The Power of Personal Planning - Part 4

Over the last 3 newsletters, we have introduced the concepts and important guidelines behind driving your plan down to the personal level. In this edition, I will lay out a step-by-step approach to create a relevant and compelling plan of your own.

I suggest you start with a basic template to collect your thoughts and includes the summary sheet that you will use every single week. I now have hundreds of people, spread over several clients, producing a personal plan and using the template weekly.

Even without the template, you can just open up a blank Word document and get started. You can even use paper and pen if you prefer...but you must write something down, or it's not a plan.

Step One
Remember, we are trying to create real and relevant links between the strategy of your organization and the actions you take every day, so you need to start with your organization's strategy. This newsletter is about personal planning, so I am going to assume you have a solid strategy to work with. First, take a look at the vision statement for your organization, or better yet, your division or team, if one exists. Boil it down to the key components that are relevant to you and your work and write them under "Practical Vision" in the template. I'm hoping you can take your organization's vision and make it more practical and measurable. If you look back at Part 2 of this newsletter series, think of the example of finding that single metric and stating what success will look like in the future. You now need to use your organization's vision to tease out a series of short statements and measures that describe what the organization should look like in practical terms at some specific point in the future. Put those statements in the practical vision session, and insert the date of the vision where it belongs.

Step Two
Again, I hope that your organization's strategy (to achieve the vision) can be boiled down to a few crucial priorities that must be accomplished over the next 12 months. In the template I call these Strategic Imperatives. If these statements represent the handful of things that must be accomplished in a year (or so) to be on track to achieving the vision, then they are in fact, imperative. Without changing the intent, you simply need to take these priorities and make them relevant to you. You also need to word them in as actionable and measurable way as possible. Think of a really big project. If you can't describe what success looks like at the end, it probably isn't a project. Take your 4-6 succinct points and slot them into the "Strategic Imperative" section. Add the appropriate date for completion beside each imperative. To this point, nothing about our plan is personal. You have simply taken what already existed at your company and personalized them to make them more relevant and hopefully more practical from your perspective.

Step Three
Now the personal part of the planning really begins. Knowing what you know today: if your organization is really going to be successful in the execution of its Strategic Imperatives in the next 12 months, what are the big personal objectives that you need to complete in the next month to feel like you have truly given 1/12 of your share to the goals? Don't introduce any operational actions into your thinking yet. You still need to bring excellence to everything you do every day; but what is your role in delivery of those overall Strategic Imperatives for the organization, division or team? Although I have put 10 rows in the template for Personal Objectives, if you list more than 4-6 things, they are either too small (more like actions) or you just won't get it all done. These should be big personal objectives that you actually plan on completing this month. Next month, you are going to come up with 4-6 more.

Step Four
Until now, we have only focused on the organization's strategy and your role in the delivery of that strategy. Now we are going to face reality that we have many other things to do every day besides work on the strategy. At an overall organizational level, balancing our strategic and operational priorities is incredibly difficult. Balancing our personal strategic and operational priorities is a bit easier, especially when we break them down to the very discrete level of personal actions. The personal action section of the template replaces the "to-do" lists that many of us are using anyway. The only difference is that we need to make a conscious decision every single week about how we balance our activities to achieve strategy and the actions required to just get stuff done. Create new personal actions every week. Please give this a try for at least 4 weeks...then I think you will be hooked.

Step Five
Create a separate folder on your computer and just use the same file every week and do a "save as" with the date in the title. I find I need to go back to my old plans from time to time.

I insist that personal planning has a clear cost benefit, so we shouldn't spend more than 15 minutes per week defining our plan to ensure we have plenty of time to actually execute. I invite you to review all the guidelines I laid out in the third part of this series on personal planning.