Strategy and Business Planning ZAA 202 - Module 1

In an organisational context, planning is one of the key functions of management. We will use the term ‘business planning’ to refer to all forms of workplace planning irrespective of whether the organisation is a public-sector service provider, a not-for-profit charity or social/community enterprise, a corporation, a ‘born global’, a small business, or an entrepreneurial start-up.

Business planning provides important linkages with other management functions such as organising, leading/directing, staffing, and controlling.

- In relation to organising, business planning helps determine the resources an organisation needs, and when and how they will need to be used.

- In relation to leading/directing, business planning helps a manager establish goals and direction for themselves and their team.

- In relation to staffing, business planning helps ensure the organisation has the right people in the right place at the right time.

- And, in relation to controlling, business planning helps establish standards and key performance indicators against which managers can assess performance and track progress towards achievement of organisational goals.

In this module, we will define business planning and explore the links between business planning and business performance. We will also examine the different levels of business planning in an organisation and provide you with a range of actual business plans to navigate your way through over the next few weeks. We will be discussing these business plan examples (and any you would like to bring along from your own workplace) in our tutorials, and these will also be relevant for completing your first assignment task.

In upcoming modules, students will be exposed to different business planning models, tools and processes. We will also explore some of the contemporary challenges managers face with business planning in the 21st Century. Our tutorial discussions, workshops and 2nd and final assignment tasks, will provide you with the opportunity to apply your learning about different aspects of business planning to specific organisational problems and environmental challenges as they relate to your workplace or an organisation you are familiar with.

Practice and Portfolio

One of the unique features of the Associate Degrees offered through University College is the central focus given to the nexus between theory and practice. We are striving to increasingly make this more seamless in how we integrate subject content with opportunities to practice and demonstrate applied understanding.

One of the key ways we do this is through our Practice and Portfolio modules that you will be directed to as you progress through your MyLO module content each week. These modules are like a toolbox of tools and templates that you can practice and then utilise in your assignments, tutorials and workshops.

As you work your way through the module content in MyLO each week, you will be presented with opportunities to engage with and explore Practice and Portfolio tools and templates relevant to your enrolment in your Associate Degree and each subject you are studying. Any materials that are linked to compulsory course or subject requirements will be clearly marked.

In the early weeks of term, new students to the Associate Degree will be supported through Practice and Portfolio modules that guide the preparation of an individual Student Learning Plan and a Wordpress ePortfolio website. New students should also familiarise yourselves with the Practice and Portfolio modules on Reflective Thinking and Reflective Practice. Some assessment tasks are likely to require reflections, typically recorded in your ePortfolio blogspace or assessment tab.

Student Learning Plans:

All students enrolled in an Associate Degree at University College will develop an individual Student Learning Plan. As an independent learner, it is important that you take control of your academic journey to complete your Associate Degree. Part of this is starting off with your personal learning goals that set the foundation for your Student Learning Plan. If you have already developed your Student Learning Plan, you may wish to now review and update it in light of the subjects you are currently enrolled.

For students who have not yet developed a Student Learning Plan, to support you in this, access the following Practice and Portfolio modules via the links below.

Your Student Learning Plan is a living document maintained in your ePortfolio. You will be encouraged to revisit and maintain this plan as you progress through your degree studies.

Student ePortfolios

Another design feature of our Associate Degrees at University College is ePortfolios. All students develop and maintain an individual Wordpress ePortfolio website as a central repository for evidence of the skills, experiences, knowledge and reflections you develop as you progress through your degree studies.

Often, assessments and activities will include specific actions you need to undertake and evidence you need to capture and upload to your ePortfolios. These requirements will be clearly articulated in your study modules, assignment tasks, and tutorials and workshop activities. Your teaching team will request access to your ePortfolios as one of the mechanisms for assessing your progress through, engagement with and performance in this subject.

If you have already developed your Wordpress ePortfolio website, you may wish to take a moment now to review it and update it for the studies you are taking this term.

For students who have not yet developed your ePortfolio website, to support you in this, access the following Practice and Portfolio module via the links below. Your Student Learning Plan should then be uploaded to your ePortfolio and maintained from there, once you have your website set up.

What is Business Planning?

Here are some different definitions of planning from the Management and Planning literature. As you read through these, see if you can identify any recurring or emerging themes about business planning.

