Personal strategic planning… What plan?


UntitledI have this book from HBR including their “must read” articles on strategy.  It’s got Porter and all kinds of good stuff…  But, this book is something my husband, a successful technical engineer and manager in his own right, finds humorous. Strategy, to him, is something more intuitive and a logical thought process that needs no defined approach.  While I disagree, it does work for him.

So, it’s serendipitous that Bill Troy discusses his approach to strategic planning in the latest View from the Q post. Yeah, I’ve been involved in the process many times over the years with both Pro QC and other consulting projects I’ve taken on. I’ve also been involved in the strategic planning process as Education Chair for our local ASQ Section, although that process could use some refinement. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say we’re missing the “bigger picture” and spend too much time on the tactical side of things.  We have good intentions, but I would not consider our strategic planning to be as productive as it could be.  But, that’s not what I want to discuss here… And, we are improving in this regard.

What I find interesting about all of this talk about strategy is that I’ve only recently been called out for lack of personal strategic planning.

Troy talks about the purpose:

“The purpose of strategy, after all, is to answer this question: How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?  What is your path?  How are you going to get there, what steps do you need to take, and in what order?”

And, this is exactly what I was recently asked when my mentor reached out over concerns that I wasn’t planning my career with a long-term vision in mind. In the face of a new opportunity, he asked me an interesting question.  On my 60th birthday, will I look back and be happy with the direction of my career based on the decisions I made? Did I follow my plan?

What plan?

The questions Troy incorporates into the post are relevant as I go through this process:

  1. What are your key facts and assumptions?
  2. What is your theory of victory?
  3. Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy?
  4. Have you left enough planning time to test your strategy?

I’ll admit.  I like this approach.

My mentor expanded on personal strategy with a little more detail.  He gave me some homework last week as I consider this new opportunity and whether or not it’s in line with what my personal goals are.  He asked me to really go through the strategic planning process and apply it to myself. He urged me to spend some time asking the important questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What should I be doing?
  • How do I make that happen?

I’ll admit I’ve sat down with pen in hand a few times and tried to answer these questions. I’ve answered them as a marketer though and am not sure I’ve really honestly given it the thought it deserves. Asking yourself what your strategic mission and values are has proven to be much more challenging than any similar exercise I’ve been through with an organization. Organizations are logical, and I can reflect on case studies and other resources/insight to guide me.  I’m good at that.  Thank you trusty HBR “On Strategy.”

But, I still don’t have the answers about the direction of my own life.  Is my mentor right to say that fear and complacency guides us in a more powerful way than I had previously admitted.? How many organizations have we seen fail because of this very real threat to the planning process? At 60, how will I define success?

My favorite Strategic Planning Cycle… I continue to work on this process.



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