Where Do You Want to Go?
Is a Personal Strategic Plan really necessary? Doesn’t the answer depend on you? Do you want to “go somewhere” or stay put? That is not a rhetorical question… If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there! If you drive your car for hours with no destination in mind, you will get exactly where you are headed. How does that sound for a Personal Strategic Plan? It is relatively easy to make plans, no? But yet, damn difficult to implement on sometimes. Haven’t you spent days or hours from your life wondering “why am I in this situation?”, “how did I come to this?”, “is this my life what’s going to be like?”, “do I really want this?”. Whose responsibility is it do you think? Who is to blame or appraise? Luck? Destiny? Situations? God or others?
Of course we cannot always control the outcome in every situation. But can we allow ourselves to be lucky and build our own destiny? Definitely maybe… I know one thing for sure. If you don’t like what you have, then you are not happy. Too many people confuse happiness with success. Success means to have what you want. Happiness means to want what you have. But how do you get there? Well, doesn’t it depend on where you are heading? Can a Personal Strategic Plan help you? Where do you start from?
Strategy Starts “Within”
Let’s start by changing something. Personally I do not like the term “Personal Strategic Plan”. It sounds so boring and seriously uninspiring. But the core strategic concepts or logic shouldn’t be neglected or underestimated. This article though is not about reinventing strategy or finding new concepts or definitions. No no no… Too many researchers and organisations focused on that for many decades now… Not my area of consideration.
I am intrigued by creative curiosity questioning. The thoughts and concerns I have in my mind, and which I am expressing here, relate totally with each individual’s needs and willpower. A lot of self-reflecting is required. Deep “self-interviewing” if I may use the term. Of course I will be using the same concepts that organisations apply in practice, and which relate to the great chapter of Strategy (but in a creative way as always ☺). Because at the end of the day we are talking about the same principles. So here it goes!
Should you Close your Eyes and “Visualise”?
Funny thing isn’t it? The action of visualising… It entails the formation of a mental picture, which is easier to “see” if your eyes are closed! Well, I would like to tell you “keep your eyes open”! Your “feeling sensors” too. Ask these questions in the mirror: What do you want to accomplish in the future? How do you want your perfect day to look like? Who do you want to have next to you before the end? Difficult questions?
The Vision and The Mission
A vision statement is an aspirational statement of what an organisation wants to accomplish in the future or, in other words, what it wishes to become in time due. Some describe it as the purpose and reason of an organisation’s existence. In continuum, a mission statement derives from the vision and explains how the desired future will be achieved. It connects to the organisation’s purpose and direction, by combining goals and ways of differentiation. In a slightly different approach, the mission provides clarity about what the organisation is fundamentally there to do or what business the organisation is into. Can you transform the above to apply on your personal level? Let me try and help you with some questions…
Tips: 1) Be Patient, 2) Ask Meaningful Questions, 3) You Will Need Time!
[vision] What do you want to become or achieve in the future? Tomorrow, a year from now or before you die? Why do you exist on this planet? Do you have something to offer to others? What is your adding value to this world?
Are the above feasible or are you dreaming? Are you on the right track so far? Do you need to make some changes in your life? Every person’s ability to manage change and continuity is highly correlated to the competence of developing a direction. Exactly like in organisational strategy. Your vision can inspire others to act upon it (e.g. family, friends, business partners). And it needs to be clear and communicated properly! But is the aforementioned clear to you? If it is not, then please stop reading until you are ready; and come back again… Because in the next stages you need to do some deep analysis around your individual.
Firstly, you should sense your external environment for opportunities and threats. Secondly, to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so as to act upon them. How can you do that? Let’s briefly connect the logic of 3 well known and simple strategic tools; PESTEL Framework, Porter’s 5 Forces and SWOT Analysis.
Deep Thinking and Processing…
Organisations usually start “externally” and then proceed “internally”. Let me emphasise, there is no right or wrong approach here. We should analyse everything with a “contingency approach”. That means, “it depends”..! Let me briefly touch the core principles of the strategic tools and then we can come back to you.
Analysing Your Environment
If you observe the image below, PESTEL Framework takes into consideration the macro-environment of an organisation. The factors that affect this environment can be political, economical, social, technological and environmental. Within the macro-environment we have the industry the organisation operates in. Michael Porter (many years ago, 1979) developed a model of 5 Forces to analyse the power dynamics in an industry. These forces are rivalry, the new entrants, the substitutes, the customers and the suppliers. Based on the forces’ “power” (low-medium-high) a market can be considered as an attractive one (or the opposite). Everything I have mentioned so far are the external parameters. What are the internal ones?
