As opined by Dibrell, Craig and Neubaum (2014), Mintzberg have despised planning calling it a formalize system which simply codifies, elaborates, describes strategy to be an emergent pattern or deliberate perspective. Mintzberg have argued that planning of a strategy is actually impossible. Planning on one hand concerns analysis, making of strategy on the other hand is concerned with synthesis (McGrath and MacMillan 1995). Planners, according to the view of Mintzberg are not although redundant, yet not so much valuable like the strategy finders, catalysts as well as the analysts (Mintzberg 1994). The strategists are supporters of line managers who prefer to question instead of providing answers automatically. The most impactful role of strategists, according to Mintzberg is:
“Fledgling strategies in unexpected pockets of the organization so that consideration can be given to (expanding) them.”
In alignment to Mintzberg’s conceptualization it can be commented that there are three primary pitfalls in the identified strategy planning procedures.
Firstly, forecasting techniques have been limited by the fact that they have been strategized based on the fact that future projections would be more or less resembling the past. This actually creates artificial assurance and gives way for disintegration as they are being overtaken by the events (Bromiley et al. 2015).
Secondly, it can be opined that the strategic planners are actually bereaved of the organization’s reality. Mintzberg is precisely critical of “assumption of detachment”. Planning professes that a concrete system decide and think over the future steps (Wolf and Floyd 2017). However acting and improvisation are outside the scope of the system. This is where the issue with strategic planning reaches the root problem (Elmes and Barry 2017). Planners have always stereotypically restricted themselves with collection of hard data regarding their industry, competitors as well as the markets. They also accumulate soft data, for example the network of contacts, the customer talks, suppliers as well as the employees, often through intuition and often sourced from the grapevine (Mintzberg 1994). However, in the end they follow the rigorous plan only ignores to align the data with the strategy.
In order to have purposeful understanding of the competitive situation of the organization, the managers should dynamically integrate the soft data with the process of planning. This is what makes “strategy making”, a really complex process and more subtle well as sophisticated and quite often subconscious about the human cognitive as well as social process (Jarzabkowski and Kaplan 2015). In this context, Mintzberg, have opined that:
‘While hard data may inform the intellect, it is largely soft data that generate wisdom. They may be difficult to “analyze”, but they are indispensable for synthesis – the key to strategy making.’
The third flaw identified as per Mintzberg is the assumption that it is possible to formalize strategy. The left part of the brain is framed to favor as well as process over-structured models, whereas the right side emphasizes on intuition, creativity as well as rearranging established setting. This is the reason why, the mold breaking strategies grow incidentally and occasionally.
Choosing between strategic planning and strategy making by managers
Some vituperative debate have actually taken place regarding Mintzberg’s strategy. Many authors like Kim and Mauborgne (2014), have professed that strategy planning is often holding real value for a corporation. Further in this debate, Mintzberg’s insights on “nuanced managing” can also be extorted. He has defined that nuanced managing involves getting involved, syncing in with the business, and getting updated about what is being done every day in the company. Strategic plan do not allow the managers to be responsive and reactive of the issue that the stakeholders face in the origination on in the ongoing phase of any project (Mintzberg 1994). Rather the managers who fancy strategy making can adopt to innovative and adept solutions based on the criteria of the business issues that are faced by the stakeholders.
Analyzing Mintzberg’s viewpoints and the contradictions to his thoughts it can be concluded that the big hierarchical organizational structures often fail to address the organizational issues. Paternistic treatment is favored by Mintzberg, however, his option is that it should be flexible enough to address any abstract issue in the course of the business project.
Armstrong, M. and Taylor, S., 2014. Armstrong's handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
Austin, E.W. and Pinkleton, B.E., 2015. Strategic public relations management: Planning and managing effective communication campaigns. Routledge.
Bromiley, P., McShane, M., Nair, A. and Rustambekov, E., 2015. Enterprise risk management: Review, critique, and research directions. Long range planning, 48(4), pp.265-276.
Dibrell, C., Craig, J.B. and Neubaum, D.O., 2014. Linking the formal strategic planning process, planning flexibility, and innovativeness to firm performance. Journal of Business Research, 67(9), pp.2000-2007.
Elmes, M. and Barry, D., 2017. Strategy retold: Toward a narrative view of strategic discourse. In The Aesthetic Turn in Management (pp. 39-62). Routledge.
Jarzabkowski, P. and Kaplan, S., 2015. Strategy tools?in?use: A framework for understanding “technologies of rationality” in practice. Strategic Management Journal, 36(4), pp.537-558.
Kim, W.C. and Mauborgne, R.A., 2014. Blue ocean strategy, expanded edition: How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. Harvard business review Press.
McGrath, R.G. and MacMillan, I.C. 1995. Discovery Driven Planning. Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1995/07/discovery-driven-planning [Accessed: 04 September 2018]
Mintzberg, H. 1994. The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning. Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1994/01/the-fall-and-rise-of-strategic-planning [Accessed: 04 September 2018]
Wolf, C. and Floyd, S.W., 2017. Strategic planning research: Toward a theory-driven agenda. Journal of Management, 43(6), pp.1754-1788.