I don't absolutely hate marigoldran's proposal but how would you show which planets are in what group at a glance on the tactical map and planet list? I think it has similarities with the proposal I made in one of eviators threads I've copied and posted it below with some tiny additional thoughts. My groups or "focuses" have set amounts of % production for manufacturing/research/wealth and could be more easily displayed on the map and in tables. They are also one click instead of fiddling with percentages and wheels that you need a flies compound eyesight to figure out instantly.
A Suicidal difficulty Let's Players proposal...
The game needs an economy system that has little micromanagement without dumbing down or sacrificing control over your empire too much.
Suicidal players tend to devote a 100% of production in one area until that job is done. This is the best strategy, this system would enable you to do that and reduce micro.
I would use an individual planet focus system to separate production (Manufacturing*/Research/Wealth Generation) each planet has to select one but you can select two possibly three. With one selected 100 percent two 50/50 three is 33/33/33 of production is split though why you would want to select three in a system where specializing planets is the best idea I don't know. You can change the focus of a planet whenever you like. I focus my planets 100% in one area almost always currently though sometimes two e.g. I want to finish a building/ship that turn and with leftover production do research (this is an area where a good player is forced into very time consuming micro to achieve the best results**). Losing a small amount of flexibility in regards of selecting exact percentage amounts wouldn't bother me, the micromanagement currently needed per turn for lots of planets is shocking due in great part to the horrendous percentage wheel system.
**Frankly I might prefer that only one production focus be allowed per planet that would be the best way to reduce micro!!!
*Manufacturing should probably still be split between social and military and I'd like the per planet slider for this to stay, since not every planet makes ships the micro isn't so pronounced and ship production is a vital part of the game that a player should be giving attention to. A fourth focus option could be the answer if you wanted to get rid of the slider. (Military/Social//Research/Wealth)
I actually NEVER use the global wheel in my suicidal games I think there's more reason to scrap that than a per planet system. Doing the opposite would dumb the game down too much even if it would reduce micro management... all management in fact... MOO3 and gaming hell comes to mind.
A focus system would have to be represented well in the UI. On the tactical map I would use colored icons adjacent to each planet to denote production focus (e.g. red hammer/blue flask/yellow or green dollar sign) perhaps also a colored haze/fog around the planets. The player should NOT have to enter the planet screen to set focus it should be able to be done elsewhere including the main screen right hand side planet list in addition to the planet screen. A one focus only allowed system would stand out more in regards of UI, 2 or 3 simultaneous focuses per planet would be harder to implement satisfactorily.
Options could be added to switch all planets to one focus in place of the global wheel and perhaps governors added that in general use the focus that a planets buildings and bonuses have been specialized towards.
Overall I think this system shouldn't be too hard to to implement, be intuitive and familiar to players, it would reduce the micro considerably without dumbing down the game and might even be fun to play as well