You are here


Plans are important to organizations, but not for the reasons people think. Cohen and March (1974) argue that plans are symbols, advertisements, games, and excuses for interaction. (Weick, 1979, pp 10-11)

  • symbols -- plans are symbols in the sense that wen an organization does not know how it is doing or is failing, it can signal a different message to observers.
  • advertisements -- plans are advertisements in the sense that they often are used to attract investors to the firm.
  • games -- plans are games because they often are used to test how serious people are about the programs they advocate.
  • excuses for interaction -- plans become excuses for interaction in the sense that they induce conversations among diverse populations about projects that may have been low-priority items. The interaction may yield immediate positive results, but such outcomes are usually incidental. Much of the power of planning is explained by the people that it puts into contact and the information that these people exchange about current circumstances. When people meet to plan for contingencies five years away, contingencies that rarely materialize, they may modify one another's ideas about what should be done today. But that is about all that can be accomplished.

Plans are a pretext under which several valuable activities take place in organizations, but one of those activities is not forecasting.