Define Your Plan


by Murray Johannsen (2014).  Feel free to connect with the author by  Linkedin,  Google+  or by  email.

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    Your future depends on the expertise and skills you have. For those who fail to think about the future will not have one. Skill mapping is a way to chart your course into a prosperous and successful 21st Century.


    To lead, you must view change as a process — a process continually improved. Discover a longer term process—a Master Plan and a shorter 30-day results process.

    My mother told me the same thing — and she was right of course, even though she should have included woman in the saying. Clearly, most people don’t have a plan, not for themselves and not for their organizations.

    The Master Plan is the term used for a comprehensive look at yourself. It also gets one to: 

    • Define what you want now and in the future. 
    • Document the resources to get there and what you are missing.
    • Focus an the favorable and unfavorable environmental forces.
    Image by Dr. Patty  McAlpin. This picture is symbolic of the strategy and tactics process. The steps are planning. Then, at the next level one has to execute. However, there is a barrier (in life many barriers) that have to be overcome which is symbolized by the gate.

    Great results cannot be achieved at once, and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk — step by step.” — Samuel Smiles 

    We do these by going though step-by-step each of the following. Specifics of exactly how are found in the eBook For a Change.

    Developing Your Initial Master Plan

    The process of master planning does not end when the initial document is put together. It needs to be a living document. Some things will change, but other actions will maintain constant. For example, you may find that your vision evolves. Skills that you thought were important become less so as your work changes.

    The Master Plan consists of a number of different action steps so that you can know the areas you need to work on.

    Phase 1(a) — Create The Vision & Define the Goals

    “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” ― Albert Einstein

    Girl With Wolf by Martin Basmajian

    This is hard. Very hard. You would think it would be easy but it is not. A lack of focus on the future is one of the reasons, “Many people live lives of quite desperation.” Trapped like rats in jobs they cannot stand.

    When we have no sense of our own direction, we conform to the expectations of others. To please their parents students go to college, but have no idea how they are going to use the degree. Employees get stuck in dead-end jobs, but don’t know what they really want. Entrepreneurs cook up “me too” businesses because they cannot imagine something different.

    Discover the meanings of the word vision and the different types of imagery one can experience. Know what it means to have a leadership vision and begin the process of constructing your own. You are lost in life without a vision. Achieving a vision can take a great deal of effort and determination.

    CASE: This documentary called Somm is about passing the Master Sommelier exam. For those who don’t know, this means you become on honest to God expert in all things wine. And when I say expert, I mean having an incredible command of facts and are able to tell where a wine was grown by how it tastes.

    For More Information: View the Movie Trailer

    Phase 1(b) — The Nature of Opportunity

     “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” — Demosthenes

    John William Waterhouse (1849–1917): The Crystal Ball

    Most people when then get started confuse an idea with an opportunity. A Fatal Flaw in the entrepreneur or anyone who wants an easier path to greater success.

    Opportunity—such a simple word, yet so easily misunderstood. And because so many fail to understand it, success eludes them and will always elude them. Such is the importance of understanding the nature of opportunity.

    Opportunity is a way, a means, a path for getting you to where you want to be much faster, quicker, easier. Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it seems random. Sometimes, it’s something you work toward for years.


    Phase 1 (c) — Identify Threats

     “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”
 — Roman Philosopher, Horace

    Richard Westall (1765–1836): Sword of Damocles

    For many, it’s easier to come up with opportunities than define the threats that must be dealt with. 

    Certain situations can be viewed either as an opportunity or a threat. Much depends on how you respond. For many, job loss is a threat. But for some, job loss is an opportunity to get a better job.

    Still, it makes sense to minimize the likelihood of a threat occurring and its severity. No one should want a sword hanging over their head.

    Phase 1(d) — Assess  Your Character

    John Cheer: Sculpture of Isis. This is a very old symbol, one going back thousands of years in the Middle East.
    John Cheer: Sculpture of Isis. This is a very old symbol, one going back thousands of years in the Middle East.

