May 1, 2017 • 9 minute read • by Saeed
Companies have strategic plans so why not you?
No matter the technique, any strategic planning process is about getting from Point A to Point B. You do this by first defining Point A (identifying where you are now) and then defining Point B (identifying where you want to be in the future). Then you develop strategies that will be your road map from one point to the next. What follows below is a classic organizational strategic planning technique adapted for personal development.
Now, let’s get started. Write down the headings I use below and follow the instructions under each category. Let’s do this.
- Vision: the “what”
Your vision statement is your north star – a mental picture of what your future self may look like. As the sun does to a flower, your vision statement should pull you towards your optimal desired future state. It should be inspirational and focused on what you want to achieve over time.
Ikea’s vision is to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
Amazon’s vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
- Mission: the “why”
Your mission statement should provide a top-level answer to the essential question: Why do I exist?
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
Having a personal mission statement brings clarity and purpose to your life. Employees often can’t remember the company’s mission statement. That’s because they’re usually all-things-to-all-people word salads. A mission statement should be a concise statement of What you do, Who you do it for , and How you do it. Too hard to write or remember? Try creating a mantra or adopt a favorite quote that guides your personal and professional life.
- Goals: the “where to”
A goal is a specific target, a destination, an end result or something to be desired. It is a major step in achieving your vision. Ideally, each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (a.k.a S.M.A.R.T.). You could have one or several goals to achieve your vision: lose weight, gain weight, whatever. A charity might want to increase donations by 20% in one year, or maybe increase community engagement through social media by 10% the next. You get the idea. But remember The Law of Diminishing Returns: The more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve them. One goal distracts from another, leaving you less likely to accomplish anything. In goal setting, quality, not quantity is what counts.
Finally, take your resources into account as well as those things that might facilitate the achievement of your goals or be a barrier to realizing them.
- Strategies: the “how”
This is where the fun begins. Each goal should have 1-3 strategies. This is what you will do to reach your goal. Be sure to separate the things that must absolutely be done this year, from the things that would be nice to have, but aren’t urgent. Save those for years two and three. For now, just think what concrete action or set of actions needs to be taken tomorrow, to reach your goal?
Our hypothetical charity might create celebrity partnerships to support their programs or invest in optimizing the website to increase online giving. What about you?
- Key performance indicators and targets: the “how much”
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to measure your progress towards your goals. You may have heard the famous management axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Your metrics will ultimately let you know whether or not your strategic plan was effective.
The target is the number you need to reach to achieve your goal. In the examples above, the target is directly integrated into the goal statement: 20% for the increase in donations, 10% for the growth in community engagement.
Let’s look at some examples of personal and professional goals with associated KPIs:
Personal Goals & KPIs:
Goal 1 – Read more: KPI 1 – # of non-work related books I read each month.
Goal 2 – Exercise more. KPI 2 – # of times I go jogging each week.
Goal 3 – Play more: KPI 3 – # of fun things I do every day.
Professional Goals & KPIs:
Goal 1 – Read more: KPI 1 – # of work related articles I read each week.
Goal 2 – Improve typing skills: KPI 2 – # of typing classes I attend each month.
Goal 3 – Improve public speaking skills: KPI 3 – # of presentations conducted each year.
- Self-Assessment: the “let’s get real”
No strategic planning process would be worth its salt without a good Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (a.k.a S.W.O.T.) assessment. The first two are usually internal and the second two are usually external.
Draw a grid like the one you see on the left and in the individual quadrants write your:
- Strengths: the (internal) attributes you possess that will help advance your plan.
- Weaknesses: the (internal) attributes you possess that will hinder your plan.
- Opportunities: the (external) conditions that may advance your plan.
- Threats: the (external) conditions that may hinder your plan.
Strategic inquiry – Now ask:
- How can I Use each Strength?
- How can I Stop each Weakness?
- How can I Exploit each Opportunity?
- How can I Defend against each Threat?
- Putting it all together “the personal strategic plan”
If you did all of the above, you’ve managed to complete a personal assessment, develop a vision for the future, craft goals and related strategies to move towards that future in a systematic way, and establish metrics for your progress. Bravo! Those are all the essential elements of a strategic plan and therefore essential elements of your personal development plan. Now, comes the hard part.
The devil in any plan is always in the execution.
©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.
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