Robbins et al. (2009, p. 246) summarise organisational planning as ‘defining the organisation’s goals, establishing an overall strategy for achieving those goals, and developing a comprehensive set of plans to integrate and coordinate organisational work. It is concerned with both ends (what is to be done) and means (how it is to be done)’.

Beach and Lindahl (2015, p. 5) consider planning ‘… a design process by which a plan, model, or template is developed that guides future actions to achieve goals(s) … With more complex approaches to planning evolving over time, the understanding grew that planning is only one element in a series including implementation and institutionalisation that creates a process of organisational change and reform’.

In the context of strategic management, Hanson et al. (2011, p. 100) describe business-level strategy as ‘… an integrated and coordinated set of commitments and actions the firm uses to gain a competitive advantage by exploiting core competencies in specific product markets. This means that business-level strategy indicates the choices the firm has made about how it intends to compete in individual product markets. The choices are important, as there is an established link between a firm’s strategies and its long-term performance’.

Boelens and de Roo (2014, p. 1) discuss how planners ‘… have tried to move beyond classic technocratic and/or sociocratic ideas of planning towards new approaches which address the multiplicity and fuzziness of our perceptions and actions in time and space …’.

Definitions of Planning | 1:24 mins

What are some of the benefits of business planning?

Business plans do symbolise legitimacy to external stakeholders such as customers and clients, communities, governments, partners, investors, and suppliers. Within the organisation, they focus decisions, behaviours and targets on specific actions that need to be undertaken to achieve overall goals and objectives. They facilitate employees’ identification with the organisation and can be a source of motivation and commitment. They establish the standards and targets that are used for management control. They are also vital for reducing and managing risks and contingencies, and minimising waste, redundancy, and uncertainty.

Planning gives us comfort. It makes us feel safe and secure, in control and organised. But, will the kinds of planning we do and the planning skills we need in the 21st Century organisation be different? How do we plan when the future is increasingly uncertain and ever-changing?

We all have skills and experience in planning that we can draw on – the planning we do in our jobs and places of work, the planning we do in our family life, in our recreation, leisure and interests that we pursue outside of work, and, of course the planning we do as students. How might we utilise, adapt, and build on these skills and experiences in this subject, and moving forward in our careers?

Activity

Professional competencies for school business management and planning

The poster below provides a list of some of the professional competencies worth reflecting on that are relevant in school business management and planning. We recommend that you make notes of areas to build on for your own career development.

When you look at the poster, can you think of examples that show you can do these things

Source: Accessed on April 22, 2017 and Adapted from: National Association of School Business Management (2014) School Business Management Competency Framework https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-business-management-competency-framework

Planning and Performance

So, how confident can we be that business planning will lead to improvements in the workplace and in the customers’ experience at every touch point with our organisation? Do managers and organisations that plan outperform those that do not?

We know that effective planning and implementation activities are better indicators of high performance than the extent or amount of planning done. But, the research also tells us that to have any real impact on organisational performance, formal organisational planning does need to be in place for at least 4 years.

What we also know is that environmental factors such as changes to government regulations, funding arrangements, and rapid advances in information and telecommunications technologies, can often constrain managers’ options and reduce the impact of planning on an organisation’s performance.

Perhaps we need to look to the future to see how our approaches to organisational planning need to adapt as the pace of change and degree of uncertainty in our environment rapidly increases.

What are the main levels of business planning?

Traditionally, business planning activities and processes in organisations occur at three key levels – strategic, tactical and operational. These are described below. In our next module, we will compare and contrast these more formal approaches to business planning, with the more adaptive business planning practices utilised by entrepreneurs and small businesses. This may provide us with some clues as to how we need to adapt our business planning practices to ensure our organisations are sustainable and relevant in the 21st Century.

Strategic goals and plans

At the most strategic level, it is the organisation’s vision and mission statements that define the organisation’s purpose or fundamental reason for existence. It describes the overall values and aspirations of the organisation and its people and communicates this information to both internal and external stakeholders. Strategic plans focus broadly on the future of the organisation. They consider external environmental demands as well as internal resources required.

The vision and mission statements guide the organisation’s strategic goals and plans. It is at this strategic level that senior management focus on the organisation as a whole and position the organisation in terms of its surrounding environment. For example, an organisation may have as one of its strategic goals to increase the ability of the organisation to provide innovative solutions to meet future information technology needs of customers. In turn, strategic plans would be developed by senior management that specify the organisational activities and resource allocations required to achieve this goal.

