The Planning Cycle

Planning a Project

Identifying stages in a project plan, complete with objectives, implementation, and assessment, is a primary responsibility of strategists.

Learning Objectives

Outline the five basic stages in the planning cycle as derived within the field of strategic management

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The initiation stage includes generating ideas, assessing the feasibility and profitability of the project, conceptualizing the operational benefits and bottom line, and getting approval and resources.
  • Planning and design follows the initiation stage, bringing the project under the microscope to assess the smaller details. Planning predicts the time investment, costs, and specific resources required.
  • The simplest stage in theory, and perhaps the most complicated in practice, is the execution stage. This requires integrating all of the identified inputs from the planning-and-design phase to construct the actual end product or service.
  • In the monitoring and controlling phase, analysis of the efficiency and quality of the project cycle from a strategic perspective allows for the optimization of the operational process itself.
  • At the end of the project-management cycle, the closing phase determines that the project no longer captures value and should be harvested or divested.
  • This cycle is iterative, and, unless the project is harvested or divested, should be continuously assessed and altered whenever deemed necessary.

Key Terms

  • feasibility: The state of being possible.
  • optimization: The design and operation of a system or process to make it as good as possible in some defined sense.
  • forecast: An estimation of a future condition.

The stages of a project within the strategic-planning discipline provide a step-by-step approach to generating and implementing an effective strategy, for either a corporation or a strategic business unit (SBU). Implementing a framework for generating a project-planning cycle, complete with strategic objectives, implementation methods, and assessment, is a primary responsibility of strategic managers.

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Project-planning cycle: As shown in the figure, there are five basic strategic management steps in the planning cycle.

The Steps in Strategic Planning

  1. Initiation: The initiation stage includes generating the idea, assessing the feasibility and profitability of the project, conceptualizing the operational benefits and the bottom line, and getting approval and resources. This stage should determine the scope of the operation.
  2. Planning and design: Planning and design brings the project under the microscope by assessing the smaller details. This stage includes predicting the time investment, costs, specific resources required, and the necessary inputs to achieve the outputs forecasted in the initiation stage. This stage is the most strategic in nature, mapping out the business processes in sufficient detail to effectively accomplish the required objectives.
  3. Executing: The simplest stage in theory, and perhaps the most complicated in practice, is the execution stage. It involves the integration of all inputs identified in the planning-and-design stage to construct the actual end product or service. This integration should be in line with the framework established in the first two stages.
  4. Monitoring and controlling: This can be thought of as the perfecting stage, in which analyzing the efficiency and quality of the project cycle from a strategic perspective allows for the optimization of operational processes. Monitoring the operation for ways to increase value can redirect the strategic-planning cycle back to the planning-and-design stage. This stage allows the process to run internally in a cyclical fashion, constantly adding improvements to capture more value.
  5. Closing: The project-management cycle ends with the determination that the project no longer captures value and should be harvested or divested. This stage is the other possible result from the monitoring and controlling phase—that is, instead of being redirected back to the planning-and-design phase, the assessment shows that value is now being lost and it is no longer profitable to continue the process. Therefore, the project cycle is closed.

This step-by-step process highlights each feasible stage in the project-management cycle. By appropriately incorporating each stage of the model into the planning process, managers can effectively forecast the deliverable, and they can avoiding losing value by accurately assessing the margins that will be produced in a given strategic initiative. This allows for informed and knowledgeable decisions to be made at each relevant point in the operation.