Intentionally, sometimes subconsciously, people set goals in life: a new car, getting fitter or cutting out all unhealthy food..... To achieve this a good planning is crucial, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises or even readjust one’s plans if necessary. This is applicable in daily life as well as in a business setting. This blog explains why a structured planning is so important and gives tools for a do-it-yourself planning.
STRATEGY AND TACTICS
The terms strategy and tactics are frequently used interchangeably even though there is an important difference. Strategy is long-term planning while tactics refer to short-term planning. Both play their part in achieving goals. What is the ultimate goal? The road to achievement is called strategy. The division into subgoals is called tactics.
The SMART theory, introduced by George T. Doran in 1981, is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. By using this concept a goal becomes realistic and measurable.
In order to set a goal based on the SMART theory the following five questions must be answered:
A specific answer to the question: “What is it I want to achieve?”. Trying to achieve a goal which is vague or too broad in scope one may become demoralized. For instance, a start-up design agency might set this goal: “I want to make a profit”. A fine-tuned strategy would be: “Within 12 months I want to get a minimum of 12 design orders and make a profit of € 36.000”.
This is one of the most important parts of the SMART-based goal. By asking “How do I know when I have reached my goal?” it is made measurable. In the example above one can actually check whether € 36.000 profit was made after completing a minimum of 12 design orders.
The third part deals with feasibility. The question “How realistic is my goal?” requires understanding of the circumstances. A planned investment in a four month course may render € 36.000 within 12 months an unrealistic goal. Therefore additional factors should be taken into account, such as less profit because of an investment in time and money. Also avoid setting goals where success depends on others, for instance getting a specific job: the preference of the employer and qualities of other applicants are beyond one’s control. In this case a more realistic goal is to learn all the skills needed for a specific job.
Whether a specific goal is relevant may be determined by answering the following question: “Will the intended result be obtained through my goal?”
The question “Within what time frame do I want to achieve my goal?” makes one aware of the importance of setting a deadline. A realistic time frame enhances efficiency. It is also important for measurability: a set point in time to review - and adjust if necessary.
To check whether goals actually comply with the SMART method ask the following five questions. Each question should be answered with a “yes”.
Is the goal clear and specific?
Is the goal measurable?
Is the goal realistic?
Will the intended result be obtained when I have reached my goal?
Is the time frame during which the goal should be reached clear?
CREATE A PLAN
Now that the theory of structured planning is clear it is time to apply theory to practice. The planner below, presented as a free download, offers a helping hand. The download contains a Photoshop file and a printable version of the planner. It is meant to help achieve a monthly goal and is divided into two sections: strategy and tactics. Strategy, as mentioned earlier, is the intended ultimate goal for a specific month. Tactics in this case means four weekly subgoals on the way to the ultimate goal.
The use of the monthly planner is demonstrated by our fictional start-up design agency. A strategy to reach an intended goal might be “In the month of June I want a thousand people in New York to know the name of my business through an online commercial”. The empty space in the upper left hand corner of the planner, the section for strategy, can be used to write down this goal.
Underneath, in the section for tactics, there are four empty spaces for weekly goals. For example:
1st week of June: I want to determine the content of the message I want to communicate in the online commercial to promote my design agency
2nd week of June: I want to draft an online commercial and get it ready for use
3rd week of June: I want to have the promotional commercial online
4th week of June: I want to monitor the results of the commercial and make adjustments if necessary
The key to success is evaluation. On the planner there is room for notes, e.g. an analysis of the process. Afterwards it is important to reflect and ask the following question: “Has the goal been reached? - if not, how come, and is it possible to make adjustments?”
Note: it is not obligatory to use the free planner as a monthly planner. It is quite possible to write down a strategy for, say, a year and tactics for every three months.
We all set goals in life. Well-formulated goals allow for an overall view and will prevent unpleasant surprises. An all-encompassing goal (strategy) with subgoals (tactics) clarifies what, how and when the desired results will most likely be effectuated. Formulating a goal based on the SMART criteria makes it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Evaluation of tactics as well as strategy is the key to success. With a structured planning results are easier to obtain, in personal life as well as in a business setting.