In an analysis of three different philosophies of planning, Offtrack established the labels satisfying, optimizing, and adapting.10 Planning on the basis of the satisfying philosophy aims at easily achievable goals and molds planning efforts accordingly. This type of planning requires setting objectives and goals that are “high enough’’ but not as “high as possible.’’ The satisfying planner, therefore, devises only one feasible and acceptable way of achieving goals, which may not necessarily be the best possible way. Under a satisfying philosophy, confrontations that might be caused by conflicts in programs are diffused through politicking, underplaying change, and accepting a fall in performance as unavoidable.
The philosophy of optimizing planning has its foundation in operations research. The optimizing planner seeks to model various aspects of the organization and define them as objective functions. Efforts are then directed so that an objective function is maximized (or minimized), subject to the constraints imposed by management or forced by the environment. For example, an objective
may be to obtain the highest feasible market share; planning then amounts to searching for different variables that affect market share: price elasticity, plant capacity, competitive behavior, the product’s stage in the life cycle, and so on. The effect of each variable is reduced to constraints on the market share. Then an analysis is undertaken to find out the optimum market share to target.
Unlike the satisfying planner, the optimizer endeavors, with the use of mathematical models, to find the best available course to realize objectives and goals. The success of an optimizing planner depends on how completely and accurately the model depicts the underlying situation and how well the planner can figure out solutions from the model once it has been built.
The philosophy of adapting planning is an innovative approach not yet popular in practice. To understand the nature of this type of planning, let us compare it to optimizing planning. In optimization, the significant variables and their effects are taken for granted. Given these, an effort is made to achieve the optimal result. With an adapting approach, on the other hand, planning
may be undertaken to produce changes in the underlying relationships themselves and thereby create a desired future. Underlying relationships refer to an organization’s internal and external environment and the dynamics of the values of the actors in these environments (i.e., how values relate to needs and to the satisfaction of needs, how changes in needs produce changes in values,
and how changes in needs are produced).