Administrative Organization Of Planning Research Paper

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This research paper is about the role of planning in organizations, with a focus on urban planning in local government. It takes the view that it is best to analyze the general before focusing on the particular. To this end, a generic model is outlined, which sets the stage for the later discussion. The paper concludes with alternative strategy options for coping with some unique aspects of the urban planning situation.

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1. The Nature Of Organizations

1.1 Organizations And Management

A human organization is one form of an abstract concept called a system. A system is an assembly of parts that form a whole greater than the sum of the parts. Every system has some unifying principle or force that holds it together. In the case of a human organization, this unifying element is provided by the management of the organization. Management in general refers to those people in an organization who are authorized to give direction to the other members of the organization. Understanding management is the key to understanding any organization.

The field of management is large and complex, and many theories compete for attention. However, most theorists agree, that some structure of power is a necessary part of management. The wellsprings of human motivation remain somewhat mysterious, and often people will cooperate voluntarily without coercion, but some sort of power to influence behavior, either by promise of reward or threat of reprisal, seems essential to the success of any organization. Without it, managers cannot be sure their leadership will be followed.

The problem facing management is that members of organizations are self-conscious human beings with an innate desire for individual freedom and gain, and an innate dislike of restriction and loss. They naturally compete for power, and for the benefits in freedom and gain they believe come with it. Therefore, every time a human organization is formed, and a hierarchy of management power is set up, a field of competitive tension is automatically created, as surely as a magnet generates a field of electromagnetism.

1.2 Culture Of Organizations

For the purpose of discussion, this field of tension will be called the ‘culture’ of the organization. Defined many ways by scholars, the term ‘culture’ is used here to refer to the degree to which the members of an organization are willing to vest power and authority in management. Three somewhat arbitrary positions along a spectrum make useful benchmarks: (a) a culture of ‘consent;’ (b) a culture of ‘cooperation;’ and (c) a culture of ‘dissent.’

In (a), organization members are accustomed to accepting the centralization of power in a management hierarchy, and look to specific directions from management for guidance on a wide variety of operations. In (b), members are accustomed to working together creatively under minimum management guidance, except for specific directions on matters that most can agree require a higher vision. In (c), members are accustomed to questioning management directions of all kinds, and frequently tend to place a higher value on individual independence than on group cooperation.

Obviously, the more a culture is oriented towards dissent, the more complex is the management challenge. To understand how managers have dealt with this problem, it is useful to construct a simple model of a generic organization, and see how variations in its structure relate to differences in internal cultures and external conditions. The model presented here is based on four tasks that can be said to constitute the primary responsibilities of management.

1.3 Management Task 1: Mission

Mission is the management task of defining and communicating the basic purpose for the creation and existence of the organization. Its role is to act as a symbol of values, an orientation for planning, and an inspiration for action.

1.4 Management Task 2: Structure

Structure is the management task of planning and implementing the form of the organization. In practice, this usually means dividing the constituent members into clusters, called administrative units, and assigning a manager to each cluster. The result is often portrayed as an ‘organization chart,’ a diagram showing the administrative units, with lines linking them vertically to either a single person (called here the ‘executive,’ or a small group (called here the ‘board,’ or to both, at the top of the chart. Together these two entities, plus their support staff, constitute the management ‘apex.’

The vertical linkage always takes the shape of an upside down tree. This tree represents the way that all members of the organization relate to each other in terms of their authority, that is to say, their legitimate power to exercise control over subordinates. A hierarchy controlled by an apex is always necessary, because organizations need a way to reconcile disputes in a timely manner.

1.5 Management Task 3: Procedure

Procedure is the management task of planning and implementing the functions of the organization. In practice, it means controlling the behavior of individuals within the organization to ensure that plans are executed and products are produced efficiently and effectively.

Systems theory suggests that human organizations, like biological forms of life, can be described in terms of function, as linear process (with some internal feedback loops) from ‘input’ to ‘throughput’ to ‘output,’ and that its output can be divided into two components, one called ‘product’ one called ‘waste.’ This simple model is popular in the fields of economics and business management, where it provides a foundation for the idea of using product to measure the functional performance of organizations of all types.

1.6 Management Task 4: Product

Product is the task of designing the products that the organization creates and exports into its external environment. Product in this sense is an extension of the concept expressed in the term ‘mission.’ The products of an organization should represent a more focused and defined expression of the values and directions implicit in its mission statement.

The concept of product has come to play a critical role in analyzing and comparing the relative value of different organizations. Two criteria are used, one focused on the internal environment of the organization ‘efficiency,’ and the other on its external environment (‘effectiveness’). Both criteria use the product as a surrogate by which to measure the organization as a whole. Efficiency is the ratio derived from dividing the product by the input. It is a quantitative measure. Effectiveness is the degree to which the product satisfies the mission of the organization with regard to its external environment. It is a qualitative measure.

