Strategic planning practices in manufacturing firms operating in Zimbabwe.
Chirima, Darlington Tinashe.
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Contemporary organisations from both the developed and the developing markets are increasingly embracing the practice of Strategic Planning hoping to derive superior performance levels. The study was prompted by managerial inadequacies and some gaps embedded in the existing body of knowledge on the Strategic Planning practices in manufacturing firms which have been crafted in the stable western markets. This study represents the first attempt to holistically document information on the Strategic Planning practices of firms in a hyper-volatile emerging economy, thus filling a gap that was embedded in the body of knowledge for a very long time. The study sought to explore how the four broad pillars of Strategic Planning (i.e. Environmental Analysis, Strategy Formulation, Strategy Implementation and Strategy Evaluation and Control) are conducted in Zimbabwe, as well as to determine the value of Strategic Planning to manufacturing firms. The adopted research context is not only unique, it is quintessentially a „moving laboratory‟ that provided an opportunity to examine the Strategic Planning practices and their resultant impact on firm performance. Following a positivist philosophy, the research design was descriptive and data collected were quantitative. After the pilot test, a total of 378 closed-ended questionnaires were distributed to a sample of 378 managers in 378 manufacturing firms in Harare, Zimbabwe. Stratified random sampling was used to pick 54 firms from each of the seven sectors under the manufacturing industries. Out of the 378 questionnaires sent out, 172 usable and valid questionnaires were collected, representing a 48% response rate. Some of the questionnaire scales were adopted from some previous classical works. The Cronbach alpha coefficients from the questionnaire‟s scales ranged from 0.730 to 0.943. Data was analysed by use of frequencies, means, T-tests, chi-square, regression and correlation analysis. Major findings from this study show that a significant number of manufacturing firms operating under conditions of increased turbulence have significantly shortened the time required to formulate a strategic plan. More so, the planning horizons have been seriously shortened to just one year. Out of all the Strategic Planning tools at the disposal of management, the study noted that the SWOT Analysis is the most widely used technique thus indicating the relative importance placed on the environment. Factors external to the firms were found to have the greatest bearing on Strategy Implementation initiatives of the manufacturing firms. Concerning the Environmental Scanning practices, Newspapers and Periodicals were the most frequently scanned information sources. The findings show that there is a moderate positive correlation between Perceived Environmental Uncertainty and Competitive Intelligence Acquisition. The results also indicate that Environmental Scanning is a significant predictor of firm performance. Overall, Strategic Planning Intensity is significantly and positively related to Managerial Expertise, Managerial Beliefs, Environmental Complexity and Level of Managerial Involvement. The relationship between Strategic Planning Intensity and Performance was found to be positive and significant. The study therefore encourages contemporary firms, both SMEs and large firms, to utilise the strategic management systems as they help them to closely align their operations to the turbulent environment and ultimately attain significant overall firm performances. Rather than maintaining the Strategic Planning initiatives fixed, the study recommends firms to adapt their Strategic Planning practices to their turbulent operating environments by encouraging more decentralisation, flexibility and informality of their Strategic Planning systems. To navigate the troubled turbulent environments and attain superior firm performance, firms need to be thorough and swift in their continuous intelligence acquisition efforts, planning processes, and carry along middle managers. Future research may address the „why‟ aspects through in-depth investigations using face to face interviews or focus groups and try to incorporate issues like cultural differences and leadership styles in the models. Where it is possible, objective performance measures may be used in similar studies. Besides filling the gap in the body of knowledge relating to the Strategic Planning practices of contemporary firms operating in turbulent environments, this study revealed practical issues management need to take note of. The study has uncovered a lot of current information on the Environmental Analysis, Strategy Formulation, Strategy Implementation and Strategy Evaluation and Control practices in firms operating in a turbulent developing environment. More so, as a way of contributing to the body of knowledge, study has developed a Strategic Planning model compatible with hyper-volatile environments especially in the developing world. The developed model advocates for what the researcher termed „The Advanced Planned-Emergent Model of Strategic Planning‟ which acknowledges the presence of both deliberate and emergent strategies in the organisation but demanding visionary leadership, greater flexibility, greater co-ordination, decentralisation, swiftness and adaptation in all the activities involved in the process.