Barriers to successful planning - Marketing Strategy

Few would argue with the concept of planning. In any activity,a plan provides a fundamental basis for success. Marketing plans should offer exactly what is required – optimizing the use of marketing techniques and resources in order to make the most of marketing opportunities. However, even the most charitable of marketing managers would view this statement as naive and unlikely to be fully achieved. If managers view planning as ‘fine in theory’ but failing in practice to deliver its full potential,where does it go wrong?

Clearly, barriers must exist to successful planning. Often,these barriers are more to do with the human aspects of the business management.They involve people, politics, skills and culture, to a greater degree than formal systems, methodology, and data.

Common barriers to successful planning are:

  • Culture : The prevailing culture may not be amenable to marketing plans.If the fundamental principles of marketing are not accepted by the organization, any move towards being market-led and customer orientated could be dismissed as ‘not the way we do it’. Often we see considerable resistance to change and gradual regression back to old work practices.
  • Power and politics : All organizations are subject to internal politics. The development of strategic planning becomes a battlefield where vested interests fight each other’s proposals and squabble over status and resources. This process absorbs much management time and can result in ill-advised compromise and unnecessary delay.
  • Analysis not action : Much time and energy can be wasted by the process of analyzing data and developing rationales for action, as opposed to simply acting. While a rigorous process is commendable, it should not displace action. This ‘paralysis-by-analysis’ barrier tends to substitute information gathering and processing for decision making. Perhaps surprisingly, many planning systems do not promote action and are more concerned with reviewing progress and controlling activity, rather than tackling strategic issues.
  • Resource issues : In any planning situation, the potential exists to negotiate over resources. Indeed, a major aspect of the process is to match resources to strategic aims. Managers must take a realistic view of the resource position and endeavour to ensure resources are not over-committed or needlessly withheld.
  • Skills : In some instances, managers do not have the skills (project management,forecasting, etc.) required to make the best use of the planning process. Here,planning takes on a ritual nature – a meaningless but ‘must-do’ annual task. Often, planning is reduced to incremental increases/decreases in annual budget and fails to examine opportunities for business development.
  • Many of these barriers relate to the implementation of plans rather than the planning process itself. However, sound management practice would advocate the inclusion of implementation as part of the planning process. Indeed, Piercy(1997) suggests a multidimensional model of planning. This considers the analytical dimension, the behavioural dimension and the organizational dimension of any plan.

  • Analytical dimension : Analytical tools, techniques and models are important, as they provide a framework to tackle issues and identify/solve problems. While formalized planning systems have the advantage of offering common (corporate-wide) systematic approach, to be truly effective they must address behavioral and organizational issues.
  • Behavioral dimension : Here we focus on the people aspects of the planning process. Plans only become successful because of the support,participation, motivation and commitment of people. There is a need to understand and fully communicate the strategic assumptions underpinning the strategy. Plans must address behavioural factors in order to gain the support so vital to smooth implementation.
  • Organizational dimension : Strategic planning takes place within the context of a given organization. Therefore, it will be influenced by organizational factors, such as culture and style of management. Remember, organizational structures determine the flow of information, as well as defining responsibilities and reporting lines. Major strategic initiatives may require radical organizational changes.

multidimensional  model of marketing  planning

summarizes the model.

By taking this ‘multidimensional’ approach to planning and actively considering behavioural and organizational issues within the planning process, it is possible to enhance the overall likelihood of success.

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