Strategic plans move in and out of favour. Even for organizations, they are often dismissed as unworkable, inflexible or inappropriately vague. To take the same principles and apply them personally can feel overly formal or downright pretentious. At the same time, the tools of time management don’t provide a lot of guidance beyond today and this week. They might nod in the direction of longer term planning, but they don’t offer a great deal of direction on how to get there. So what’s the value of building personal strategy, what does it look like and why should you care?
The future is a challenging place to contemplate. There are many factors that we can’t control, and many circumstances that we can’t influence. Making meaningful choices about an uncertain future often feels overwhelming, impossible and ultimately futile. The articles of the last few weeks have both explicitly and implicitly explored the role of scenarios in considering possible futures. They can be invaluable tools to manage uncertainty and identify meaningful future choices.
Vision statements—like mission statements—need to be specific, meaningful and clear. They reflect our future aspirations, and are an important test of where we are going and why that is important. Like mission statements, though, vision is often vague, imprecise and overly general. For vision to do something, it has to say something.
Pick a strategic plan. Any strategic plan. Read the mission statement, and ask what it tells you about what makes the organization it belongs to unique. All too often, the answer to that is “not much.” Rather than being defining statements of purpose, mission statements are often vague, generalized and designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t have to be this way.