Analysing Yourself and Cross-Comparing
SWOT is an acronym for the words: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This is a tool used widely in practice for planning purposes by various organisations, industries and even countries for strategic actions and positioning. The Strengths and Weaknesses connect to an organisation’s resources and capabilities (internal), and the Opportunities and Threats connect to its industry and macro-environment (external); and thus a SWOT analysis should be performed cross-comparatively by considering external factors (competitors). When it comes to crafting strategy, SWOT provides options of what to do and what not to do. For making good choices organisations must be able to calculate and manage the attendant risks. The SWOT analysis is an engaging and fairly simple tool for the cause.
Making Connections and Deciding
Taking into consideration all the above elements, one needs to realise and map the inter-relationships and start from the beginning. You must recognise to which extend the strengths and weaknesses can be utilised or transformed to deal with the opportunities and threats arising from the environment and the industry. Let me say here that resources and capabilities should be connected to strengths and weaknesses for things to make sense. All the above should be placed in the context of a revised strategic vision and mission (if needed) so as to make the right strategic choices.
The key in making the right strategic choices at this stage for positioning against the competition, lies under the fact that one should try and match the strengths to opportunities, and work around weaknesses to eliminate threats. At the end of the day, any organisation to survive should gain a competitive advantage against rivals. The above diagram clearly states the connection, flow and process that we should follow. Can you apply the above to match your case?
Choosing Your Future
It is very likely that at this stage, all the above may sound to you as a Personal Strategic Plan mambo-jumbo. Indeed strategy is always complex. The organisational environments that businesses operate in will always be dynamic, volatile and ambiguous. Wait… Isn’t that what our lives sound some times? Is your life always simple and easy? If you are at a stage that you would like to choose your future and try to affect the outcome, you need to make some strategic decisions. As Rocky Balboa said in Creed, if you want to change things in a big way, you gotta make some big changes. In order to do it right, you have to see the bigger picture and choose your direction. Are you ready to make the connections? Here it goes..!
Firstly, you need to decide what do you want to accomplish (vision). Secondly, you must identify how and by when you will get there (mission). What is required in terms of knowledge, expertise, qualities and core competencies (your resources)? The list can be long. Or not… It depends! Moving forward, you then should analyse your environment and your industry (PESTEL and Porter’s 5 Forces). Are you looking for a new job because of Covid-19 pandemic? Do you want to start your own job but you don’t have the money? Do you have your own job but you want it to grow? Are we talking about your personal growth? Maybe you would like to grow your network of sales? Or get married and have children? What about all the above? Or non of the above? Questions can be endless.
You need to identify who/what affects your goals, in what way and how you can utilise all relevant resources and information to keep going on the “right” direction. After you analyse all the external parameters that affect your life, SWOT yourself! You should have identified the Opportunities and Threats so far. Look “inside” for the Strengths and Weaknesses. Remember: always cross-comparing to the competition! Who are your rivals, suppliers, competition etc.? What are your core competencies? What do you love? Do you do something extremely well? Better than others? What’s your adding value? How can you work on your weaknesses to eliminate threats? Who is your competition? I can go on with questions forever! Remember: Every threat comes with an opportunity!
Is Personal Direction a Static Process?
In conclusion to all the above you need to make your strategic choices. Position yourself against the competition. How will you gain a competitive advantage and survive? Since everything changes, how can you adapt and commit to a continuous learning and innovative behaviour? Subsequently, can you create a difference that you can preserve in times of rapid change? Is this process a “static” journey? Heraclitus of Ephesus, the Ancient Greek philosopher who lived approximately 2,500 years ago, said “Τα πάντα ρει, μηδέποτε κατά τ’αυτό μένειν” which means “everything flows and nothing ever remains the same”. Do you believe you are the exception? How can you change and evolve to achieve the desired outcome?
Do you get the connections between self-development and strategy? Regardless if I don’t like the term “Personal Strategic Plan” do you want to form one? Or to continue and “tackle things” as they come along? Do you have a direction? I will finalise this article with a beloved quote from a great personality…
The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.David Viscott
Just to sum up…
The answer to that is up to you! If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there!
Strategy always starts “within”. You need to identify your personal strategic vision and build your mission based on that. It is not an easy process. It takes a lot of patience, self-awareness, deep self-interviewing, and time!
After you have envisioned your life, you will need to utilise some core strategic concepts and adjust them to your reality. Using the basics of some strategic frameworks and tools (such as PESTEL, Porter’s 5 Forces and SWOT Analysis). The ideas are pretty simple and the models are easy to digest.
If you have reached your destination and you want exactly what you have, then you should be happy. But learning, evolution, knowledge and wisdom never ends! Not even life itself.
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