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A plan is a framework that describes how an organization intend to accomplish its objectives.

A plan can also be defined as the representation of a series of steps with detailed timings and resources that are used to achieve organisational goals.

It is a document outlining how the goals and objectives are to be achieved.

That is lines the means through which a manager intends to achieve the organizational goal.


The process of creating a plan is called planning, and planning involves deciding on the best course of action to follow to achieve the organisational goal.

Types of plans

Generally, there are four types of plans namely: Strategic plan, tactical plan, operational plan, and contingency plan

Strategic plans

These are plans made for the whole organisation.

A strategic plan is an outline of steps designed with the goals of the whole organization in mind.

Strategic plans are mostly action plans to be adopted by the whole organisation and they usually specified the resources to be mobilized to achieve the goals of the organisation.

They are broad plans prepared and developed by top managers to steer the organization's overall course.

Strategic plans usually come from the goals of the organization and indicate how the organisation seeks to achieve its overall objectives.

Strategic plans are usually long-term plans as they cover an extended period.

It is expected that the strategic plan will be forward-looking, effective and flexible, and should focus on accommodating future growth and challenges.

Tactical plans

A tactical plan is concerned with the implementation of already prepared strategic plans.

It tends to focus on people, resources and actions.

Tactical plans outline what sub-units of the organization must do, how they must do it, and by whom it should be done so that the strategic plan set by the top management is implemented in the sub-units.

The time frames of tactical plans are usually shorter than strategic plans. 

Operational plans

These plans have the narrowest focus and shortest time frame.

Operational plans how each individual is to contribute to the achievement of the organizational goal.

Types of operational plans

Operational plans may also be divided into single-use plans and Standing plans.

Single-use plans

As its name seems to suggest, single-use plans are plans made for one-time events.

A single-use plan is essentially any plan that is applied to activities that do not reoccur.

It is usually created to solve a particular problem or meet the needs of a unique situation.

Once the problem is solved, an entirely new plan is prepared for the next problem.

Because of this, they are also known as specific plans or particular plans.

Single-use plans are divided into three categories namely: program, budget and project.

1. Program: This is simply a sequential arrangement of a plan of action that results from setting goals and objectives.

A program spells out the principal steps to be followed to achieve particular objectives as well as the deadline for achieving them.

This kind of single-use plan is most suitable for a large set of activities and is used to achieve specific objectives.

For example, a company holding a training program has one objective in mind, which is, to teach employees about work-related matters.

A program is classified as a single-use plan because it will not be used again in the same form once the objective is achieved.

2. Budget: This estimates the number of resources (money, men, machines, materials, minutes) needed to carry out plans and programs successfully.

It states, in monetary terms, the total quantity of resources required for the successful execution of plans and programs.

A budget is a single-use plan because it estimates the sources and income that will be used for a specific project.

Once the project is over, a fresh budget must be prepared for new projects.

It should be noted that a budget may sometimes be called a "numbered program"

3. Project: This is similar to the program. The only difference is that a project usually has a narrower focus than a program.

A project can be defined as a specific task that must be completed as part of a larger program.

To put it in another way, a project is a smaller and separate portion of a larger program.

A project is usually a single step into a programme.

Standing plans

These are plans established to deal with reoccurring and routine situations.

They are designed to be used repeatedly since they are focused on situations that occur frequently and repeatedly.

Other names for standing plans are multi-use plans, repeated-use plans, and continuing plans.

Standing plans are usually made once and are used over a long period, and can be altered to adapt to changing circumstances.

That is, they are continuously-updated plans that guide activities performed repeatedly.

Standing plans usually cover more than one department and have a broader focus than single-use plans.

Six standing plans can be identified, namely Objectives, strategies, policy, procedure, method, and rule.

1. Objectives: objectives are at the heart of all planning processes. 

Simply put, An objective is the desired position that an organisation aspires to achieve in the future.

Alternatively, objective can also refer to the goal established to guide the organization.

Objectives are essential to every organization as all managerial activities are geared towards the achievement of a particular objective.

A good objective must have must be clear and planning should clearly state what the organizations seek to achieve (objective).

An objective should also be quantifiable, in the form of a written statement of the desired result.

An objective should also be time-bound. That is, there should be a timeframe by which it must be achieved 

2. Strategy: This is a general plan for achieving one or more long terms objectives in the face of uncertainty.

Strategies are usually formulated keeping in mind competitors' actions and they are usually modified whenever competitors' action changes.

3. Policy: A policy is a general statement or broad guideline that managers must follow when making important decisions in the organisation.

A policy guides managerial action and decisions in the implementation of a strategy.

