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Shapiro’s Definition of Plan Essay


From a simplified point of view, Shapiro does not provide a clear cut definition of plan but rather engages the term throughout his argument to an extent that the definition of the term is relatively dependent on certain variables such as the level at which you are using it. This kind of engagement is brought out when he indicates that his reference to plan is not the mental layout of activities that one may have. In most cases, we would be inclined to take plan as an outline of activities that are to be executed at a given time, in a given way.

In fact, he clearly points out that intentions are not a component element of planning. In other words intending doesn’t interpret to planning. However, from a wider scope of things he doesn’t provide a direct -easy to -quote or translate description of plan. He defines plans as proposed abstract ideologies that give the power, permission and authority to particular agents for execution in a certain stipulated manner and under provided circumstances.

A plan, therefore, is seen to be comprised of three key elements; the idea and the power to authorize.The agent, execution, implementation and circumstances are secondary but core components of a plan.

Analysis on The three Types of planning

In order to indulge in a healthy debate of the three types of planning, it is important to brief outline what each one entails from Shapiro’s point of view.

Individual Planning-The Summary

Here, the plan is seen to have various facets and determinants that will contribute to its overall application. First of all, the term “applying” of plans is used to refer to the process of carrying out or executing the plan.For of our argument, this explanation is important since we will use it in the context of this study.

At the individual level, the plan is seen to begin with the declaration of intention to undertake, by the person intending to carry it out. Secondly there is what the plan is comprised of or what Shapiro refers to as the “content of the plan.” There is also a decision on the circumstances under which the plan will be undertaken and finally there is the method by which the plan will be undertaken also referred to as the “how.”

It is also noted that the planner is not necessary the person who executes the plan, although he or she is largely involved in its development throughout. Similarly, the plan may, under certain circumstances, be “inapplicable”. At this point the plan is found not to allow, by way of permitting or authorizing.the planner, to do anything. In other words the plan is not executable.

Shapiro further argues that the application of a plan or failure to apply it subjects the planner to a level of criticism. Further, the planner is not supposed to engage into the interrogation of the pro and cons of the plan, since, as he points out, the plan has already done the thinking and it would be baseless to repeat by way of deliberation.

We are also introduced to the connection between a norm and a plan. In this context, a norm is looked at as an object used to pave way or guide while acting as a measure of standard. A norm therefore is seen to play the bigger role of evaluation. Once an individual places himself under a plan, he is seen to be guided by a norm that requires him to apply that plan accordingly.

Thus, the extent to which the plan is executed will be evaluated as according to the norm.A complete plan, he argues, permits and gives authority to and individual and in an equal measure its execution and the effectiveness of the individual are evaluated.

The individual can be said to believe and trust in his own judgment to be able to execute this plan since there is no consultation. Whether his judgment turns out to be appropriate, inappropriate, and trustworthy or not, can only be seen once this plan is evaluated.The executer is solely entitled to use his trustworthiness to execute the plan.

Planning for Small Scale-Shared Activities

This kind of planning has been outlined primarily in three levels. There is the basic planning that may involve about two people, which Shapiro callsmy part and your part”, then there is planning for the group and thirdly, there is the complex, contentious, arbitrary kind of planning.

My part and your part type of planning are generally characterized by deliberation. Simply put, once the decision to partner is made, then it is important to know who plays what role and how. This planning largely invokes organizational behavior where the most important aspect that contributes to the execution of the plan can be said to be an understanding of the role of each participant

Planning for a group involves sharing of the intention to undertake the given task with all the participants. Here the energies of each participant and their abilities will come into play and whatever action may be taken at any one give time cannot be looked into solely but must be in collaboration with either all other contributions or a part of them. For this reason the actions and activities of the group must be coordinated.

To this extent, all deliberations that might take place must be rational since the action of one individual is largely dependent on the action of all other participants.

Shapiro points out that the inability of participants to trust one another in proper decision making may hamper the whole planning procedure. Other factors like personal preferences, individual knowledge and understanding become key contributors to the direction the plan takes.For group planning, the most important aspect is to share with others the most applicable and profitable choices.

