Planning: Different Definitions, Process and Characteristics of Planning

What is planning?

The concept of planning is a complex phenomenon that has attracted many definitions. However, a review of a number of definitions from early works of administrators and social scientists led to the identification of the following school of thoughts:

Different Definitions of Planning

Definition of Planning as a Basic Human Activity Concerned with Control of Future Actions:

Some people viewed planning as a basic human activity; planning is done at everyday level of the society by everybody: the carpenter is planning as he raises his hammer to hit the nail, the business man/woman is planning as he/she is listening to the morning weather reports in order to decide whether or not to carry umbrella. A taxi driver is planning as he decides on which direction to follow to pick up passengers on different roads. Here planning is seen as an activity under taken by every individual. This reflects the ability of man to engage to some extent in the shaping of his future and belief that it is desirable to do so.

Planning therefore involves all decisions taken to control the future occurrences and reduce and uncertainties, with the purpose of bringing future changes in the desired direction. Planning in this sense is goal-directed and future oriented.

Planning is defined as the action of deciding in advance, what is to be done; that is, a plan is a projected course of action.

Planning is the working out in a broad outlines the things that need to be done and the methods for doing them to accomplish the purpose set for the enterprise.

Planning as a Rational Choice Based on Utilization of Knowledge;

From this perspective, planning is an activity concerned with making deliberate choice and is in the effect strongly linked to rationality. Rationality reflects the applications of certain standards of logic to increase the reasonableness of decisions. Planning is therefore not an end but a means for better use of resources. Planning in this sense is a rational action. Examples of definition; the principle of Survey-Analyse-Plan put forward by Patrick Geddes.

Planning as an Activity Directed Towards Change and Social Good:

This school of thought realized that the nature, purpose and method of planning are based on social and democratic principles focused on resource distribution and redistribution through compensatory programmes. Social good is achieved when there is equity. It is immoral to let problems such as poverty, ignorance, pestilence and squalor to continue if they can be done away with. Planning therefore is an activity that enables the society to ensure change and gain mastery over these problems. Planning is an activity that enables society to arrive at decisions and actions that will promote the good especially when undergoing rapid changes. Examples of this definition: planning is a form of social learning, the direct object of planning being the innovative adaptation of social organisations to a constantly changing environment.

Planning process

Planning process has been defined as a course of activity that is intended to heighten understanding of the nature of problems requiring examination of the alternative possible solutions that exist and of the relative merits of these alternatives.

It is simply the set of procedures which is adopted by planners in the formulation of rational programmes or plan; though in practice, procedures may slightly vary. The most simplified and traditional model of the planning process is Survey, analysis and plan by Patrick Geddes. This is no longer satisfactory. Changes in the philosophy and approach to planning have stemmed from the recent reorientation of planning towards the social sciences. Over the years, there have been volumes of literature on the planning process which generated an increasing interest in many of the procedural aspects of planning activity. Several models of the planning process have emerged through virtually all the planning process advocated in the literature are rational in the sense that their proponents attempts to justify them by reasoned argument.

Writers have however agreed on some basic attributes of the planning process being that:

  • It should be an accidental or random set of activities.
  • It should be continuous, having no definitive beginning and no definitive end and;
  • It should also enable us to proceed towards new solutions as new problems arise.

Basic Elements in Planning

  1. It is goal oriented
  2. It involves making decisions and choice (this is the intellectual act of planning)
  3. It is future-oriented (the futuristic dimension of planning is recognised in the most definition)
  4. It involves comprehensiveness requires serous efforts to articulate the various components of the system)
  5. It is action oriented.

Basic Considerations in Planning

  1. Environment and Aesthetics considerations: what impact will a new development have on the local environment and how will it look like?
  2. Economic Considerations: how much will it cost and how will it affect other businesses?
  3. Legal and Political Considerations: the laws and political mechanisms that govern planning and land use issues.
  4. Human and Social Considerations: how will local people and communities be affected?

Scope of planning the scope of planning varies from a simple activity to a complex one depending on the level it is undertaken. We plan our daily activities on a personal basis which we may consider to be a on simplistic level. However, when our conception of planning moves to organizational level, it assumes a complex level which is the level that professional planers operate.

Levels of Planning Operations:

Urban Level (Urban planning):

Planning at this level is mainly physical in nature, the general objectives is to provide for a spatial structure in the urban environment. Specific objectives include the provision of jobs, housing, facilities and infrastructure in an orderly, functional, tidy and beautiful manner. Urban planning is also concerned with the social, political and economic elements which are also expressed in physical terms.

Rural Level (Rural planning):

At this level, planning addresses settlement issues within the regional context.

Regional Level

At this level, the concern of planners is to move towards the creation of social and economic balance within the region.

National Level (National Planning):

At this level, planners are concerned with objectives related to the growth allocation and redistribution of resources. The need for national planning is based on the theory that a comprehensive national development plan provides the framework for the overall development of all sectors. In most nations, urban, rural and regional plans are made to fit into and also derived from the centralized national plan.

Characteristics of successful planning:

  • Promotion of accessibility: access to homes, work, shops, schools, recreation, industry and sources of labour, power and raw materials.
  • The employment of resources as emotionally as possible, so as to achieve the greatest possible measures of improvement with necessarily limited means;
  • The separation of incompatible land uses from each other and the association of compatible or mutually helpful uses.
  • The carrying out of all development in as visually pleasant a manner as in practicable.

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