For example, a company may have a marketing policy, pricing policy, and purchasing policy, within which objectives are set and decisions are made.

Policies provide standing answers to reoccurring problems or questions.

They are basic guides to action. They describe how a manager should attempt to handle routine management responsibilities.

A human resource policy, for example, will instruct a manager on how to handle issues like staff recruitment, selection, termination, training, and development.

Policies are typically broad enough to allow the manager to make decisions while still being specific enough to create constraints.

For example, a company policy may be to hire employees regardless of colour, religion, sex, or age, but a manager can make judgments within the parameters of this policy.

4. Procedure: As its name seems to suggest, procedures are simple steps on how routine managerial activities are to be carried out.

A procedure explains how particular activities and objectives should be carried out.

As George Terry put it, "procedures are series of related tasks that make up the chronological sequence and the established way of performing the work to be accomplished”.

They indicate and outline steps for pursuing a particular course of action.

Procedure detail in chronological order, how work is to be carried out and specific things In the organisation are to be carried out.

5. Method: Methods are prescribed ways or manners in which a task has to be performed given the objective of the organization. 

They differ from task to task and choosing the right method saves time and money.

6. Rules: These are specific statements that outline the "do's" and "don't" of a particular situation.

They represent a manager's decision or conviction that certain actions must be taken or not

Rules are the simplest form of plans and are expected to be followed by employees.

Rules are very rigid and do not allow for any form of flexibility. Deviations from rules are considered undesirable and may attract penalties or fines.

Contingency plans

As plans are made in light of an uncertain future, contingency plans must be made.

Contingency plans are plans that can be implemented if and when the original plans prove inadequate and ineffective due to changing circumstances.

They are plans made keeping in view contingency that can happen unexpectedly.

Contingency plans are usually short-term and used only if the initial plans have proven to be inadequate or ineffective.

Before we conclude, there are several important distinctions we need to make.

Differences between policies and rules

1. Policies are broad guidelines that facilitate the achievement of organizational objectives. On the other hand, objectives are the goals that an organisation seeks to achieve.

2. Policies are formulated by all levels of management (top-level, middle-level, and lower-level management). 

By contrast, objectives are set solely by the business owners or top management of the business.

3. Policies are derived from the objective of the organization whereas objectives are derived from the mission of the organisation.

4. An example of policy would be "pay before service". An example of an objective is to increase profit by 50%.

Differences between rules and methods

1. Rules are guidelines for behaviour whereas methods are possible ways of performing routine jobs.

2. Rules are usually derived from the objectives of the organization whereas methods are based on research and analysis.

3. Rules are meant to maintain discipline. In contrast, methods are meant to improve organizational efficiency

4. Violation of rules usually attracts punishment whereas violation of methods does not attract punishment

5. An example of a rule is " no smoking at the workplace". An example of the method is "reducing the balance depreciation"

Differences between policies and rules

1. Policies are general statements whereas rules are specific statements.

2. Policies are guidelines that help an organisation achieve its objectives whereas rules are guidelines for behaviour.

3. Policies are slightly flexible whereas rules are usually rigid.  

4. Policies have a limited number of exceptions, whereas rules have none.

5. Violation of the policy may not attract a penalty. By contrast, violation of rules almost always attracts a penalty.

6. An example of a policy will display before service". An example of a rule is " no smoking here"

Differences between policies and strategies

1. Policies are formulated to address specific problems whereas strategies are formulated to address specific threats in the business environment.

2. A policy is a standing plan, whereas, a strategy can be either a standing plan or a single-use plan depending on the situation.

When a strategy is only utilized once to address a problem, it is referred to as a single-use plan. 

When it is utilized to solve a problem more than once, however, it becomes a standing pan. However, most strategies are standing plans.

3.  A policy address a known problem within the organisation whereas a strategy can business to address a problem in the business environment which may or not be known depending on the nature of the business environment.

4. "No credit sales" is a good example of a policy. "Price cut used to discourage competition" is an example of strategy.


That will be all for now. For a recap, here are ten things you should note:

1. A plan is a framework that describes how an organization intend to. accomplish its objectives.

2. There are four types of plans, namely: Strategic plans, tactical plans, operational plans and contingency plans.

3. Operational plans are of two types: Single-use plans and standing plans.

4. Plans made to tackle non-recurring problems are called single-use plans.

5. Budget, projects and programs are the three types of single-use plans.

6. Objective, procedure, method, policy, strategy,  and rules are all standing plans.

7. Single-use plan is also called specific-use plans. 

8. Another name for the standing plan is a repeated-use plan.

9. Plans made for the whole organisation. are called strategic plans.

10. Contingency plans are plans used only if the original plans proved inadequate.

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