How we plan has changed over the years. It wasn’t very long ago when if you wanted to travel somewhere you looked for the North Star, ensured your compass was aligned to it, then used a paper map to plot the directions to your destination. Technology has made that much simpler over the years.
Directions and Plans
Think of your favorite driving directions app. The app that will give you the step by step instructions on how to get from point A to point B; and if you encounter heavy traffic or an accident or construction or any other type of roadblock, it recalculates to provide you with new directions to get from where you’re at to the same point B you were heading towards. It keeps you on track while being flexible enough to adjust as needed along the way.
Nowadays we wouldn’t think of going somewhere new without our driving app, our step by step directions to get us where we want to go. Many of us don’t want to have to create those directions ourselves, yet there are times when we still need to go a little old school and do just that. We know that having directions when going new places is essential for efficiency and success, yet when it comes to things like business strategic plans or setting our new year’s resolutions, we’d rather wing it. Why are we so afraid or overwhelmed at the thought of making our own directions, creating our own plan?
“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso
Plans Are Sucess Tools
That’s all a plan is – it is your step by step map of directions. Too often we think that plans, especially strategic plans, are written in stone and either must be followed to the letter or completely abandoned. Plans are just tools, like your driving app. Plans tell you how to get from point A to point B, but in implementation they must operate in real time. That means they must be able to be adjusted and recalculated as needed.
In order to recalculate, plans still need a compass and a North Star. If not, there can be a lot of confusion in what the plan is recalculating to and if it is rerouting you correctly. So, where do you find those. Your North Star if your vision and values; your compass is your mission and purpose.
Identifying all these pieces and creating a plan does not have to be an intimidating. It is a process, and if you know the steps to the process you can create whatever plan you need – whether it be your new year’s resolution or a strategic business plan. The steps to the process remain the same.
Step 1. Ask why?
Know why you are making the decision or setting the goal. Why is it important to you? Know why you need a plan to guide you through the actions. Why do you want the outcome to be your future reality?
Step 2. Gather information; make decisions.
Planning is the process of thinking about what actions you will have to take in order to reach your goal. Planning involves thinking about what is to be done, how it is going to be done, when it will be done, and who is going to make it happen.
- Who do you need to develop the plan?
- What information is guiding the decisions for the plan?
- Who is going to implement your plan?
- What resources will you need for your plan?
“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.” Alexander Hamilton
Step 3. Identify the best type of plan for your needs.
The type of plan, what you name it, helps clarify the theme of the content. You need to consider your capacity for implementing the plan. Along with the workload, you need to consider what the length of your plan will be. Motivation and passion are difficult emotions to sustain over long periods of time. Plans need to be manageable.
Capacity is a very important criteria to recognize when you are developing a plan. Do you have the ability, time and resources to carry out the work, and the ability to stay motivated and engaged with the work? There is a direct correlation between capacity and success. The size and scope of your plan need to reflect your capacity to implement.
Step 4. Understand the terminology.
The four primary terms used in organizing a plan are Goal, Objective, Strategy, and Task.
Goals are big and broad and describe a direction that one wants to head. Goals state the topic and the desired action.
Objectives break the goal into tangible chunks. Objectives state the key accomplishments that need to be achieved for the goal to become reality.
Strategies are specific, measurable, and have a clear timeline for completion. Strategies state specifically what is going to be done. They explain the steps that must be done for the objective to be successful.
Tasks are a combination of support and accountability tools that work to ensure the strategies are carried out. Tasks state how something is going to be done. They explain the actions that must be taken for the strategies to be successful.
Step 5. Measure progress and success.
Benchmarking is a powerful tool. It allows you track what has been, is being, and still needs to be done. It allows you to adjust the plan as needed to increase your ability to implement the plan successfully. And it allows you to build in places along the progress line to celebrate what has been accomplished so far.
Putting It All Together
Remember, plans themselves cannot succeed or fail. Plans are just the guides. Success or failure comes down to your ability and commitment to implement the actions in the plan. Plans don’t succeed, people succeed. Follow these steps, carry out your plan, and I believe you can be a success!
Revised May 2022. Originally published as “Where’s There and Which Way Do I Go” under The OD Pro in December 2019.