Everyone seems to agree that maintaining the same approaches within similar contexts will produce similar results, hence a strategic turnaround must necessarily begin with a change of approach. Success is predictable, and this is because there are initial conditions which, when present in any setting, can be indicative of a higher potential for success. A new year does not make everything new, so squeezing the most from a year requires a certain approach, there is the way to begin every new year.

“When you establish a destination by defining what you want, then take physical action by making choices that move you towards that destination, the possibility for success is limitless and arrival at the destination is inevitable,” says Dr Steve Maraboli, Author of Life, the Truth and Being free.

Planning will be a critical success factor for a productive 2015, and the reason isn’t far-fetched; once a year starts in earnest, things move swiftly and usually, the first month ends without one realizing what had happened. Today’s world moves faster than at any other time in its evolution, and anyone who will succeed in it must determine, in advance, what routes to take, avenues to avoid, flights to catch, and potholes to maneuver. Your plan is complete when you have a set of prioritized goals and strategic imperatives that have been properly analyzed to include the necessary daily/weekly steps to take in a continuous fashion, but this is not where the plan begins.

Vision starts every worthwhile initiative, business endeavor or project. A new year is all of these, and it is very useful to have an overarching vision, a statement of purpose, for the year. This statement could be as simple as; “Position for relevance in “x & y” industries by engaging continuous capacity building in consonance with best practices, while ensuring lessons from last year’s involvement in “z” are fully incorporated into my overall approach this year.” This works for individuals, business units and whole corporate entities. Ensure the vision is relevant to your current stage in life, and clearly states the most significant move to make, going forward.

A vision starts a chain reaction, but the vision itself is merely a beacon light so it is not sufficient for success. A vision must be analyzed into strategic imperatives. Ask yourself; “what must happen this year for this vision to be realized?” Questions of this nature get you thinking broadly about the necessary strategic imperatives and drivers of the vision. Be sure to capture all of them as these become cornerstones for the year’s success, most people agree on a set of 6-10 such pillars to frame the year.

The next layer of analysis will break down each strategic imperative into the logical and creative action points that will help drive execution. Each imperative must be analyzed into some 4-7 action steps that must be taken consistently; when all imperatives have been analyzed in this fashion, the resulting action points can be assembled in a “Month-by-Month” plan. It is this final outcome that can be called your Strategic Plan for 2015, and this works fine for individuals and all sorts of institutions.

Ensure you create a system to ensure these action points are taken consistently, many people achieve this by setting reminders on their gadgets or assigning the responsibility to an accountability person or member of staff. Whatever works for you, ensure the availability of a system other than your memory that pushes you to stay on track with the plan. Also, ensure you grade your performance at the end of every month and this is very simple to do. If your plan says to hit 7 action targets in February and you only achieve 3, your score for the month is (3/7), expressed in percentages, this is simply 43%. Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and when you see live performance scores, you know exactly where to improve.

The plan is to be flexible and updateable. If, in April, some new insights emerge that necessitate a change of plans, go ahead to incorporate the changes into the plan as long as they are consistent with the overall vision. Keep in mind that you may not know everything about your year at the start, so be sure to review the entire plan every month and add more targets to the succeeding months as you acquire better clarity.

It’s also important to ensure that the sequence above is followed; Vision -> Goals (Strategic Imperatives) -> Plans (Action Points), stopping halfway is part of the reasons many new year resolutions do not work. Until you arrive at the set of points you need to take a day from today and every other day, your vision analysis is incomplete, and execution will be a big fantasy. This sentiment is clearly expressed in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Increase your chances of success in 2015, take a step to plan the whole year, and make this a habit, going forward!

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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