Developing your own personal strategic plan
In my earlier article on My First Bad Working Experience I mentioned the performance review period that many of us go through in some form every year in our workplaces. With that cycle generally finishing up and over for most, now is a time for future focussed reflection and identifying what the new objectives or Key Performance Indicators for yourself are in the next year. Incidentally, I have been working on reviewing and developing strategic plans for both my organisation and some external ones that I sit on the boards of. These processes of setting organisational strategic plans are and should be no different to the approach you take to setting your KPIs on an individual level. The strategic planning a business undertakes is done on a framework that is designed to identify anoverarching mission/vision, objectives to further that, and supporting activities and initiatives to achieve those objectives. Long-term planning for yourself at both a personal and professional level should also adopt this same formula, to provide a clear framework for how to go about achieving your goals.
Strategic planning for an organisation is usually mapped out over a 3-5 year time frame, with regular annual review to track it and make sure the plan is still appropriate. You can decide how far out you want to map out your own personal strategic plan depending on how much clarity you have on where you want to get to. Regardless, the following approach is a good way to think about goal setting at work with a stronger personal focus.
Step 1: Vision and/or mission
L’Oréal’s mission is to offer “all women and men worldwide the best of cosmetics innovation in terms of quality, efficacy and safety...by meeting the infinite diversity of beauty needs and desires all over the world.”. This is the anchoring principle that serves at the heart of everything L’Oréal does as an organisation. Think broadly about what your overarching vision and mission and vision is. This isn’t about defining the meaning to life, but working out what matters to you. Questions that might help you answer this are:
How do you define success?
What do you love to do?
What might you regret not doing in the next 10 years?
When I define my personal “vision and mission” loosely, it’s about ensuring I further my happiness across three key pillars – family, professional achievement and community & social contribution, in that order of priority. This helps anchor in my mind, what is important to me to ensure that like L’Oréal, this mission is at the heart of everything I do.
Step 2: Objectives
What kind of key goals are you going to strive for in order to further the vision you have for yourself? It is useful to think about five or so key headline objectives you want to target and achieve over the years in the strategic plan you are setting for yourself. Whatever your mission is, your objectives should feed into furthering it. A common strategic objective that organisations set these days in an age of digital disruption, is to develop a strong technology capability. L’Oréal’s mission involves offering the best of cosmetics worldwide to men and women. So what objectives might they set in order to achieve that mission? It makes sense that one vital strategic objective is probably to ensure they have a first-class technology capability in order to reach and service their worldwide target consumer base.
One of my objectives is to build my knowledge and experience beyond my existing background in law. This feeds into me aiming for professional achievement because I am obviously broadening my skill sets. It also goes towards my ability to contribute to social and community causes by having that wider experience and knowledge.
Step 3: Initiatives and Activities
This is essentially about setting KPIs for yourself – what are the key initiatives and activities that you’re going to do and measure across the years to make sure you achieve those objectives you’ve committed to. Again if we use the L’Oréal example, if one of their objectives is to have a first-class technology capability, then one initiative may be to regularly review consumers’ online needs and demands. An activity to support this? Perhaps to invest in data analytics that tracks online behaviour of consumers to identify those needs. Or to conduct focus groups and surveys with consumers to understand their evolving wants.
I think a problem we often have when setting KPIs at work during the performance review process, is that it is usually done in isolation of the broader objectives you have for yourself. And is much more short-term focused. This process at work is also generally more operational and obviously shaped by the organisation you work for and the responsibilities of your job. Instead, try and think first about the earlier steps of articulating your objectives, and then think about work KPIs that will actually further your own broader strategic plan. For example my day job requires that I am responsible for leading our internal legal function. I can’t set a KPI to deliver on a digital marketing campaign, just because I might have an interest in furthering my skills beyond law and into marketing strategy. I can however set a strategic initiative for myself – ie. a KPI – to broaden my knowledge and understanding of the different business functions in my workplace so that I can deliver more commercial legal advice. One activity that might support achieving this KPI might be to regularly attend some marketing team meetings. See how this KPI not only delivers on business activities I am responsible for at work, but more importantly furthers my personal objectives?
Make sure you have clarity in what your core values are. I see organisational values like the rules of engagement – what are the underlying ground rules for how the organisation commits to doing business. You see some common values statements in business encompassing concepts like integrity, transparency and leadership for example. L’Oréal define their organisational values as being innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, open-mindedness, quest for excellence, responsibility. From another perspective, these are the “how-tos” of their business.
What are your core non-negotiable values? These are things that, unlike objectives, initiatives and activities, will not likely change over time. Because they are the ground rules that you commit to with respect to how you are as a person. Identify five or so top values you identify with and keep these in mind when you go about doing things professionally and personally. These values are your moral compass if you will, for staying true to yourself. My core values are ambition, integrity and excellence. At the time of writing this article, I couldn’t think of five that screamed out at me but the below three immediately came to mind, loudly and surely. The practical application of these for me means:
Ambition – Setting high aspiration goals when embarking on things I want and decide to do. I set the bar high for myself, always higher than comfortably achievable (probably the product of my parents and their tiger parenting).
Integrity – Being true to my word. If I say I will do something, that is an unwavering commitment to doing it. Call me old fashioned, but I think it’s vitally important to follow through on commitments and promises.
Excellence – Doing things at the utmost of my ability and beyond, always quality over quantity. I often say to friends and family, if you’re going to do something, do it properly! And I don’t mean that in a just-do-your-best kind of way. Sometimes your best is not good enough, so you need to keep pushing for a new personal best!
Don’t wait until the next performance review cycle to start the above thought process – the sooner you try and articulate each of those steps above, the greater purpose you’ll have to doing the things you do each day.
*For clarity, I am not in any way affiliated with L’Oreal. They publicly disclose on their website what their business mission and values are. The examples I have given above about potential objectives and initiatives they might have are entirely examples only!