2. Model Of A Generic Organization

Summing up the key factors outlined in Sect. 1 a graphic model can be visualized. The structure of the organization is represented by a triangle, with its vertical axis reflecting the authority hierarchy of management. The procedure of the organization is represented by a horizontal line across the bottom of this triangle, reflecting the flow of work transactions through the organization from input to output. Operators comprise the bottom layer of the triangle, performing the actual transactions that create the product as it moves from input to output. They are supervised by managers in the upper layers of the triangle.

The mission and structure responsibilities of management fall along the vertical axis of the triangle, and the procedure and product tasks fall along its horizontal axis. Mission and structure, once established, are not often changed, whereas product and procedure must be changed frequently to keep the organization in balance with its changing external environment. Structure is a key factor influencing product and procedure. Three basic variations in structure design can be observed in practice, as follows.

2.1 Structure Alternative 1: The Divisional Model

In this model, the basic principle for clustering people together into administrative units is their degree of commonality with regard to technique, skill, knowledge, or activity. This creates a set of what may be called ‘functional’ divisions, each one centered on a different type of specialized operation. The effect of this model is to allow the apex to delegate authority over specialized operations to subordinate managers within the hierarchy, while still retaining strong direction over the design and production of the composite final product.

This model emphasizes quality of input, by setting up hierarchies of specialized knowledge and skill that can apply technology to improve the product. Power over all four management tasks is strongly concentrated at the apex. This model can be very efficient, but depends on a culture of consent, fast internal communication linkages, and a comprehensible external environment. It can lose effectiveness whenever any of these supporting conditions break down.

2.2 Structure Alternative 2: The Decentralized Model

In this model, the basic principle for establishing administrative units is to include in each division all the special resources necessary to produce a complete particular product. This model creates a set of ‘product’ divisions that share all of the characteristics of the parent organization, with the exceptions that: (a) each division produces a different product; and (b) enough freedom is withheld by the Apex to ensure the health of the parent organization.

This model emphasizes quality of output, by setting up hierarchies of situational analysts who can adapt product designs to changing external situations. Power over product and its procedure is delegated by the apex, but control over mission and structure is retained. This model can very effective in responding to local and rapidly changing product needs, but it depends on a culture of consent with regard to mission and structure, a greater aptitude for situational strategy by divisional leaders, and sufficient supplies of input resources to duplicate them across every product division. It can lose effectiveness whenever any of these supporting conditions breaks down.

2.3 Management Structure 3: The Matrix Model

In this model, the organization is divided into a set of ‘functional’ divisions as well as a set of ‘product’ divisions. The apex delegates control of both product and procedure, but avoids concentrating them entirely in the product divisions, by requiring them to share control of these tasks with the functional divisions through negotiated divisional agreements.

This model tries to achieve a balance between quality of input and quality of output, by delegating power in both directions. Power over mission and structure is retained at the apex. This model can be very effective in facing situations that call for the strengths of both the divisional model and the decentralized model. However, it heavily depends on a culture of cooperation in product and its procedure, and a culture of consent in mission and structure. Without managers and operators who value these cultures, this model can be difficult to sustain over long periods of time.

3. The Place Of Planning In The Generic Model

3.1 Planning vs. Implementation

Planning is a process of choosing goals and ways to achieve them, ‘before initiating action.’ It is one of the basic activities of the human mind. As long as the process of planning and the initiation of action constitute sequential events within a single human mind, there is no need to reflect on the relationship between the two events. However, as soon as the planning is performed by one person, and the action to approve and implement the planning by another, the question arises: How shall the two events be connected? How this question is answered is the key to the administrative organization of planning.

3.2 The Generic Planning Process

The process of planning for a client begins with ‘analysis’ and ends with ‘synthesis.’ As defined here, it involves six sequential actions, the first three of which are analytic, and second three of which are synthetic:

(a) ‘Survey’ the nature of the current situation;

(b) ‘Forecast’ trends, assuming no purposeful intervention by the client;

(c) ‘Compare’ the trend scenario to the client’s needs and desires;

(d) ‘Invent’ possible alternative scenarios achievable through intervention;

(e) ‘Evaluate’ the scenarios for feasibility and fitness;

(f ) ‘Integrate’ alternative scenario elements into one final version, ‘the plan.’

The planner can adopt one of two modes while performing this process. All six steps can be performed by the planner alone, with only the sixth step, ‘the plan,’ passed on to the client. Call this the ‘advocacy mode.’ Or, the client, and other interested parties as well, can be invited to participate in some, or all, of the steps. Call this the ‘participatory mode.’

