What is Strategic Planning?
Businesses have traditionally embraced strategic planning processes as annual activities to set their teams on a path for success and ensure short term activities align with long term goals. Strategic planning projects typically take into account every team or department within an organization and map the activities of each team to the organization’s goals. There is a phase of reflection where the group considers the current state – “where we are now?”, followed by “where do we want to go?”. Think of those as points A and B, once those points are plotted the strategic plan aims to outline how to get from point A to point B.
In my experience, the critical success factors when it comes to strategic planning are open dialogue with room for honest sharing about gaps and opportunities and really specific goal-setting. Too many organizations want to “grow” but don’t think through how they define growth and how that growth will be measured. Using the navigation analogy, you wouldn’t look up turn by turn directions to Memphis, you’d have something a bit more precise in mind – Graceland would be a more exact destination, and you’d know when you arrived.
Personal Strategic Planning
I apply the same process to personal development. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, which are fantastic in theory but don’t always hold up, I complete annual strategic planning. This process starts with time for reflection on the year that has passed, where I am now, and brainstorming about where I want to be. I break down my life into categories that parallel the departments or teams within an organization.
This year my categories included:
- Health & Wellness
- Fun & Adventure
From there I proceed with a category by category analysis and list out the tasks that need to be completed to take me from point A to point B. An important part of SMART goal setting is the “T” – time-bound or timely. With my list of tasks in hand, I distribute those over a twelve-month timeline and suddenly I have something that resembles a high-level personal project plan.
As 2018 drew to a close and 2019 approached, I had the opportunity to get away to the Adirondacks with one of my best friends (and fellow planners). We holed ourselves up in a beautifully renovated cabin on the water and took a few days to dream about what the next year would bring and all we wanted to accomplish. That was a fantastic trip, and in a perfect world, I’d do that every year. 2020 taught me that beautiful cabins off-grid are complementary to strategic personal planning, but not a necessity. In 2020 I got down to the business of planning right in my kitchen with a cup of tea in hand and a balsam scented candle to lend that North Country vibe. I prefer to undertake this process at the end of each year, as I plan for the next. This year, life got in the way though, so my planning for 2020 started in mid-January – not ideal, but if the alternative is scrapping the process entirely and living out the year without a destination in mind, I’ll settle for a two-week delay.