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What is a strategic plan and how can it be used for personal development?
Strategy is the conceptual framework that produces tactics. When we get a strategy together – or a way to do something – it helps us get a clear idea of what the tactics can be to get us to where we want to go.
Here’s an example, in a business context using a car dealership as the use case:
- Strategy: sell to the cash-rich but capital-poor younger, professional market
- Tactics: offer loan agreements, sell the types of cars that are appropriate for this group, advertise in marketing materials that they read or listen to (magazines, television shows, podcasts, etc.)
(Actions are connected here, too, but for now, start by thinking about your personal development strategy vs. tactics.)
But let’s take it outside of a business (or non-profit) framework, and see if a business plan can apply to our personal development as well!
Step 1: If your strategy is focused on personal and/or professional growth, it may be helpful to step back a bit and really consider what “success” would look like.
It’s easy to think in non-measurable terms or emotion-backed statements like “I want others to see me as a leader,” or “I want to take on more responsibilities” but those just aren’t clear enough to map tactics – and later, actions – to the plan.
Instead, your strategic plan might be more measurable: “I want to be promoted within the next six months,” or “I want to make $2,500 a month via my side hustle, starting in 90 days.”
Once you do that, sit with it for a short while. Does it still sound fun? If it’s scary, is it the good kind of scared where your adrenaline is pumping and you can’t wait to start, or is your plan too far away from what you can reasonably achieve in the coming weeks and months?
Step 2: Understand what you can’t understand.
20:20 forward vision is no guarantee of future success, whether you’re mapping a business strategic plan OR a plan more focused on your personal and professional development.
There are questions you simply can’t answer right now:
- What will the market do next year?
- What will my competitors do next year?
- How will the economy fare?
- What new technological or legislative or social events will impact my industry in the next 12 months?
These and the thousand other questions that all of us use to start the strategic planning process are perfectly well and good as just that – starting points.
The mistake comes in how we respond to the answers. We often discover (too late) that we simply don’t have the capacity to do so.
Step 3: Consider your bandwidth — or more importantly, your “capacity deficit”.
As Les McKeown shares here, a capacity deficit can be caused by three main factors:
- Time (or bandwidth)
When a team is reviewing and implementing a strategic plan, the appropriate question would be “can this team execute successfully?” But since this is a plan focused around your own growth, the question becomes “can I execute successfully?”
Tip: it’s helpful to know and/or review your Predictable Success Leadership Style or styles mix at this point. Whether you’re a Visionary, Operator, Processor or Synergist, or a mix of more than one style, understanding your innate gifts as well as your weaknesses is critically important! Not sure what your style is? Find out by clicking the link below!
I encourage you to write out all of the things that could impact your strategic plan’s success.
(From here, you get to choose what to do – perhaps just thinking about them will alleviate any angst or stress you have. Or if there are any that truly would derail your work, you can use this to pay even more close attention to your market and audience to see when/if there are changes that may impact you.)
Your “capacity deficit” is essentially an acknowledgment of what could derail you from successfully mapping out and implementing the tactics that are connected to your strategy. And to know your challenges is to know how to resolve or work around them.
Step 4: Set yourself up for success.
How does the timing of your strategic plan impact the success you might have?
The actual process of making a strategic plan (whatever that looks like for you – a notebook and your thoughts or months of data collection and a formal review) has a clear start, middle and end.
No matter when you work on this – if you skip one of the stages, the whole thing will fall apart.
But particularly at the end of the year (Q4), we tend to make sweeping plans and get caught up in the fresh, clean, “new year-new you” excitement that the next calendar year provides.
And so, we start strong and either limp to the finish line or never finish at all.
You know the saying “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is today”? It applies to your personal and professional growth planning as well.
There’s no perfect time. But if you’re serious about seeing it through – make sure you give yourself the time and energy to complete it.
Additional Inspiration and Reading:
Note: portions of this post may have previously appeared on predictablesuccess.com and/or Inc.com.