OWL Magazine Korea

The Essence of Planning by Gil Young-ro: “What is Planning?”

In the course of our lives, there comes a time when we engage in “planning.” Particularly in the corporate world, there are occasions when we find ourselves drafting “plans.”

Almost all activities within a company are based on “plans.” After formulating a plan to do something, it undergoes review, and if deemed feasible, it proceeds.

“What is Planning?”

However, before writing such plans, it’s crucial to understand what “planning” really entails. The likelihood of someone who has never written a plan before producing a good one is significantly low.

In the book “What is Planning?” by Gil Young-ro, planning is explored extensively. Given the subtitle “The Complete Guide to Planning in One Volume,” it’s a recommended read for anyone venturing into planning for the first time.

“The Importance of Terminology Definition”

Before delving into planning, the author emphasizes the importance of “terminology definition.” The author asserts that “terminology definition” is fundamental to everything because while words may have commonality, they lack uniformity.

Clearing up appropriate terms can serve as the starting point for logic, making it essential to accurately define and understand terms. Therefore, the concept of “definition” is elaborated on first.

Definition consists of a genus and differentia, where the genus is where the definition belongs, and the differentia discusses the distinctions within the genus. For example, when we say humans are rational animals, “animal” is the genus, and “rational” is the differentia.

Summarizing this:

  • Definition: Genus + Differentia
  • Genus: Where the definition belongs
  • Differentia: Differences within the genus
    • Example: Humans are rational animals.
      • Genus: Animal
      • Differentia: Rational

“Intrinsic Definition vs. Manipulative Definition”

The author continues to discuss terminology definitions, dedicating significant time to this aspect. This underscores the importance of “defining terms” before embarking on planning, likely applicable not only to planning but to all other fields of study as well. In definitions, there are “intrinsic definitions” and “manipulative definitions,” each with its own distinctions.

  • Intrinsic Definition: Etymological, philosophical, or dictionary definitions
  • Manipulative Definition: Definitions devised to explain something to others

“What is Planning?”

It’s time to define the term “planning.” How can we define “planning”? The author defines planning as follows:

  • Planning: Clearly defining what needs to be done and why.
  • Manipulative Definition of Planning: Devising plans that reflect the planner’s intention to utilize the essential competencies of the executor by analyzing and considering relevant environmental factors to achieve individual objectives in a changing environment.

While “planning” and “planning” are similar terms, there’s a distinction between the two:

  • Planning: Plays a role in setting objectives.
  • Plan: Seeks concrete methods to execute planned objectives.

“Difference between Problem and Issue”

The book also dedicates time to defining “problem” and “issue,” similar terms but with distinct definitions:

  • Problem: The difference between the desired state and the current state that requires resolution.
  • Issue: The cause of the problem, something from which countermeasures can be devised.

“Are Purpose and Objective the Same or Different?”

Purpose and objective, though similar, are differentiated as follows:

  • Purpose: The reason for the existence of something. (Aristotle’s definition)
  • Objective: Describes a desirable level to be reached or achieved within a certain period. (Requires setting a timeframe and level.)

“What is the Difference between Fact and Fact?”

While “Fact” is translated into Korean as “사실,” the author defines “Fact” as follows:

  • Fact: Actual events or existing situations.
  • Truth: Facts without falsehoods.
  • Fact: Something that can be proven or disproven, making the confirmation of the truthfulness of “Fact” crucial.

During the Imjin War, General Yi Sun-sin issued the following orders to his soldiers:

  • “Report what you see as you saw it, and report what you heard as you heard it.
  • Distinguish between what you saw and what you heard.
  • Do not report anything that you did not see or hear.”

Thus, the author emphasizes that inference based on “Fact” is crucial in planning operations.

“When planning, there are only three provable facts,” the author says. These are “background information, information about the phenomenon, and information about the cause,” with the following definitions:

  • Background information: The state of attention surrounding the phenomenon.
  • Information about the phenomenon: The current state as it is.
  • Information about the cause: Events or incidents that cause changes or states of things.

“Basic Structure of a Plan Document”

Based on the definitions of terms and facts, a plan document should be written. The plan document takes the form of analyzing facts and then presenting opinions through inference, divided into three main parts:

  1. Client Block: Clarifying what the client’s needs or superiors’ demands are (Fact Block).
  2. Concept Block: Connecting the client’s thoughts with those of the practitioners, summarizing how to address the tasks clarified in the client block.
  3. Planner Block: An opinion block where specific thoughts on how to address the tasks clarified in the client block are considered, including the thoughts of the practitioners.

“Problem-solving Planning Process”

While there can be various types of planning, the process for problem-solving planning follows the following steps:

  1. Direction of Planning
    1. Clarification of Purpose – Determination of the planning title
    2. Example: (For…)
  2. Needs Analysis
    1. Analyzing the background and the phenomenon
    2. Analysis and organization of “Facts”
      1. Horizontal Law – MECE
      2. Vertical Law – So What / Why So
  3. Clarification of problems and tasks – Develop logical storylines

“1. Direction of Planning”

The first task is to determine the direction of planning. This involves collecting data to clarify the reasons for planning and understanding any changes indicated by the data.

It’s crucial to clearly define the purpose and title of the planning. Short titles that clearly express the purpose and scope are preferred.

To aid in this process, it’s important to think in a goal-oriented manner. Asking questions like “Why do we need to do this?” and “What benefit will we gain from doing it?” can be helpful.

“2. Needs Analysis”

The second task is to analyze the needs. This involves analyzing the background and the phenomenon.

Organizing and analyzing commonalities among various “Facts,” following a pyramid structure, is used as an analytical method.

