Planning for Pharmaceutical Management. (MDS-3: Managing Access to Medicines and Health Technologies, Chapter 38)
(2012; 21 pages)


Planning is the process of analyzing the current situation; assessing needs; establishing goals; setting objectives and measurable targets; and determining the strategies, responsibilities, and resources needed to achieve the expected results.

The three levels of planning differ in purpose, time frame, and focus of detail.

Strategic planning is concerned with the long-term future of an organization and its overall effectiveness and direction in light of changing external and internal environments.

It includes specific strategies for achieving the organization’s mission and a means of tracking progress.

A national pharmaceutical policy, for example, may result from a strategic-planning process. New strategies are most useful when -

  • Current strategies are not working
  • A pharmaceutical sector options analysis has been completed and new strategies are required
  • The political or social environment changes dramatically
  • There is a crisis

Program planning follows from strategic planning and focuses on medium-term objectives. For each objective, a program or project plan should specify outcomes, responsibilities, time frame, and budget. It is best implemented through operational workplans. Essential medicines programs, for example, should have program plans.

Work planning or operational planning is short-term planning and should involve staff who will be responsible for implementation. Workplans generally specify a limited set of objectives, all major activities, individual responsibilities, timing (at least to the month), indicators for monitoring and measuring progress and results, budget, and source of funds for each activity or task. Gantt charts are often key features and are useful for monitoring. Some project-planning methods and tools that can be helpful include the critical path method (CPM) and project evaluation and review technique (PERT), the logical framework approach (LogFrame), and various computer software packages.

Plans may fail to achieve their intended objectives when -

  • Problems, root causes, and options have not been well analyzed
  • Planning is unrealistic or overly ambitious
  • Existing commitments have not been considered
  • Implementers have not been involved
  • There is inadequate support, funds, staff, or time
  • Planning is undertaken for the wrong reasons or at the wrong level
  • Plans are poorly presented or overly complicated
  • Implementation is not regularly monitored

Planning is a part of every person’s life. Similarly, every organization and every program needs to plan in order to be effective. A good plan begins with a realistic and objective assessment of the present situation and asks where the organization or program is going, how it will get there, what resources are needed, and how progress will be monitored and measured. Planning is an essential tool for effective work and overall organizational performance, not a constraint on what can be done.

Planning is the first step in the management framework described in Chapter 37. A well-formulated plan provides direction and inspiration for an organization and is necessary to coordinate implementation efforts, staff activities, and financial operations.

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