Planning for complex issue is more or less attached to being knowledgeable and skilled on the matter for which planning is required. For instance, allocation of resources for a nation will require substantial consideration of factors that will inform decisions as to how much of what goes where. It is easy to say that this is not an issue on which all factors may be fully considered but rather a number of factors may be picked out to guide decisions. To do so requires skills

The contentious issues will tend to lean on personal preferences or the weight of its complexity. Planning comes in handy to iron out the disagreements that may arise as a result of dissatisfaction caused by any other factor.

Arbitrary planning tends to provide a solution to issues that may be raised from complexity and contentious planning, by providing a methodology to be used to navigate through the plan. The group will therefore have reached some equilibrium by agreeing to some plan.

Group planning is more likely to exhibit characteristics of mistrust where individuals will want to front and advocate for what they judge to be right. It will be observed that in group planning the actions of all the participants are driven first by individual expectations before they can be harmonized to a level where they are acceptable to all. This is to say that by agreeing to implement a plan to a certain degree, the participants have trusted the opinions of one another and have picked those that are most appropriate in their opinion.

Shared Plan and Shared Agency

To what extent a plan is executable in a group setting is heavily dependent on its acceptability, where, the acceptability of the plan means that members involved in executing the plan have agreed to contribute to this course. Shapiro notes that for a group to share a plan they must be involved from the time of its conception or designing.either partially or wholly. This will involve the incorporation of their ideas and active participation and it is only to this end that the plan will be shared.

Formulating a plan for the group does not necessarily mean that each member s has to play an active role in the group. This role may be left to one member or a number of members but still, there is the participation of all other group members by extension.

There is then the important part of the agency executing the plan. If the designing of the plan is basically a joint venture by all the members of the group, then the members become part of the agency through which the plan will be primarily executed.

Shared plans make it easier for participants to know their particular roles and areas of participant should play a role. The two fundamental factors that seem to determine whether or not there will be shared plan and shared agency are existence of this plan that seeks to be executed and then the participants must be willing to take place in the execution of plan which then calls for them to be able to amicably settle their differences.

A key point to note here is that it would be difficult to execute a plan if there are no shared interests. Shared interests here mean that there is will, ability and agreement to undertake a particular plan.

It is an effective way of coming up with ideologies that can be shared, vetted and weighed by participants before deciding whether or not they are to be carried out.

On a closer look, one will outline some characteristics of what was discussed earlier in group planning at the level of shared plan and agency planning. From another angle, it is a composite of group planning and therefore, issues of trust and mistrust are bound to occur and be dealt with in more or less the same way.

Distrusts among players in this category will most likely lead to further deliberation or abortion of the whole process. Trust is what seems to hold these players together and the process has to be open and known to them through all the stages. Shapiro thus observes that there has to be mechanisms within the planning system that has been put in place to deal with possible conflicts that may arise as a result of the inadequacies of individuals.

The Analysis

Although all the three types of planning share common ideologies like following a procedure, each of them does exhibit its own characteristics. For instance, individual planning is solely dependent on the preferences of the idea originator up until such a time when he may contemplate bringing on board any other participant. Even then, there has to be a shared objective for these individuals to collaborate in the execution of the plan.

Shapiro observes that planning is not an activity or undertaking that occurs in empty space. It takes place in a stipulated frame work and the planner engages first in a process of contemplating or internalizing the necessity of following a certain undertaking. This means that even before the plan is executed, the planner follows some procedure, either consciously or unconsciously.

The above ideology applies across all levels of planning and tends to determine how the process of executing a plan is undertaken. It is notable that by contemplating on the idea whether at the individual or group level you tend to come up with an outline that dictates the direction and the course the process takes. It can be seen as the fundamental foundation of execution of a plan.

The application of plan can also be said to be procedural whereby the planner first decides that they want to indulge in some activity and there after a set of undertakings that are all aimed at ensuring the appropriate execution of the plan do follow. The procedure therefore forms an integral part of the execution of the whole plan and any defaults that may occur at this level are likely to be reflected in the outcome. There is also the important aspect that focuses on looking at evaluating the plan.

