Building the personal development plan 4

Building the Scorecard

This should be our last installment of building out the personal development plan.  In our last blog we ended up with the outline of a scorecard that looked like this:


To finish out our plan we have to fall back on the idea of SMART goals.  SMART goals have been brought up quite a bit in these blogs but, as a reminder, SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time sensitive.  When building out our CFOs and big rocks we spent a lot of time talking about specificity and relevance.  In this final section we will dive into attainability, time sensitivity and measurability.

Time Sensitivity and Attainability

Nothing spurs urgency like a deadline.  Think about those papers you had to write in school or those times you had to get something done by end of day for a client.  Something magical happens when the urgency lever is pulled.  There is typically a little fear involved but it is productive fear.  That productive fear forces us to focus.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish with purpose and focus.

It’s difficult to hold ourselves accountable for personal growth so we have to employ some tricks to convince our lizard brain that these goals are fight or flight worthy.  This starts with building out deadlines that we have to commit to.  These are goals that we have determined to be big rocks, some of the most important things we want to change in our lives.  That should be worth building some urgency around.

The first thing we need to remember about big rocks is that we are working at the one month goal level.  All big rocks should be accomplished within 30 days.  When we set the deadlines for our big rocks, our end date has to be less than 30 days away.  We also want to have a start date for our big rocks so that we draw out any dependencies between rocks.  If one of our rocks is dependent on another being completed, we need to know how and when those dependencies will work out.


In the example above, all start and end dates have been filled in.  The size column is a t-shirt size estimate of how big we think the big rock is going to be to accomplish.  This is a very loose estimate.  The reason we ask ourselves to estimate is to take a first stab at quantifying how much work this actually is.  This is where we need to pull out the realism glasses and really look if these rocks are attainable within the next 30 days.

If you have a bunch of XLs and larges, your chance of completing these rocks is probably pretty small.  The rule of thumb here is that if you have more than one or two larges, you should probably attempt to slice your rocks into smaller, attainable chunks.  Remember that you will have two more months to complete your three month critical few objectives (CFOs) so you do not need to get all of this done in the first month.

While setting goals, it is always good to reach but they have to be attainable.  If you reach too far, if you get to the finish date and have none of your goals completed, what do you think is going to happen?  Exactly.  You’re going to throw the whole scorecard away as another failed tool.  We want this process to be aspirational but not a pipe dream.  If you pick the right rocks, the results will inspire.  If you chase something that’s not attainable, you’re gonna have a bad time.


“What gets measured gets improved.” – Peter Drucker

Measurement is the secret sauce to the whole system.  To explain why, let’s first talk about a subject near and dear to my heart, quantum physics.  One of the foundations of quantum mechanics is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  The principle states that there is a fundamental limit to what one can know about a quantum system.  That’s not the interesting part though.  The interesting part is the thought experiment that goes with the Uncertainty Principle.  Ignoring the wave/particle duality of light for a moment, Heisenberg asked us to think about photographing an electron to determine its position.  If we try to photograph an electron, we have to hit it with at least one photon, or light particle.  When we hit it with the photon, we will be imparting energy to that electron causing it to move.  So the very act of measuring the particle’s position changes its position.  Hence the uncertainty.  Another way of saying this:  the act of measurement drives change.  This isn’t some old wives tale or management principle, it’s physics baby.

On a fundamental level, we know measurement drives change.  If you want to lose weight, what do you think would work better?  You do your best to eat better and get exercise when you can, then get on the scale every day and see the results, OR you sign up for Lose It! and measure every calorie you eat and calculate every calorie you burn, then get on the scale?  You got it.  The very act of measuring every calorie you take in changes your interaction with food!  You know, if you’re being honest with yourself, that you will have to enter that 750 calorie bowl of ice cream in to your food log for the day.  Is that really worth it?  You may decide that it is, but now it is a conscious choice that has a discrete cost rather than something that you kind of know is a bad idea.  That changes the whole system.

So that’s what you’re looking for when you are building metrics.  You are looking for measurements that will change your interaction with the system.  This is not always easy and will probably require a little iteration to get right.  One of the questions that is always worth asking when building your metrics is: will this measurement change our behavior in the direction we want to change?


Now it will also turn out that a lot of your big rocks may just end up being tasks, simple to dos.  That’s fine.  To dos are a big part of this but the big rocks that require measurement are typically the ones that will drive the most change.  You need a strong combination of both types of rocks when you are building out the scorecard to make progress on your three month critical few objectives.

Once we set our metric, we need to set our goal for that metric for the week.  If our goal is to lose five pounds in a month we know that we need to lose a little over a pound a week to hit that, not plan on losing all five in the last week.  That is what the OBJ column is for, weekly objective.

We now have our scorecard!  In our next process blog we will discuss how we manage the scorecard on a weekly basis.


