Report 312, Institute for Employment Studies, September 1996
A British Foreign Office official looking back over a career spanning the first half of the twentieth century commented: ‘Year after year the fretters and worriers would come to me with their awful predictions of the outbreak of war. I denied it each time. I was only wrong twice!’Some would see this as the arrogant complacency to be associated with planners. Critics think of the inaccuracy and over-optimism of forecasting — the ‘hockey stick’ business growth projections. They regard planning as too inflexible, slow to respond to change, too conservative in assumptions and risk averse. These points are made about any sort of planning.
When it concerns human resources, there are the more specific criticisms that it is over-quantitative and neglects the qualitative aspects of contribution. The issue has become not how many people should be employed, but ensuring that all members of staff are making an effective contribution. And for the future, the questions are what are the skills that will be required, and how will they be acquired.
There are others, though, that still regard the quantitative planning of resources as important. They do not see its value in trying to predict events, be they wars or takeovers. Rather, they believe there is a benefit from using planning to challenge assumptions about the future, to stimulate thinking. For some there is, moreover, an implicit or explicit wish to get better integration of decision making and resourcing across the whole organisation, or greater influence by the centre over devolved operating units.
Cynics would say this is all very well, but the assertion of corporate control has been tried and rejected. And is it not the talk of the process benefits to be derived self indulgent nonsense? Can we really afford this kind of intellectual dilettantism? Whether these... [continues]
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