Two laws are needed for this process: the “horizontal and vertical laws.” The vertical law, represented by “So What / Why So,” states that items vertically positioned in the pyramid should each become a cause and effect. The horizontal law, represented by “MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive),” is a tool to prevent overlap and omission.


  • A
    • A-1
    • A-2
    • A-3
  • B
    • B-1
    • B-2
    • B-3
  • C
    • C-1
    • C-2
    • C-3

Items should be stacked in a pyramid-like manner, following the “MECE” principle. The relationship between “A” and “A-1” should serve as each other’s “cause and effect.”

The conclusions drawn through needs analysis can be achieved through the following process, with the facts being the core, and the planner’s thoughts only being involved in the development of concepts and proposed solutions.

  1. Phenomenon Analysis (Facts): Weight of 96kg
  2. Impacts
    1. Concerns about adult diseases
    2. Knee joint strain
    3. Deterioration of appearance
    4. Decline in popularity among female employees
  3. Cause Analysis (Facts): Excessive alcohol consumption every day
  4. Background Analysis (Facts)
    1. Obesity = adult diseases
    2. Abdominal obesity = culprit of sudden death
  5. Goal: Reduce weight to 80kg within a year
  6. Purpose Validation: Protect knee joints
  7. Expected Effects
    1. Adult disease management
    2. Appearance recovery
    3. Regaining popularity among female employees
  8. Planning Task: Reduce weight by 16kg within a year
  9. Concept Development
  10. Proposed Solutions (Focused on Specific Activities)
    1. Targeting the causes can be a method here.
    2. Targeting obstacles (prolonged causes) and major factors hindering goal achievement or targeting opportunity factors can also be methods.
  11. Execution Plan: Set schedules, assign responsibilities, and allocate budgets.
  12. Expected Issues during Execution: Develop preventive measures and formulate responses when issues arise.

“3. Clarification of Problems and Tasks”

After clarifying the problems and tasks, a logical storyline is created for development. This section corresponds to items 9-12 mentioned above.

It’s desirable to identify the phenomenon, analyze the causes, set tasks, devise countermeasures, and anticipate a bright future.

“Setting Concepts”

It’s important to set concepts well and proceed in the direction of achieving them. The operational definition of a concept is as follows:

  • Fundamental definition of a concept: Commonly held thoughts (Con: common, Cept: held)
  • Operational definition of a concept: A one-sentence expression of the solution to the task clearly defined through phenomenon analysis

Ultimately, a main concept is created, and sub-concepts are developed below it, ensuring that the connection between small and large concepts is made.

A checklist to confirm whether sub-concepts are well-formulated includes:

  • Is it what the customer wants?
  • Is it differentiated from competitors?
  • Does it align with our company’s strategy?
  • Can we discern what’s right and good?
  • Can we see the direction to go?
  • Can we identify the mission and role?
  • Are company resources, such as funds and talent, being used well?
  • Is there no bias?
  • Can employees work diligently?
  • Is it easy to read and understand?
  • Does it make sense?

After creating such concepts, the process is advanced by planning and executing plans.

“Hypothesis-Verification Planning Process Methodology”

Following the problem-solving planning process, the author also introduces the hypothesis-verification process methodology. While typically used when attempting something new, it can also be used when there is insufficient data to investigate.

“Methods for Verifying Hypotheses”

The methods for verifying hypotheses include “experimentation, discussion, and analysis.”

  1. Experimentation: Literally experimenting.
  2. Discussion: Verification is done through questioning “Why?” in a manner that leads to further questions.
  3. Analysis:
    1. Quantitative analysis
    2. Qualitative analysis

“Issue Tree”

The basic tool used for hypothesis-verification planning is the “Issue Tree” used by McKinsey & Company.

For businessmen, an “issue” refers to “subjects or areas that need to be confirmed in order to solve problems,” according to the author.

Issues are best formulated in the form of interrogative sentences, and questioning “How can we solve the problem?” is recommended.

Two methods can be used to branch out hypotheses, one focusing on causal hypotheses and the other on solution hypotheses.

Branching out horizontally while adhering to the “MECE” analysis to prevent overlap and omission is also important.

“Issue Tree for Admiral Yi Sun-sin’s Long-Distance Artillery Battle”

Admiral Yi Sun-sin achieved great success in naval battles during the Imjin War through “long-distance artillery battles.” When planning  such a battle, the “Issue Tree” was employed to verify hypotheses.

The following “Issue Tree” was created:

  • Can the enemy be determined?
  • Can it be identified that there is no escape route?
  • Can it be identified whether the enemy can be attacked from behind?
  • Can it be determined whether the enemy is willing to move to a nearby anchorage?

Based on the “Issue Tree,” it was determined that the enemy could be identified through reconnaissance and surveillance, that there was no escape route due to surrounding reefs, and that the enemy could be attacked from behind by capitalizing on the high tide.

“The Basics of a Plan Document”

A plan document should be written based on these three parts:

  1. Client Block: The author’s and clients’ backgrounds.
  2. Concept Block: Making connections with the thoughts of the client.
  3. Planner Block: Opinions of the planner based on the phenomenon.

“Checklist for Formulating Concepts”

A checklist for formulating concepts includes the following questions:

  1. Is it what the client wants?
  2. Is it differentiated from competitors?
  3. Does it align with our company’s strategy?
  4. Can we discern what’s right and good?
  5. Can we see the direction to go?
  6. Can we identify the mission and role?
  7. Are company resources, such as funds and talent, being used well?
  8. Is there no bias?
  9. Can employees work diligently?
  10. Is it easy to read and understand?
  11. Does it make sense?

This ensures that the concepts formulated meet the necessary criteria for successful planning.

“What is Planning?” by Gil Young-ro