From Setting Goals to Implementing Action Plans

You have taken the time to clarify your goals (see previous article on goal setting).

Regardless of whether these are business or personal, your goals will remain a “pie in the sky” unless you go to the next step of putting an action plan together to take you to your goals.

Interestingly, the phrase “pie in the sky” means “a promise of heaven, while continuing to suffer in this life”. The phrase was coined by the American Joe Hill in 1911 in a song called The Preacher and the Slave, which parodied the Salvation Army hymn In the Sweet Bye and Bye. The phrase wasn’t taken up until the Second World War when it began to be used figuratively to refer to any prospect of future happiness which was unlikely ever to be realised.

So, let’s see how we can put together an action plan to take your goals from “pie in the sky” to you actually achieving them.

Here are some easy-as-pie tips on how to put together an action plan:

  • Start with listing the detail steps to make up the actions.

  • Arrange the order of the steps. Should some of the steps follow another, or do they all happen at the same time?

  • For each one of these steps, determine who needs to do the action or even identify whose help you will need to achieve it. As we are not all experts on everything, it is important to understand what input and support you will need along the way.

  • What are the other resources that you might need to support the steps? This includes time and money.

  • How long will these actions take?

  • What are the challenges that you might face in these actions? How can you address these challenges?

After you have done this for each step in your action plan, review your original goal to see whether anything needs to be changed. Maybe you need to change the timeline or even some of the actions to fulfil your goal.

After you have drafted your action plan, the only thing left is to “Just do it”.

Conrad Hilton (1887 – 1979), American hotelier and founder of the Hilton Hotels chain, said: “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”

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Setting Goals Towards Success

Goal setting is one of the key contributors in many personal and business success stories. Why is goal setting important and how do you go about establishing goals?

We all have dreams about what will make us happy or visions about what will make our business successful. Jim Rohn, American business philosopher (1930-2009), said: “Happiness is not an accident. Nor is it something you wish for. Happiness is something you design.”

Setting goals is pulling this vision into conscious thought and making sure that your energy is focused on doing the things that will take you towards making these dreams and vision real.

Here are a few pointers on how to formulate your goals:

What does my vision look like?

Putting this in words or even drawing this can be a useful way of shaping your vision. Do not limit your vision with any thoughts on “how” you will achieve this vision, only focus on “what” this vision looks like. Also, state your goal in the positive, as it should be inspiring.

Why do I want it?

Reflect on why your vision is important to you. This will help to motivate you. The reason why you want it can be subconscious or explicit, but it will help to clarify the “what” of your vision and it will inspire you to act on this vision.

What are the specifics around the goal?

Think of specific measures, not unquantifiable statements.

When do I want it? Specify a date by when you would want to achieve this goal, or any significant dates on your way to achieving this goal.

Let us apply these questions in the following example: I want to be debt-free (having paid off debt amounting to R30 000) by 31 January 2011 so that I can save R25 000 by 31 January 2012 for my first overseas holiday.

Take the first steps towards making your dream come true by establishing your goals clearly.

Andrew Carnegie, well-known businessman and philanthropist of 1800s, said: “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”


How to Build Healthy Professional Relationships

Being part of any business, whether you are working for a company or for yourself, means that you are part of an organisational system. This means that there are people you depend on and people that rely on you. The term interdependence is often used to explain this relationship. Wikipedia defines interdependence as the “dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a common set of principles with, others”.

On a practical note this means that if you are the client service manager you depend on the human resources department to recruit, train and pay your employees; on the technology department to provide computers with software to support the business processes; and on the sales department to ensure that they sell so that your unit can have products to service. On the other hand, the sales department depends on your department to provide a good client experience in order to build relationships which in turn will help them to sell again to existing clients.

How you understand your role in this system and how you manage these business relationships is a critical component of your professional success.

In the first of a two-part series, I will now explain your role in an organisation in more depth. A practical tool, called RASCI, can be used to gain a better understanding of your role in an organisation.

R – Responsible: The person who has to complete the task to get to the end result. Many people can be held responsible to get to the end result. In our example this could be the various heads of departments, who each has a defined task or set of information to get to a final answer on a client’s enquiry.

A – Accountable: The person who will be ultimately be held responsible for the result. Accountability is well defined in the quote of former President Harry S. Truman: The buck stops here. In our example this would be you in the role of client service manager.

S – Supportive: The person supporting the responsible persons in doing the task. This could be the personal assistant responsible for organising meetings and making sure everything is in place to get the tasks done.

C – Consulted: The person who can offer specialist knowledge to help complete the task. In our example it could be a legal advisor that offers input on a legislative issue that will impact how the task is approached.

I – Informed: The person that needs to know about the result of the task but does not need to be consulted. For example, the training department could be informed on how long it took to complete a particular type of client enquiry as this could point to potential training needs.

Understanding your role will also help you to know what and when to communicate with other people in your business, and how to build supportive and constructive business relationships needed for business success.

The words of the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) – “No man is an island, entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind” – ring true for business relationships as well.