We have all heard of the rituals of professionally successful people and the importance of following a strategic plan. It’s a fact that setting high goals leads to better task performance. But…how many of us actually take the time to follow through on this advice?
Regardless of whether your goal is to grow your career, wealth, or business, the key to doing so is crafting a plan. Action plans are extremely helpful because they not only force you to think about your overall vision and objectives, but also the strategic initiatives and tactics it takes to accomplish them. Curious as to how to tackle a plan like this? Keep reading for a step by step walkthrough.
1. Create your vision
Before diving into your action plan, keep one thing in mind. Not everyone plans the same way, so if you want to work out of order, go for it.
For most, starting with your overall vision is the first step. This statement should be succinct and capture how you see yourself developing in the next year or quarter. It should be grand, so don’t shy away from making this a big statement.
Examples can include:
As you can see, on their own these statements are quite vague. The goal is to envision what you are working for. That way, you’ll always have your eye on the prize.
2. Set objectives
The next phase of the action plan is the objectives. Objectives are essentially the goals that help move you closer to your vision. They can be part of a bigger overarching company or department goal, but ensure they are unique to you and your position.
When setting these goals or objectives, be sure you are utilizing the “SMART” checklist. This essentially means that each of your goals should be:
By doing so, you can determine if you have actually met your goal. For example, if you’re trying to get that promotion, a great goal is:
Take on a 10% increase in client workload within 12 months.
With one simple look, you can easily determine if you have stayed true to this promise, and if not, take the necessary steps to do so.
3. Create strategic initiatives
Strategic initiatives are essentially the big moves you will be making to achieve the objectives outlined in the previous step. They can be thought of as setting the overall direction of a goal.
The key to planning an effective initiative is to ensure they are action oriented. More specifically, that they clearly state what you are going to do and how doing it will help you achieve your objective.
For instance, if your goal was to increase your client workload within 12 months, a strategic initiative would be:
Find a new effective method to improve daily productivity.
You can see that this strategic initiative easily ties back to your overall objective and vision.
4. Identify your tactics
Last but not least are the tactics. Although this is the last step in the action planning process, it is one of the most important. Tactics are the specific programs, ideas, and actions that bring the strategic initiative to life and allow for execution. It is suggested that each strategic initiative have at least three tactics. That way, you can tackle the initiative from every angle.
Be sure that every tactic is complete with a deadline. Doing so will add a sense of urgency and commitment.
For example, if you are trying to improve productivity, a tactic to do so would be to:
Shorten client meetings by 10 minutes each within the next three months.
Again, be sure to include dates and measurable deliverables. It will keep you accountable for these tactics. In this example, shortening client meetings will help you better prioritize your time and better facilitate meetings, while still hitting all agenda items.
All in all, action plans are a great way to set guidelines and actionable steps for your own professional growth. If you’re a manager or business leader, action plans are also effective tools to motivate your employees to develop. It pushes everyone to think long term and create a plan for themselves. Because it is easy to be content with the comforts of life, employees can often plateau. If you want your company, its employees, and of course yourself to grow, get planning!