3.3 The Base Case: Planning And Implementation Combined

The least political complications ensue when the divisional model is used in a consent culture, and planning is performed solely by the management apex. Military organizations typically use this model this way, largely because they face such threatening external environments that internal control and secrecy in planning become cardinal virtues.

Certain kinds of business organizations also use the model this way, especially those facing fierce competition analogous to the military situation. However, businesses in the modern world increasingly seem to find it more useful to foster a cooperation culture than a consent one, and, to that end, often shift to some form of the decentralized or matrix models.

Government organizations, by contrast, especially in democracies, increasingly find themselves facing cultures of dissent in the larger organizational unit (i.e., the nation or municipality) for which they function as management. Within individual government agencies, however, management can often develop a culture consent or cooperation, because members of the agency voluntarily contract for employment knowing the management climate of the place.

In summary, evidence from the field suggests that the model to which management naturally gravitates is the divisional one, with the synthetic steps of the planning process performed directly by the apex, supported when necessary by a delegation of the analytic steps to a subsidiary unit without hierarchical authority. Some theorists suggest that this model represents the default mode to which all organizations tend to revert, especially when facing external pressures, such as strict performance evaluation, or strong technical competition at the output end, or just scarce resources at the input end.

3.4 Delegated Planning And The Administrative Planning Unit

When external conditions overburden the planning capacity of the apex in a divisional organization, the easiest approach is to expand total capacity by setting up an administrative planning unit (APU). This may be viewed as a lesser delegation of power than is involved in re-engineering the structure of the organization into a decentralized or matrix model, but it is a delegation of power nevertheless, and a power that is potentially very broad in scope. It is easy for other administrative units in the organization hierarchy to become nervous or hostile. Like management itself, every APU must work in a power struggle.

Since the apex usually wishes to retain direct control of the organization’s mission and structure, the delegated planning responsibility usually only applies to product and/or its procedure. In manufacturing organizations the former is often called ‘research and design,’ and the latter ‘quality control.’ In either case, although the plans of the APU affect the entire organization, the APU’s most important client, in terms of plan implementation, is always the Apex.

3.5 The APU In Decentralized And Matrix Models

In the decentralized and matrix models, the responsibility of planning for product and procedure is already delegated in large measure to the individual product divisions. If the apex wishes to exert control or influence over the product units in these divisions, it may set up an APU to fill some planning role that is intermediary between the mission and structure role of the apex and the product and procedure role of the divisions. When this happens, the APU role is typically concentrated more on the analytic steps of the planning process than on the synthetic ones, or alternatively is focused on operational techniques for supporting a cooperation culture.

4. The Administrative Organization Of Urban Planning

4.1 Urban Planning

Urban planning is a field and profession that arose after 1900, primarily in industrial nations. A search began to find methods to ameliorate the negative physical and social conditions of the industrial revolution, especially in urban areas. The concept arose that a good social reality needs the support of a good physical reality, and that the latter can be achieved by adopting a plan for the physical layout of the urban place. The idea was born that one of the major products of local government should be a spatial plan for the physical environment of its geographical area of jurisdiction.

In time, it became evident that a spatial plan by itself could not adequately deal with problems in the physical, social, and environmental systems of urban areas. Theorists concluded that other ‘products’ of local government (such as rules to regulate traffic, pollution, housing, and employment) were needed to supplement a spatial plan. Today, a wide typology of both spatial and operational plans are in use, as governments around the world seek to improve the form and function of their urban places for a wide variety of reasons. The challenge of getting such plans approved and implemented is made greater by one peculiar characteristic of urban planning that makes it qualitatively different from the kind of planning that all other types of human organizations engage in.

Two observations make the point. First, an organization’s product is generally considered to be a creation that is extruded from the interior environment of the organization into its external environment. It is aimed at the exterior, not the interior, of the organization. Second, this product is much smaller in scale than its external environment, whether it be a battle plan for execution by a military organization, a computer or a software training program for sale by a business organization, or schools and police protection provided by a local government.

By contrast, the urban planning product is typically far larger in scale than these. More significantly, it is aimed, not externally, but internally—at the organization’s own members. In fact, it is a plan to govern an important part of the lifestyle of the entire human society for which the government is the management. Because this plan is so sweeping in its internal effect, getting it approved and implemented is far more difficult than is the case for the typical product plan in other organizations. It is more like the adoption of a labor–management agreement than the approval of a new automobile design.

