Create a business plan-for yourself

Do you have the kind of career success you expected when you were in school? If not, says John M McKee, there may be one key reason. The answer is to do exactly the same thing that successful organizations do each year.

 "If you don't have a plan, how do you know if you're making progress?"

The question made so much sense, it was almost too obvious. I was having breakfast in Toronto with John G. Smale, former chairman of Proctor and Gamble and then subsequently the chairman of General Motors who was responsible for that company's turnaround in the 1990s. I found him to be a very cool guy. He is famous for his understanding of what drives people and for a lot of important business approaches still taught in business schools. The thing that impressed me most was his common sense in an executive world populated by egos.

I spent the entire day with him one on one. What you saw was the real deal. It got me thinking about the importance of having a plan.

I don't mean for businesses, organizations, or departments where it's a pretty obvious tool worldwide. Most individuals, by the time they've reached management, have learned how to do annual presentations on the subject.

No, I'm talking about a business plan for your life.

And I don't mean the kind of approaches pushed aggressively in many life-coaching books or new age materials. "If you wish it, it will come" kind of stuff. Although it's made millions for the writers, the book The Secret isn't going to make most of us anywhere near as successful as it claims.

Think about it -- when one does a business plan, in addition to considering all the basic elements required for success (management support, IT infrastructure, finances, staff allocations, marketing, etc.), it also contemplates things outside the organization's control such as competition or the economy. Your department's business plan has assumptions that will be challenged and as a result of reviews is worked over a few times. It is then put into the company's budget and consequently tracked for progress. If things are working, they get more support. If the wheels are falling off, the plan is changed midstream. Course correction helps control mistakes.

A good business plan also takes a long-term view: What will the world look like in five years? If all goes well, what will we be doing in five years? What resources are required to take us to that place between now and then? And each year that multiyear plan is reconsidered, modified, and built upon. It changes because everyone knows that "the marketplace" is dynamic.

These are also the characteristics of a great personal business plan. I don't see many great personal plans.

For many years now, I've made it a point to ask people if they have a plan for their life. Building on that, when new clients start at our coaching practice, we ask them a series of questions. Here's how they rate their own success and satisfaction:

  • Most individuals do not rate themselves as being successful or satisfied.
  • Very few have a detailed plan for their lives that they track regularly.
  • Of those who report they are only satisfied or very-satisfied, 86% have a "business plan" for their life.

Do you have a plan?

If not, I'd urge you to consider taking the time to put one together. It will make a difference -- in the same way it does for your organization at work.

Here's to your future!