"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." Yogi Berra, Yankee Hall-of-Famer and noted philosopher

As I write this column, I am in the middle of teaching a university course on Strategic Planning. There is no way to cover all the key principles of planning in one short column - but allow me to share a few key highlights that may be helpful.

What Is the Purpose of Management?
Before digging into some planning principles, let's discuss some foundational management concepts. What is the purpose of management (i.e. why have managers)? Here is a short and simple answer:

The primary purpose of management is to effectively and efficiently use organization resources to strive for organizational goals.

Notice the reminder that the resources we manage (e.g. labor, money, physical assets) are not ours, but the organization's - and that we should be using (managing) them in pursuit of organization goals. Also, it's helpful to remember the distinction between effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is the degree to which an objective is accomplished ("doing the right things"). Efficiency is maximizing the amount of output for a given quantity of input ("doing things right"). The first priority is to be effective (get the work done), then strive for efficiency without unduly impacting effectiveness.

What Is the Purpose of Planning?
Planning is a tool to help management achieve its primary ultimate purpose of achieving organizational goals. Planning is the "means" to set and reach organizational goals ("ends"). Planning is the determination of what is to be done - and of how, when, where and by whom it is to be done. A plan is a predetermined course of action involving the future and involving the action.

Why plan? The basic purpose is to identify what we want to happen - and then to improve the probability that what we want to happen will happen (i.e. identify our desired future and increase the probability of it occurring).

Planning is essential to being successful. Benjamin Franklin was right when he said "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!"

Here are ten additional benefits that a thoughtful planning process can provide to an organization:
1) Compels management to plan and think ahead; opportunity to look at the future
2) Bases action on thorough investigation, study and research (i.e. improved decision making)
3) Increases management and staff motivation (by establishing standards of performance)
4) Provides basis for resource allocation; makes more efficient use of resources (labor, money and physical assets)
5) Vehicle for senior management to communicate organizational values, goals, strategies and priorities to the entire organization
6) Enhances goal congruence (i.e. goals of individual managers harmonize with goals of organization as a whole)
7) Results in coordinated response to change; increases anticipation and awareness of future threats and opportunities
8) Reveals organization strengths and weaknesses
9) Provides standards for control
10) Allows for subsequent performance reporting and evaluation; provides basis for Performance Indicators

How Do We Plan?
Here are some basic planning principles:
1) Lowest possible relevant units should be involved in the planning process. Goal is participation which results in "buy-in" and a higher quality plan.
2) Planning should precede action
3) Planning horizon should not exceed the available known resources
4) Plans must be coordinated among related functions
5) Plans must be flexible and recognized as subject to change
6) Plans should be focused on probable future events

To organize your thinking and the planning process, I found my 3-step Planning Model to be helpful. I have used this simple model in planning for myself, teams at work and for non-profit organizations that I have been a leader in.

Wes's Planning Model
Step One: Assess the current situation. Ask and answer the question "Where are we now?" This represents the Starting Place. (Note: I recommend completion of SWOT analysis prior to the completion of Step One - see below).

Step Two: Determine your goals/objectives to be achieved by the end of the planning period. Ask and answer the question "Where do we want to go?" This represents our Destination.

Step Three: Develop the strategies that will move you from your current situation (Starting Place) to where you want to go (Destination). These strategies (aka Action Plan) serve as your Road map.

SWOT Analysis

Another helpful planning tool is SWOT analysis. Completing the SWOT analysis early in the planning process will help facilitate development of more realistic goals and strategies and a higher quality plan.

SWOT analysis ideally includes input from all the people impacted by the plan, and involves carefully assessing an organization's:

Strengths. The intent here is to carefully and realistically identify the key strengths of the organization - including relevant strengths about People, Processes and Technology. Strengths are internal-based and will help in deciding what opportunities may be realistic to pursue.

Weaknesses. The aim here is to identify the relevant weaknesses of the organization that may impair successful goal achievement or result in threats to be mitigated. A good starting place is to evaluate where you stand in the areas of people, processes and technology.

Opportunities. Both opportunities and threats should factor in the results of external analysis. External analysis considerations can include economic, social, governmental, technological, competitive and other factors that combined with the strengths of the organization could results in opportunities to pursue. For example, if your team has the latest technology and extra capacity - and the external vendors in your area are relatively expensive - you may want to consider pursuing in-sourcing work and add to your organization's bottom line.

Threats. The external analysis and analysis of weaknesses can identify threats that need to be addressed. Dealing well with Threats will help ensure that your goals and associated strategies are successful.

My final word of advice is to realize that much of the value of planning is in the process, not only in the final plan. President Dwight Eisenhower once stated that "Plans are nothing; planning is everything." Good luck as you plan your way to a better future for you and your team!

Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, MDC, EMCM, MCOM, CBA, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Billing, Credit and Special Attention Operations for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 830,000 customers. Wes leads his teams with the able assistance of Supervisors Allison Rowden, Jessica Eberhardt, Heidi Fouts and Matt McHill. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like MAILCOM, National Postal Forum, NACUMS, FUSION and other regional and local events. Check out his personal website for free information (www.wesfriesen.com). He can be contacted at wes.friesen@pgn.com.