4.2 Government Organizations

Other challenges to urban planning also arise because of the unique conditions under which government organizations must operate. These need some explanation. The mission of government organizations is generally to maintain a healthy and stable society. Typically, they consist of at least two tiers: national and local. National governments often face turbulent, complex, and hostile external environments, and tend to maintain a strong military function. For this and other reasons, most national governments seem to be organized structurally in the divisional model.

By contrast, local governments would seem to face less hostile challenges from their external environments, but, in fact, they must cope with some other conditions that are common to both national and local governments, and that may affect local governments more. The most significant of these are: (a) a limited managerial role within their organization (i.e., their constituency or society); (b) uncoordinated apex members; and (c) a culture of dissent. Together, these three conditions create a management situation of greater complexity than is the case for most nongovernmental organizations.

Regarding limits on governmental power, local governments are usually limited by statutes, in many more ways than is common for the management of nongovernmental organizations. This limitation of authority rests on a foundation of accepted social values, the most prominent of which are the importance given to protecting individual human rights (in democratic societies), and the importance given to protecting private economic markets (in capitalist societies).

Regarding uncoordinated apex members, democratic societies often create government structures that separate to various degrees the power of the board (the legislature) from the power of the executive (the president, governor, etc.), for the purpose of avoiding an excess concentration of power at the apex.

Regarding a culture of dissent, civil societies can often drift towards this end of the cultural spectrum for a variety of reasons, including problems created by the pace of technological change, or international relations, or changing human aspirations, or other sociological factors.

4.3 Urban Planning In Local Government

It is usual to find urban planning delegated to an APU, within a divisional local government structure. This APU inherits the same situational factors common to all APU’s in divisional structures, but in addition, must deal with the unique conditions outlined above. In sum, the APU must find a way to get approval and implementation of its product in the face of: (a) the enormous social impact of its product; (b) a culture of dissent; (c) limited authority of government generally; (d) a fractured apex; and (e) competition for power with other units of government. What are some alternative approaches?

4.4 Strategies For Urban Planning APU’s

The most direct approach of course, is to seek the approval of the apex, followed by the issuance of an apex command protocol throughout the organization. This approach has the merits of simplicity and efficiency, and can work well in situations where the scope of social change embraced by the plan is not too big, the cultural dissent level is not too high, the apex is not too uncoordinated, and the power struggle with other governmental units can be won. It fits well with the advocacy mode outlined earlier for the planning process method. Call this the ‘apex approach’ and the ‘stability scenario.’

A second approach has better chances of success when the social change gets bigger, the dissent level gets higher, the apex is more uncoordinated, and the internal power struggle outcome is uncertain. In this approach, the APU needs to shift its planning process to the participatory mode, and reach out early in the process to seek the participation and counsel of all the key managers and operators within the government structure, as well as key movers and shakers within the general society. Call this the ‘stakeholder approach’ and the ‘complexity scenario.’

A third approach may be necessary when the social change is very large, the dissent level is very high, the apex is seriously fractured, and the interagency power struggle is intense. In this approach, the APU expands the outreach scope of its participatory mode planning process to engage the support of as many individuals in the wider society as it can reach, on the theory that this third tier group may be persuaded to influence the stakeholders and the apex to approve and implement the plan produced by the APU. Call this the ‘constituency approach’ and the ‘conflict scenario.’

4.5 Relationship Of Organization To Strategy For Urban Planning APU’s

Where the charter of the APU does not specify the structure of the unit, the unit’s executive (usually called the planning director) can choose an organizational form. In small APU’s in a stability scenario, the prevailing practice seems to mirror the tendency of other organizations to adopt the divisional form and use the advocacy mode. In a small APU, the director is personally under a lot of external pressure, and, like a beleaguered military commander, may feel the need for internal secrecy and control, especially if the situational scenario shifts from stability to complexity or conflict.

In large APU’s, especially within a complexity scenario, there are benefits to adopting the decentralized form and using the stakeholder approach, but they depend on developing an internal cooperation culture. By setting up different units to plan for subsections of the society, the scale of the planning product becomes more manageable. With responsibility for product delegated, the director is under less immediate political pressure. The weakness of this approach only surfaces when there are insufficient resources to supply all the divisions with adequate technical knowledge, and/or the need arises to make the divisional plans consistent with each other from a larger perspective.

Conflict scenarios present the most difficult situations to deal with, especially if the technical or consistency component of the plans is important. It is dangerous to use the constituency approach, because the APU may lose apex support if the elected officials feel threatened by this outreach into their electorate. However, if the director can build an internal culture of cooperation sufficient to support a matrix form, it is possible to blend a set of procedures and products adequate to the challenge, but, it is no sure thing. In the final analysis, urban planning is an art, not a science—in administrative organization as well as urban form.


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