Independent of the above philosophies of planning, we may identify four different approaches to planning in actual practice in various organisations. These approaches are described as follows :
(a) Top-down approach :- As the name indicates, top management takes the initiative in formulating major objectives, strategies, policies and derivative plans in comprehensive manner and communities them down the line to middle and supervisory management levels for translating them into performance results. Managers other than those at top levels have little role in planning; they have only to concentrate on implementation and day-to-day control.
(b) Bottom-up approach :- This is a virtual reversal of the above approach in the sense that the plan proposals originate at the supervisory management level, travel up the management hierarchy in a step-by-step manner and reach the top management level for review and approval. In this approach top management gnerally refrains from giving any guidelines to lower management levels on what to plan and how.
(c) Composite approach :- Here the top management provides broad parameters and guidelines to line executives at middle and lower management levels, allows the needed flexibility and support to formulate tentative plans, which are reviewed and finalised by top management in consultation with all the managers at the appropriate levels. The approach is useful to evolve corporate-wide plans also, which partly draw inspiration from the planning ideas and perspectives generated at the lower level.
(d) Team approach :- In the approach, the task of planning is entrusted to a select team of managers, whether they are line managers or staff experts. The team functions under the leadership of the chief executive. It does not finalise plans as such but initiates the planning process, identifies the areas of problems and opportunities, examines the internal and external environment, collects information, solicits ideas and formulates tentative proposals for consideration by the chief executive. The team is used by the latter as his brains trust; it may even be asked to monitor the progress of plans and review performance.