03 February 2014

Strategic Planning Isn’t Just For Organizations

Perhaps you have had an opportunity in your work to lead or be part of creating an organization’s strategic plan. The plan, if used properly, is intended to help steer the organization’s work over a certain time period. Similarly, some of my clients create a personal strategic plan at the beginning of each year to do much the same thing – their plan helps guide their personal and professional lives. When used correctly, it provides an anchor for them to connect back to when things change and new opportunities arise.

The best and most relevant, personal strategic plan is tailored to focus on what matters most to you. Typically, a plan encompasses career issues (i.e. ongoing development in your current role, raised visibility in your field, or a job change), finances, health, and key relationships. However, it is fine to include additional topics that are important to you, such as new adventures, travel, or spiritual development.

Here are six steps for creating your own personal strategic plan:

Step 1 – Find time: During the first few weeks of the New Year to break away from your day-to-day duties and responsibilities and dream about your year and what you want to accomplish.

Step 2 – Clarify your values: What do you value most in your life? It is usually easy to identify the first few (e.g. family, health, happiness), but you need to dig deeper for the purposes of a personal strategic plan. Think carefully about what else you truly value and want to honor in the coming year. Consider leadership roles at your organization or your community, close relationships and connectivity at both personal and professional levels, recognition or greater influence, time, freedom and flexibility, life/work balance or integration, personal growth, new challenges, wealth, service, and meaningful work.

Step 3 – Create your mission statement: This is a brief written statement, just a sentence or two, which is based on the values you want to honor. It is not intended to redefine who you are. Rather, it serves as a reminder of your life’s purpose. Your statement is a valuable touchstone that you can reference throughout the year and use to help guide your behavior and inform your decisions.

Step 4 – Do a SWOT analysis on yourself: What are your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Who could provide you with honest feedback regarding your strengths and weaknesses? What is the forecast for the coming year’s economic realities, both the good and the bad, as they relate to your life and your work?

Step 5 – Create your goals: As a last step, you should identify goals that align with the core values you identified earlier. For example, if you identified professional growth or leadership opportunities as values, you could include a career-related goal on your list. Under each goal, include specific action steps and a timeframe. Please note that your goals can be broad (i.e. grow my career), but your action steps must be specific and time-limited (i.e. get a new job in 1stQ 2014). I strongly recommend limiting the number of goals and action steps so you can take a realistic approach to what you will accomplish this year. Three to four goals with one to two actions steps under each is doable.

Step 6 – Determine what support you need to stay accountable to your plan: Identifying an accountability partner (perhaps a colleague or good friend) can help you stick to your plan. Agree on a time to check in (could be a 10-minute call every other Friday) or on your own schedule a time weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to review your personal strategic plan and allow for modifications.

Here are some final tips based on my observation of what my most successful clients do:

  • Plan and focus on what is within your control, as opposed to focusing on things you cannot control, such as the economy or what your boss does or does not do;
  • Highlight the positive outcomes change will bring as opposed to looking at what you will be giving up, such as moving towards good health versus losing weight;
  • Reduce your plans rather than over-commit, and take daily actions, even if they are small, to make things happen.

Creating a personal strategic plan can be transformative. The key is to be patient with yourself and know you are moving in the right direction. Some changes happen quickly while other habits take a whole lot longer to stick.

Cheers to a wonderful 2014!

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