Need of long-term planning and diversification
Top management is often under heavy pressure so that immediate problems often absorb much of their efforts. Time to analyse complex data and project future trends is likely to be limited. To combat this problem a long-range planning department might be set up to act in an advisory capacity. The long-term planning team would be directly responsible to the managing director, but freed from routine duties. Such a department would be small and made up of top quality generalists, trained to see the wood as well as the trees.
It is difficult to decide how far ahead to plan. An accurate long-term forecast is most advantageous to the firm, but the further ahead one looks, the less certain one can be of the outcomes. To overcome this problem a flexible approach needs to be adopted. Long-range plans for, say, three to five years might be mapped out, but there will have to be frequent reviews and reappraisals so that the direction of the firm can be changed as and when the need arises.
Firms may want to enter new industries, launch new products, enter new markets (perhaps overseas) or acquire new subsidiaries. Existing activities may be expanded, consolidated or cut back. Whatever the requirements, careful planning is called for. The production side of the business has to be geared to keep pace with changes in the market. At the same time stocks must be kept at just the right level. If the stock level is too high, capital is tied up unproductively. If the stock level is too low, an upsurge in demand will lead to potential customers being turned away, possibly permanently.
There is also a difficult choice to be made between a policy of diversification and short term profit maximisation. The risk of failure can be reduced by choosing to produce a range of goods and services so that if revenue from any of them contracts it represents only a small part of the whole. A policy of diversification can be equated broadly to an insurance contract, and there is a price to be paid in both cases. In the case of insurance the price is in the form of a premium, and in the case bf diversification it is the cost of choosing less profitable but more diversified activities. It is also possible, indeed likely, that the expertise of top management will fall short of encompassing all the diverse skills and detailed knowledge called for in such a wide range of undertakings.
The managing director, like the conductor wielding a baton on his rostrum, has the often unenviable task of orchestrating the diverse activities into a purposeful concerto.