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How do I Create a Development Plan that Works . . . One that Actually Produces Results?

There are eight components to an effective development plan. The best way to construct a workable development plan is simply to take a blank piece of paper and write down your response to each item:

  1. Knowledge, skill, or competency area to be developed
  2. Benefit to your organization
  3. Personal payoff
  4. Measures to be used
  5. Baseline assessment
  6. Resources required
  7. Completion date
  8. Week-by-week plan

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1. Knowledge, Skill, or Competency Area to Be Developed. What is the specific skill that you are going to acquire or enhance? The more specific you can be in your description of the skill you’re going to acquire, the easier it will be to determine whether you actually have developed it.

2. Benefit to Your Organization. Why is it important to your company that you increase your skill in this area or develop this competency? What difference will it make to the organization? Don’t waste development efforts on building skills that don’t have a payoff for your company.

3. Personal Payoff. What will be the benefit to you if you improve in this area? The clearer you are about the reasons that an improvement in a certain area will provide a specific personal payoff, the less likely you will be to abandon your efforts when the predictable obstacles arise.

4. Measures to Be Used. How will you determine whether you actually have made a significant improvement in this area? How will somebody know that you are actually better than you were before? Are there numerical, countable measures? Will comments and reactions from colleagues be sufficient? How will you know that change has occurred? What yardstick will you use to judge your success?

5. Baseline Assessment. To start, the individual should take no action other than collect data on how often the developmental area arises in her job and how she handles it when it does arise. Collecting baseline data will achieve several results: It may confirm to the individual that indeed her boss was right when he recommended that this should be an area for concentration. Awareness of the area may immediately generate ideas on how performance could be improved. Collecting baseline data will help demonstrate later that development indeed has occurred. Whatever the developmental need may be, ultimate effectiveness will be greater if the very first thing the person does is collect his own data to confirm that yes, indeed, this is an area that requires some attention. Answer these questions: How good are you in this area right now? How do you know? What evidence do you have that tells you that this really is an area worth spending time in?

6. Resources Required. The resources required are frequently, but never exclusively, financial. If the individual needs to attend a training program or educational experience, the funds will need to be allocated. If the individual needs to purchase a book or computer software to learn skills, somebody will need to write the check. If an offsite visit to another operation is required, somebody will have to spring for the trip. The most important resource required for the execution of most development plans is time. Answer these questions: What will you need in order to complete your plan? Will you need to devote a significant amount of time to your plan’s activities? Where will this time come from? Will you need money? How much? Is it in the budget? What management support will you need?

7. Completion Date. Thinking in terms of an ‘‘annual development plan’’ is a mistake. A year is far too long. Construct development plans so that something significant can be done in a quarter—that is, within ninety days. If your development goal will take more than three months to complete, it is too big. Break it down into component parts or pick one important area within the overall area to work on. Otherwise, the development plan will fall into the realm of good intentions and be shuffled off into the ‘‘one of these days’’ stack.

8. Week-by-Week Plan. A common reason that development plans don’t accomplish too much is that we don’t break them down into manageable chunks. If you think through what you will need to do to develop a particular skill or competency on a week-by-week basis, you are much more likely to complete the plan since you will have a clear road map of the action you need to take.