All organizations plan; the only difference is their approach. Prior to starting a new strategic planning process it will be necessary to access the past planning approach that has been used within the organization and determine how the organization’s cultural may have been affected. Addressing these cultural issues is critical to the success of the current planning process.
The four possible approaches to planning are:
Reactive – past oriented
Reactive planning is an active attempt to turn back the clock to the past. The past, no matter how bad, is preferable to the present. And definitely better than the future will be. The past is romanticized and there is a desire to return to the “good old days.” These people seek to undo the change that has created the present, and they fear the future, which they attempt to prevent.
Inactive – present oriented
Inactive planning is an attempt to preserve the present, which is preferable to both the past and the future. While the present may have problems it is better than the past. The expectation is that things are as good as they are likely to get and the future will only be worse. Any additional change is likely to be for the worse and should therefore be avoided.
Preactive – predict the future
Preactive planning is an attempt to predict the future and then to plan for that predicted future. Technological change is seen as the driving force bringing about the future, which will be better than the present or the past. The planning process will seek to position the organization to take advantage of the change that is happening around them.
Proactive – create the future
Proactive planning involves designing a desired future and then inventing ways to create that future state. Not only is the future a preferred state, but the organization can actively control the outcome. Planners actively shape the future, rather than just trying to get ahead of events outside of their control. The predicted changes of the preactive planner are seen not as absolute constraints, but as obstacles that can be addressed and overcome.