    “Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.” —Lord Acton

    In the myths of the gods, we see some of the finest examples of human virtue, but also some of our worst vices. One might say that we have a bit of sinner and saint in all of us.

    These are habits that give us a moral basis for influence. You define and focus on virtues to reduce the many “sins” that plague you and cause pain and suffering.

    The focus up to this point has been on the external environment. But now we are going to focus on the internal world — the world of our strengths and weaknesses. This will be done in three major steps that focus on:

    1. Character,
    2. Traits, and
    3. Skills

    We will start with the big picture first and address the issues of character.  Character defines the essence of your moral authority and that means you have to understand both sins and virtues.

    Phase 1 (e) — Document Your Traits

    Charles Le Brun (1619–1690): The Four Temperaments. The painting reflects the ancient Greek and Romans view that there were four personality temperaments: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic

    Personality traits don’t change much throughout a persons life. Assess your personality so you know what traits are strong and what are week. 

    This part of the plan addresses one of the more interesting aspects of how your mind works — your personality. The importance of personality traits relate to their stability — you likely have the same ones today that you had when you were young.

    Traits are partly based on genetics. So if your personality sucks, blame mom and dad. But traits are also influenced by the environment. This gives us hope that bad traits can be changed. That’s the good news. The bad news? It’s going to require sustained effort over a period of time.

    Phase 1(f) — The Core Five Organizational Skills

    Thomas Cole (1801–1848): The Architect’s Dream

     “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill

    The Core Five Assessment is hard look at the skills you need to prosper in organizations. It divides these organizational skills into the areas of:

    • Technical
    • Managerial
    • Leadership
    • Self-Mastery, and
    • Strategy and Tactics.

    Master Plan Implementation 

    Once you have got everything in place, you will need to:

    Step 1. Review the Master Plan. Make sure it still works for you. Sometimes new opportunities come up, a new threat arises or diminishes and so on.

     Step 2: Determine your priorities.

    Step 3: Put together a implementation plan for each of your primary outcomes.

    Step 1: Update the Master Plan

    Each month, you must review your Master Plan for accuracy to see if something has changed. Perhaps opportunities have changed or the threat picture is different. It is vital to keep in mind the big picture. You might even ask if your vision has changed.

    Step 2: Set Priorities

    Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898)

    “So little done. So much to do” — Cecil Rhodes, Dying Words, Founder of DeBeers, the Rhodes Scholarship and a country known as Rhodesia

    If you done your mapping properly, the Master Plan has too many things to fix in a couple of months. That’s why setting priorities is critical.

    Some might ask how many Critical Outcomes should you try to fix in a month?  We like to suggest that you choose nine outcomes because if you don’t make any progress on one, at least you can show some progress on another.

    Step 3: Implementation Planning

    Prioritization is mostly about choosing important outcomes. But many of these outcomes will require more detailed planns to make them happen. One can’t always wing it.

    Guercino (1591–1666): Fama, Onore e Virtù

    Essentially, total success is defined on a monthly basis if you are able to

    √ Turn weaknesses into strengths

    √ Minimize threats

    √ Seize opportunities

    To do this, you need a plan for each quadrant. Some plans, are very simple. But sometimes it requires a more complicated, step-by-step, week-by-week approach.

    Let’s say you have chosen a primary outcome in the weakness quadrant related your lack of public speaking skills. Your primary outcome is to, “Develop good enough speaking skills to give a keynote presentation at an association meeting.”

    The development plan is to read three books, join Toastmasters, model three speakers, put together a stump speech, practice it ten times in front of the mirror, and deliver it in front of the professional speakers at a meeting of the National Speakers Association. Something like this will definitely take longer than a month.

    Be sure to write it down. Writing it out increases the likelihood that it will get done. It develops both planning and foresight. It reduces confusion. It plays to the strengths you have learned in your formal education.


    Of course, it this was done in a university, you would stop here with the plan, a grade would be given, and all would be forgotten in six months.  But this is real world. You have to go into Phase II and strive to get desired results. 



    How To Apply This Theory

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    1-Sheet-MasterPlan Cohort

    Work Skills For the 21st Century