Are strategic plans just for organizations? What about personal strategic plans? What about personal goal setting? Is this any different from having a bucket list, New Year’s resolutions?
Depending on their experience, people who have gone through strategic planning or goal setting in their workplace may have any one of a number of views about the process, ranging from applauding its value to despairing of its uselessness. Like anything that’s worth doing, strategic planning and goal setting are worth doing well. In fact, if it’s not done well, better not to do it at all. And once you have a finished plan, just as with all plans, it’s only as good as its implementation.
Several aspects of a strategic planning exercise can bring value to individuals, just as they can for organizations. You can benefit from:
- Taking the time to evaluate your current situation: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, risks.
- Creating a personal vision statement: who – or where – do you want to be in 5 years’ time?
- Developing long-term and short-term goals that will help you realize your personal vision statement.
- Identifying action items and a timeline to help you in achieving your goals.
- Prioritizing what you are going to do. You can’t do everything at once, even if you’re an organization!
- Determining what resources need to be in place to allow the action items to happen – time and money.
Some of the lessons I’ve learned from organizational strategic planning experiences:
- For organizations, getting buy-in into the plan and the ensuing implementation process is critical.
- One of the most important things a strategic plan tells you is what you’re NOT going to do. It allows you to say NO to things that have not made the priority list, such as, “Sorry, great idea, but it’s not in the Plan.” In other words, it helps you keep your focus.
- Completed strategic plans look nice, but they are just the starting point. Too many organizations don’t carry through with the plan part; you need to focus on the action items, timelines, resource allocation, and then, as Nike says, “Just do it.”
- Follow-up is important. Review your progress regularly. Don’t beat yourself up, but find a way forward. Regroup when necessary, but don’t give up.
- Make sure your short-term goals are S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
- Your plan or goals need to be revisited and possibly reset after a few years. Things change.
Why have I been thinking about this? It so happens that two of my own personal goals have reached a point at which they need to be revisited. One of these is about running and the other is about blogging, but I’ll stick to the topic of goal setting for now and save those musings for other posts. In the course of thinking about personal goal setting and its similarities with organizational strategic planning, I did my usual, I googled “goal setting”. Lo and behold, along with a raft of other links, up popped Lululemon. You just can’t get away from running and yoga, regardless of the topic. According to their website, Luluemon, the queen of yoga clothing but more importantly the maker of totally awesome winter running tops, considers goal setting an important part of their corporate culture. In their web page titled “Create your ideal life with goal setting” they explain that all employees are “encouraged to create a vision for their ideal life and to set personal, health and career goals to achieve that vision.” How enlightened is that? In fact, you can find some useful goal-setting tip sheets on the Lululemon web site. Check it out.
The reviewing and reflection that occurs during a strategic planning session provides real value to an organization in establishing a renewed vision and plan of action. If done properly, the process also provides an opportunity for all employees and partners to feel invested in the new vision and plan. The hope is that people jump on board with an increased understanding of what needs to be accomplished, how their individual contribution fits in, and, importantly, why.
For personal strategic plans – or goals – the opportunity is similar. In reflecting on where you want to be in 5 years, you may, for example, decide you want to run a marathon or complete a degree, write a novel or become a freelance photographer. Writing this down helps make it seem more real. The next step is making a list of action items that will get you there. After each action item, add a realistic completion target and whatever money may be required to complete the action. There you go; you’ve got your plan. Figure out what motivates you and keep that knowledge close at hand, right next to the pencil you use to check off your action items!
My own challenge is remembering why I started something in the first place once it takes on a life of its own. And does it still make sense? Time to reset my personal goals.
What about you? Do you stop and renew your personal goals from time to time? Do you make them in the first place?!