Conference speakers frustrate me to no end when they present a topic and in the last couple of minutes of the session say something to the effect of “…and I challenge each of you to leave this session and create your own personal action plan to…”
Frankly, they should tell us how to create the action plan.
So to minimize my frustrations, I’ve learned that every time a speaker issues one of these challenges I should try to work it into a SMART plan. I’ve mentioned before how much I love SMART plans and find it to be a very flexible way to deal with setting goals and creating plans.
I didn’t always feel this way about SMART plans. I once worked for a company that every time something went wrong, our President wanted a SMART plan explaining how we were going to fix it. Sad to say, we developed a lot of SMART plans. I thought it was some sort of punishment. It wasn’t until I started studying for my PHR certification that I realized SMART plans have been around for many years and weren’t some dreamt up form of torture from senior leadership.
Anyhoo, back to SMART plans. SMART is an acronym:
Specific – This is a statement of exactly what you would like to accomplish. Think of it as the who, what, where, when, which and why of the goal.
Measurable – The answer to this section should tell you how success is measured.
Achievable (or Attainable) – Outline the steps it will take to complete the goal.
Relevant or Realistic (some versions use Responsible) – There are two different ways to look at this: first, the goal must be important to you (i.e. relevant and/or realistic). Alternately – are there other people you need to help you reach this goal?
Time-bound (some versions use Trackable) – Identify the time frame to achieve the goal.
Over the years, I’ve found the SMART acronym easy to remember so I mold it for setting my personal goals and even use it for creating meeting minutes. I can’t think of a better way to outline what happens at a meeting:
Specifically, what are we going to do? (Specific)
How will we measure our success? (Measurable)
What are the steps that will help us attain our goal? (Attainable)
Who will be responsible for each step? (Responsible)
When will the task be completed? (Timely)
Using the SMART plan for meeting minutes also helps me steer the conversation toward key discussions like “We have a great idea here…now who’s going to take ownership for getting it done?” And “Thanks Joe for leading this task, when can we expect it to be completed?”
So I hope the next time someone challenges you to develop an action plan, you give SMART plans a try. Anyone using another method to create personal action plans? Share what works for you in the comments.1