6 Guidelines for Great Planning

6 January 2016
6 January 2016, Comments: 0


It’s the beginning of the year, and you want to start your planning. Either for your life or for your organization. Great!

I worked with the leader of a small organization who’s planning hadn’t been successful in the past. Let’s call the leader, Chris. Chris started out the planning with great excitement in January, but by the end of the first quarter, he was repeating the same messages over and over and not getting any action from his direct reports.

I realized that Chris’ biggest problem was that he did his planning alone, so I gave him these guidelines for beginning of the year planning:

  1. Don’t plan yet – This may not make sense, but I wanted Chris to think about his life and his organization first. What would a great life look like for him? What would it look like for his employees? What did he want his organization to become this year?
  2. Gather a team – Never plan alone. I recommended that Chris gather his senior staff and representatives from other parts of the organization to create the strategic plan. Most organizations, like Chris’ planned only with the senior leadership team. I wanted him to involve people at different levels so that employees throughout the organization understood and owned the plan. I recommended that throughout the planning process that the planning team get feedback from employees and other key stakeholders. This also increased the understanding and ownership of the plan.
  3. Paint a picture – Employees buy into something that they can believe in. The planning team needed to describe the future of the organization in a way so that everyone could understand them. If people have a clear picture of where the organization is going, then they can make decisions in alignment with that each day.
  4. Be specific – You can’t meet vague goals like “increase shareholder value”. Set specific targets – “increase return on capital to 12% by year end” is a well-written goal.
  5. Dream, but not too big – I wanted the team to set high goals. Goals that would motivate the entire staff. However, goals that employees know are not achievable are actually demotivating. Set stretch goals – far enough that staff have to work for them but not so far that they’ll never get there.
  6. Stick to it – The easiest part of planning for your life or your organization is at the beginning. Ideas are fresh. Things are exciting. However, in order to make changes you have to implement the plan. So stick to it and hold each other accountable throughout the year.


The team not only enjoyed the planning process, they exceeded their goals. Why? Because together they created and executed the strategic plan.

It’s the beginning of the year. Good luck with your planning. I hope these guidelines are beneficial to you.

If you are interested in life planning, check out my life planning book, “Get Me Off the Treadmill!”

If you want an experienced facilitator to guide you through the creation and implementation of your strategic plan: Valerie.MacLeod@HainesCentre.com

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