The study of planning theory has greatly contributed to my understanding of decision-making processes and policy decisions; theory has greatly shaped how I approach planning problems and tackle large projects that require a level of analysis and decision-making. While discussion surrounding theory is inherently philosophical, it is still helpful in choosing how to approach a particular problem and arrive at a solution. The three major planning theories- rationalism, incrementalism and mixed-scanning- all offer frameworks for approaching certain planning issues, each having their proponents and critics. Early in my planning career and research, the mixed-scanning approach has become a particularly favorable methodology in my work for varying reasons, which will be explored later in this essay.
The rational model in planning theory utilizes a “means-ends” schema where a goal is clearly defined and justified by the most appropriate actions (Banfield, 1). Following scientific methodology, each possible solution to the problem and each alternative is considered in great detail. Under this methodology, the decision-maker has a high level of control over the entire decision-making process (Etzioni,
1967, 385) and is assumed to have “unqualified power and wisdom” which will lead to the most appropriate decision (Etzioni 1989, 123). The rational model provides a framework for approaching complex planning problems, but is difficult to implement due to its meticulous identification and analysis of each possible alternative. The rational model posits that data will always lead to the most rational decision, when on the contrary “information is not the same as knowledge” (Etzioni 1989, 123). An excess of data might be collected and thoroughly analyzed in this process but individual and collective knowledge, which is extremely important in decision-making, is overlooked.
A more implementable and less grievous model in planning theory, incrementalism, is largely...