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Don't Allow Yourself to Get Burned

Five Foundation Stones for Effective Strategic Planning

I am not a big fisherman, but I do enjoy it whenever the opportunity comes my way. I have some friends who are fanatics and occasionally I will go out with one of them. They have nice boats and it makes for an enjoyable day.

I like fishing from a boat but, actually, the kind of fishing I enjoy the most is surf fishing. I don't do it very often, but occasionally, when I go to the beach on a family outing, I will take my rod and reel and fish from the beach.

Surf fishing, to me, offers a lot more excitement than fishing from a boat. Here you get to stay active all the time. Basically you wade knee or thigh deep out into the surf and cast using a rod and reel. Since the surf is so active, there are a couple of special considerations you have to take care of. It is necessary to use extra weight so the bait will stay put and you have be extra sensitive to your line because it can be hard to tell the difference between a fish strike and the surf pulling your tackle.

Of course there are a few things you have to look out for. Sea currents can be kind of tricky in some places and you have to be careful not to get sucked out to sea. Sometimes there will be sea urchins under foot and if you are not careful you can step on one. This can be quite painful. There are also other kinds of dangerous sea creatures. On more than one occasion I have had to dodge stinging jelly fish or get away from small sharks (the sharks were probably too small to be any real danger, but I was not about to take any chances).

But there is another danger that is a really sly one - especially on an overcast day. Standing out in the open air for a couple of hours, without very good skin protection, can cause you to get a horrible sunburn. This really can sneak up on you, though. The nature of getting burned by the sun is such that you usually don't realize it immediately. When your skin starts turning red it is already too late. It is very important to prepare ahead of time to prevent it in the first place - doing things like putting on a good sunblock and wearing a hat and other protective clothing.

Planning - The Foundation for Success

The sun is not the only thing in life that can sneak up on you. If we don't prepare ourselves well, in advance, we can find ourselves on the wrong side of success in our career, our social life and even in important relationships. So just what can we do to keep the critical mistakes of life from sneaking up on us?

The simple answer is to plan. Strategic planning is a concept that is an absolute must for any business that wants to succeed. But this principle is not just for business. You will have to plan for any area of your life where you want to see success. Of course there has to be action and activity - the stuff you do. You also have to have exert energy. But before any of that will have any meaning, you have to know where it all needs to be directed. That is the purpose of planning.

Planning has to be built on a particular foundation. There are plenty of resources that give you a clear 1-2-3 system for doing planning. We are not going there in this article. What we want to look at are the underlying elements of planning. If we take the time to put these elements in place first, the actual process of planning takes on an entirely new level of meaning.

Principle

The most basic foundation stone relates to the basic principles that guide the operation of your life and your business. Principle defines the parameters within which you will work. It defines how you will relate with other people, the kind of integrity you will operate by, the places you will do business, and even the type of products and services you will offer. Once you decide your parameters of operation, everything you do will fit inside of that. There will be things you will do and things you won't do based on it.

Too often people don't start their strategic planning at this level. They skip it and go right on to purpose. But even purpose has to come from somewhere. You will never have a complete handle on what you are doing unless you start by defining and understanding the basic principles you will operate under.

Purpose

The second level of your foundation must be your purpose. If you don't have a compelling reason for doing what you do you will not be motivated to perform at a high level. Purpose provides the motivational propulsion which gives power and enjoyment to your activities.

There are many possible levels of purpose at which people may operate. People with little responsibility tend to operate at very superficial levels. They only want a paycheck or to have fun. They do not really concern themselves with final outcomes. People with great responsibility are completely absorbed with the final outcomes.

The reason this is so important is that good motivation is the key to good productivity. People have a personal purpose for what they do. If their only purpose is the paycheck, they will do just enough to get paid. If their purpose somehow matches up with the purpose of the organization, they will do all they can to help make sure the organization achieves its goals.

Goals

Level three of the foundation is goals. Goals are the "what" of the operation. What is it that needs to be accomplished? When everything is finished, what has been done?

Ultimately, goals are based on purpose. This is why it is very difficult to achieve a desired outcome without a clearly defined purpose.

In establishing goals, there is a serious problem that many people run into. There are two different types of goals that it is possible to establish, and many people get these mixed up. If you establish the wrong type of goal for your specific situation, you will not achieve your desired end.

The first type is an outcome goal. This type is appropriate when you have a specific and measurable end that you want to achieve. You can typically put a cost and/or time limit on it. When you get to the end you can point at it and say, "We did it!"

But there is another type of goal that fits a different need - a process goal. Sometimes the result you are looking for does not involve an outcome, but a process. Anything that involves growth and development needs this kind of goal. It is possible to become the very best worker in your organization but still not be as good as you can be. It is possible to develop the business to a very high level and still have room for improvement.

It is very important to set process goals for the development of processes (individually and organizationally) and to set outcome goals to accomplish specific outcomes.

Plans

Plans are the specific steps that are taken to carry out your goals and are the fourth foundation stone for success. Plans are the "when, where and how" of the operation. And just as there are outcome and process goals, plans must be organized this way, as well.

When you are trying to achieve a particular outcome, you have to have create very specific steps that lead to an ultimate conclusion. When you put the last piece of the puzzle in place, the whole thing is finished.

But when you are trying to achieve growth and development, you never see the final end, you only see progress. As a result, you have to create plans that keep you moving forward. These are very different kinds of plans, so you have to be sure that you are not mixing the two.

Tools

The final foundation stone is proficiency with the tools you will use to carry out your plans. We are speaking, here, of the skills that allow you to perform the tasks and to become the kind of person who is capable of carrying out the plans. All of the preparation and strategizing in the world will do you no good if you can't carry them out.

The tools are probably not what you think. They do not simply involve gaining proficiency in the mechanics of doing your job. Rather, they are the various facets of our personhood which allow us to grow and move forward.

The first set of tools are our emotions. These skills involve learning to control our emotions so that we can be effective in our work no matter the circumstances. No matter how competent you are in other areas, if you panic or fall apart under pressure you will not be effective in achieving the outcomes you desire.

The second set of tools relate to our body. We have to be physically capable of doing the activities that are necessary to complete our tasks. It involves nutrition, rest and exercise as well as repetitive activity to become skillful at what we do.

Tool set number three is brain activity. These skills involve acquiring knowledge as well as developing our brains so that we can be effective at focus, concentration perspective, outlook and mental quickness.

The final set of tools relate to the development of our spirit. This is the part of our being that is self-aware, creative, communicative, makes choices, and does analysis. It is the inner core of our personhood. It is possible to become more skillful in each of the areas that involve our spirit. And to the degree we do, we will become more effective.

This Is Only the Beginning

You will never move to higher and higher levels unless you take the time to develop the areas that relate to strategic planning. That being said, don't ever let planning be an end in itself. No plan ever carried itself out. Planning is just that, a foundation. It is a foundation for how energy will be exerted and directed to accomplish an outcome.

Don't plan, or plan poorly, and you will certainly hinder your forward progress. But plan well and you have a great possibility to soar into the future.

-Dr. Freddy Davis

Dr. Freddy Davis is the owner of TSM Enterprises and conducts conferences, seminars and organizational training for executives, managers and sales professionals to help develop greater effectiveness and productivity. He is the author of the book Supercharged! as well as the Nutshell Series of books for strengthening business. You can visit the TSM website at www.tsmenterprises.com, or you can contact Freddy directly at 888-883-0656 or davis@iname.com.