Planning is a profession that is concerned with shaping our living environment. Frenchman (2000) observes that the profession of planning is alive and more plans have been made recently than ever before. As an example, a comprehensive plan sets the basis of land use policies and guides a community from where it is today to where we want it to be in the future. As the concept of sustainable development and the need for public involvement in planning by diverse groups become more widely accepted among politicians, policy-makers and the general public, it is critical to incorporate impact assessment and analysis into the planning and decision-making process. During such a process, planners bring stakeholders together (e.g., elected officials, business representatives, developers, community groups, residents, etc.) to set development goals and policies (e.g., what are we trying to achieve and how?). To do so, all stakeholders in a community should work together to analyze, compare, contrast and prioritize different development alternatives for a sustainable future (Smith et al., 2000; Wang, 2001). Planners, in particular, have the responsibility of gathering and evaluating available data, as well as accurately presenting future consequences of different action proposals to all stakeholders (Halls, 2001).
Alternatives of future actions are ultimately formulated from the evaluation of stakeholders’ input on development goals and policies. Planning can take place at various scales. At the neighborhood scale, planning may help empower a community to deal with appropriate service deliveries, such as initializing a neighborhood revitalization project, creating a thriving, pedestrian-friendly environment, promoting mixed-use land developments and building an economically attractive environment for businesses.
Planning may also occur at a large geographic scale such as a metropolitan area. Regional planning is the term often used when the planning focus goes beyond the neighborhood level. Portland, USA, is often revered as an example of good planning on a larger geographic scale. Portland’s planning success is partly attributable to the establishment of an “urban growth boundary” in conjunction with the implementation of a light rail system. Portland’s successful revitalization of the Rose Quarter neighborhood, on the other hand, would be an example of good neighborhood planning.
Planners may work for the public sector (e.g., in the United States, city, county, state and federal governments), the nonprofit sector (e.g., neighborhood or special interest organizations), or the private sector (e.g., consulting firms). Planners’ responsibilities vary widely. Planners may work as generalists, engaging in many types of issues for a specific geographic region, or they may be specialized in one subject field. The issues planners face may be related to land use, economic development, transportation, environment, urban design, housing or social equity.
Independent of the geographic scales, the sectors, or the subject fields, all planning efforts have a strong commonality: planning professionals can affect the future of a community with their abilities to understand the history of the community, to respond to the forces for growth, and to anticipate the future of the social, economic, environmental and cultural status of a community. We cannot develop a plan for an area before we understand it (Isserman, 2000).
Responsible planning entails a solid understanding and competence of the comprehensive and complex community features, including the physical, economic, and social factors that influence a community’s future. There are two broad entities that form the core of the planning profession: (1) the social, behavioral and cultural relationships between people and (2) the form and quality of the built or natural environment. An effective planner must have communication skills, expertise in one or more subject areas and dedication to the harmony between humans and the environment. In addition, the complexity of planning problems often requires planners to acquire qualitative and quantitative analytical skills in order to make sound, justified recommendations. It is necessary to understand how humans and the environment interrelate in order to plan long-term visions that would lead to a better future for a community. The importance of planning analysis as the basis of the planning process has long been widely acknowledged (Bracken,1981). Many research studies have explored the potential of using a geographic information system (GIS) to store spatial data, to perform interactive spatial analysis, to sketch a city and to display data and modeling results through maps and tables (i.e., Singh, 1999; Batty, et al., 1999; Brail and Klosterman, 2001). Klosterman (1999) elevated the GIS application by developing a scenario-based, policy-oriented planning support system (PSS), “What If?” that used GIS data to support community-based processes of collaborative planning and collective decision-making.
2.1 Planning Techniques
Many different methods for planning exist, each with their own benefits and drawbacks in different situations. No one technique will be suitable for every situation, in fact, a number of these techniques will usually be required for a successful overall strategy. Different methods are used to cover different timeframes, areas of the business and utilize different skill-sets.
Strategic planning aims to ensure employees and other stakeholders are all working towards a common goal and their energy, focus and resources are all aligned towards this. Agreements are made about the direction the organization wants to move in and how every contributor can ensure this happens. As well as the overall goal and how they are going to get there, a strategic plan also often lays out how the success of the strategy will finally be measured.
Unlike strategic planning, this type of planning is far more focused on day-to-day activities. Individual, team or project activities are organized and set out in a timetable. This helps to focus attention on the task at hand, rather than focusing on the bigger picture. This increases levels of motivation and efficiency, as well as providing a useful tool for monitoring and evaluation after the task has been completed. Specific details are planned for to the level of who will be where, when and the exact amount of resources they will require.
This type of planning builds on the strategic plan already set out, by breaking the tasks down into short-term actions and plans. It is usually drawn up by lower-level managers as they have better knowledge of their departments and day-to-day running of the business. The extra level of detail in a tactical plan increases efficiency and helps individuals and teams to know exactly what is required of them.
This type of planning aligns different functions of the business, for example HR or marketing, with the overall goals and objectives of an organization. This includes planning levels of resources, processes, where people are needed and department budgets. This is important for each individual department but also overall integration within the business, ensuring every area of a strategy is covered and no two departments are working on the same project. Simplicity and clarity are key as the plan must be easily understood and distributed across the organization.
Assumption-based Planning (ABP)
All plans make assumptions about the future and identifying these assumptions are crucial to any plan. In the scenario of any assumption not occurring the organization must have plans for how to react to this. Once these assumptions have been identified it is then important to identify which will have the biggest impact on the business if they were to fail. ‘Signposts’ can then be set up to monitor any potential issues and actions can be taken to manage the assumptions made. Finally, hedging actions can be taken to prepare for the instance where assumptions fail. As the business environment becomes more unpredictable and volatile ABP has become more crucial to strategies.
This type of planning involves preparing for the worst-case scenario to occur. All strategies have the potential to fail when they are affected by internal or external factors. This may be a supplier suddenly closing down, damage or loss of property or a change in government legislation. These events are often unavoidable, and hence instead of attempting to block them, plans need to be made for the event of them occurring. Firstly, a risk assessment should take place, highlighting the greatest potential risk to the business. Once risks have been highlighted plans can be made for if they occur, laying out the actions required, the triggers to the events, timeframes for action and budgeting. Contingency plans are often unused by the completion of the strategy, and hence ignored by many companies, but to initiate a strategy without one poses a serious risk to any business. Although they are rarely called upon, when they are they often save companies vast amounts of money.