Tactical goals and plans

At a divisional,functional, or business unit level, tactical goal setting and planning occurs where the middle managers in the major sub units within the organisation identify the outcomes they must focus on, in order to contribute to the overall

achievement of the organisation’s strategic goals and plans, and in turn, its vision and mission.

Tactical plans are designed to help execute major strategic goals and plans, and to accomplish a specific part of the organisation’s strategy. It is at this level that strategic plans start to be translated into specific goals and actions for specific parts of the organisation.

Operational goals and plans

Operational plans developed at the organisation’s lower levels specify action steps required for achieving organisational goals and in turn support tactical planning activities. They relate to small work units within the organisation and focus on the near term.

Lower level management and individual employees specify how overall goals are to be achieved by their relevant teams and positions, thus operationalising the organisation’s goals and plans right down through the organisation to all employees. Specific, measurable results expected from departments, work groups and individuals are then set at this level.

As environmental conditions have become more uncertain, complex and ever-changing, and short-termism and vested interests have taken hold, we have seen business plans in organisations shorten in duration – particularly in the West. Strategic plans used to be developed for 10+ year periods. The definition of a long-term strategic plan now has a time frame of around 3 years! Short-term plans are those covering 1 year or less.

Other types of business planning also exist. For example, competitive strategies and plans, succession planning, project plans, workforce planning, departmental/team action plans, performance development plans, advertising campaigns, plans relating to the introduction of new infrastructure or technology, e-business plans, feasibility studies, change management plans, business startup plans,growth/expansion plans, mergers and acquisitions plans, risk management and contingency planning, and so on.

What we will find is that across all these different variations of how business planning is applied in organisations,there are a range of traditional as well as adaptive processes and practices that organisations use. We will explore these further as we progress through the term ahead.

Some examples

Our first tutorial will provide you with a forum to discuss different business plans that organisations have developed. You are encouraged to take a closer look at the selection of actual business plans provided for you (below) to access and reflect on before then. There may be others that you have access to in your work that you would also like to introduce into your tutorial discussions and activities, or use in your response to your first assignment task. You are welcome to do this. What you will observe in reviewing different business plans is that each one not only varies from organisation to organisation, but also that different kinds of organisations do business planning differently.

Activity

As you examine the business plans provided, in preparation for our first tutorial, you are encouraged to think about and jot down some notes in response to the following questions:

Q. What do you like and what don’t you like about them (specific examples to illustrate your point). Why?

Q. Are there any commonalities across these different business plans?

Q. What do you identify as key areas of difference between them? Why might this be?

Q. How do local-level business plans link back to wider strategic plans and priorities, vision, mission and values statements (specific examples to illustrate your point)?

Q. In your job and workplace, which level and type of business planning are you most closely involved with?

Q. What aspects of these business plans do you think could be applied in your workplace to improve their effectiveness?

This activity and participation in our first tutorial discussions and activities will help prepare you for completing your first assignment task. A range of business plans are provided below for you to explore.

Examples of Business Planning
Further Reading

The following literature has been utlised in the preparation of this module if you would like to explore the topics we have covered in more detail

Beach,RH & Lindahl, RA 2015, ‘A discussion of strategic planning as understoodthrough the theory of planning and its relevance to education’, Journal of the International Society forEducational Planning, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 5 – 16, viewed 9 April 2017,

http://isep.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Vol.22-No.21DiscussionofStrategicPlanning.pdf

Boelens, L & de Roo, G 2014, ‘Planning of undefined becoming: first encounters of planners beyond the plan’, Planning Theory e-Journal, viewed 10 April 2017, .

Hanson, D, Hitt, MA, Ireland, RD & Hoskisson, RE 2011, Strategic management: competitiveness and globalisation, Asia-Pacific (4th ed.), Cengage Learning Australia, South Melbourne.

Robbins, S, Bergman, R, Stagg, I & Coulter,M 2009, Foundations of management, (3rded.), Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest.

Please Note:

Before coming to our first tutorial, you are strongly encouraged to read the following information – available on MyLO – and prepare any questions about this subject that you may have for your workshop tutor: -

  • The study schedule
  • Assignment tasks, due dates, guidelines and evaluation rubrics
  • How Practice and Portfolio tools and activities have been integrated into this subject
  • Our MyLo website
  • How MyLo content integrates with our tutorials, workshops and web conferences
  • Information on the UTAS website about academic integrity and referencing (Harvard)

Credits:

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