Several factors will contribute to the proper execution of the plan. One of these factors is individual preference, skills and knowledge particularly at the group level.It is here that Shapiro points out the possibility of occurrence of trust or mistrust. In a group set up. Trust will be crucial in directing the behavior of members to one another.

We might be in agreement that group planning seems to present a challenge in its execution for it has to involve a lot of deliberation. How members of a given set up deal with individual likes and dislikes to ensure that execution of the plan is smooth is another debate all together. The common interest of executing the plan becomes a test for individual interests and beliefs.

As noted, evaluating the plan is of importance and it can be used to find out where there might have occurred some mishaps. The individual planner and executer are likely to trace his steps faster, in case he points out defaults, than a group of collective planners and executers. In fact, in the case of group planning, the process of evaluation may in itself become controversial and arbitrary. However, the results of the evaluation may only be remedial since the process is only evaluated after execution.


Shapiro’s arguments provide an insight into what and how decisions can and are influenced. They tend to outline deliberate and controlled system that can be used to make up conclusions or influence an outcome. By arguing that the plans are procedural, Shapiro seems to explain why, for instance, court decisions follow a particular well channeled course, which involves among other things variables like players and time. This is an important background especially in understanding and interpreting the law since it helps one to apply these processes.

Shapiro has sharply pointed out that plans are not carried out in a vacuum, From a lay man’s point of view plans maybe looked as systems that operate from an un- described realm rather than taking place in a real world and involving influential players, who depending on their stake and the role they play in the whole plan execution process determine the end results of the planning process.

An incredibly well laid out fact is the idea that plans are measureable and evaluable. The idea of having plans is not just to have them executed. They must be executed following the right procedure, in consultation with the appropriate stakeholders and more importantly what comes out of the procedure must be evaluated. Perhaps we may lay more emphasis on the evaluation part because it simply talks of results.

The world we live in largely dependent on the end product- results. Therefore, when the planning process is evaluated it must be seen to have achieved or failed to achieve the anticipated results, At this point players will ask questions that explain why a certain outcome was observed out of a given process. In this regard, Shapiro succeeds as he tries to explain why questions emerge out of stipulated processes.

He also points out the role of conflicts in influencing a process. By pointing out that a process will be influenced by the participant involved one way or the other, he is engaging us in understanding the role of personal interests and how these interests may influence decisions.

Trust and mistrust seem to coexist and have their stake in the whole planning process. In fact, Shapiro lays emphasis on the need to put in place correctional mechanisms if there are suspicions or expectations of occurrence of mistrust. This is way the process is likely to be executed as per the expected.

All in all, Shapiro’s theory is deficient in some aspects, For instance, while addressing the issue of individual planning, he doesn’t point out other factors that may influence the planning process of the individual. The only thing he makes mention of is the environment in which the plan is being designed.

As in much as an individual may incorporate all the right components of the planning process, we can right point out there are several other factors that will be key in determining the outcome of the process other than a group of other participants. Time, for example is a factor whose contribution Shapiro could have demonstrated.

Shapiro also seems convinced that a plan can only be evaluated by its results or at the final most conclusion of its process. However, we may argue that the progress of a plan may be in itself a way of measuring the prospective outcome when the whole process has taken its course, or may as well be used to influence decisions like halting the process. In other words, a process may be weighed at several intervals within its process of application, a point that is not captured in this theory.


By far and large, Shapiro has demonstrated strategically why decisions follow a given direction. His contribution is an essential parameter that can be used to measure human behavior towards certain systems. By understanding this theory one can be able to question why how, and the major provisions that inform human characteristics, particularly in legal issues.

Court decisions and the interrogation of the evidence provided can be studied by looking at from Shapiro’s perspective where, events, reactions and counter-reactions can be studied to reach to a certain agreement.The theory is hence highly adaptable especially in law studies.

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