Building the personal development plan 3

Personal Development Big Rocks

In our last discussion on building a plan, we finished with our three month vision.  Here was the example we were using from our last post.


This was built from a combination of our critical few objectives and our overall three month time boxed aspiration to understand who we are.  In the next steps of building our scorecard, we build out the specifics of how we will realize this vision.  This starts with our big rocks.

Big Rocks

I first heard the term big rocks from Dr. Stephen R. Covey as one of the anecdotes he references in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  In case you haven’t read the book, or it’s been a while, I’ll sum up the idea here.  Covey asks us to think about our time as a mason jar that slowly gets filled up with all the things that we need to do.  All of the big important things we need to do are represented by big rocks.  We can think of all of the urgent things that come up throughout the day that we have to take care of as smaller rocks or gravel.  Finally, we can think of all the little things that we have to take care of as sand.  The sand items are things like email, text messages, interruptions, Facebook, etc.


Covey posits that the most effective people are those that focus on the big rocks first.  Back to the mason jar analogy, if we put the big rocks in the mason jar first, then we still have room for the urgent stuff (the small rocks) and the not so urgent (the sand).   The point of the analogy is that most people don’t work like this.  Most people tend to focus on the urgent which is not necessarily the important.  If you start filling your mason jar with the gravel and the sand, there’s no room for the big rocks.  When you are focusing on the urgent, those big important things never get done.  These are the big ticket items, the goals that, if completed, could have a big impact on your life.  Big rocks are the tools that allow us to work smarter rather than working harder.  These are the targets that drive purpose, rather than just pass time.

As I explained this analogy to one of the groups I was working with, one of the Sand-People.jpgparticipants claimed that he was nothing but a sand person.  Without missing a beat, one of the other participants said, “the sand people are easily startled, but they will soon be back, and in greater numbers.”  Star Wars hilarity aside, there are some lessons here.  This particular participant is one of the best educated people I have ever met, having both a Ph.D. and a law degree.  He claimed that as a patent attorney, his entire work existence was driven by sand and small rocks, by the urgent.  For him, he feels like it is just one case after another.  He wasn’t alone.  My wife is a doctor and she has felt the same way.  While she is at work, seeing patients, it is all about the urgent.  One patient after another, it becomes difficult to focus on the big stuff.

This is true with a lot of professionals, especially those professionals where he/she is the product.  The services they provide drive the business.  One of the sad realities of the schooling that professionals receive is that it is so specialized.  My wife spent four years in medical school and another three in residency and never once had a single class or lesson on business.  When she opened her practice, she felt constantly overwhelmed.  She had to see 12 to 15 patients a day as a family doc and try to run a business on top of that.  So where can big rocks possibly fit in with all of that urgency?  The answer for her was nowhere.  After about five years of this urgency, like a lot of professionals and certainly like a lot of family docs, she wanted to quit.  She loved the patients and the medicine but hated the system that forced her to practice medicine like a drive through attendant.  She was becoming bitter and that bitterness was making her unhealthy.

It took a couple of years of further unhappiness before she finally was forced into realizing that she would need to make some big changes.  She could either quit and do something else or she could focus on the business and become a business owner and not just the product.  After years as a sand person, she came to a tipping point where the big rock decisions she had to make were forced on her.  After going through that pain, she now splits her time between being a business owner and being a provider.  When she’s a business owner, she is allowed to work on the big rocks that allows her practice to work smarter.  When she’s a provider and back in the sand, things are running far better because the business invested in efficiency.  The sand doesn’t seem nearly as suffocating.

The moral of the story is that the big important stuff has to get done one way or another.  You can either wait until there is an emergency or you can be proactive and enjoy the journey.  If you look with the attitude of – let’s catch this before it turns into a fire drill – you will find that there is always time for the big things that drive improvement.  Big rocks create opportunity.  Sometimes that opportunity comes in the form of efficiency.  Efficiency creates time.  Sometimes big rocks create happiness, sometimes they create better relationships and sometimes they create mastery.  Regardless of the big rocks that you choose, they are going to affect change that will impact your life for the better.  The only mistake we can make when focusing on big rocks is not spending time on them.

Big Rock Process

Back to the process.  Once we have our critical few objectives, we need to figure out what we can do in the short term to accomplish our three month critical few objectives.  When we build out our big rocks we are now working at the one month level.  These big rocks are the important things that you can get done in the next thirty days that will move your three month objective forward.

Each big rock needs to fit the SMART goal definition.  This means that it needs to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented and Time boxed.  When setting goals, most people go wrong at this stage.  The two big mistakes I see all the time is that folks will either try to boil the ocean and go waaaay too big or they pick something that is too ambiguous, where you can’t tell if you’ve succeeded or not.

Here is an example of some big rocks built for the vision above:


It’s ok to lean on the obstacle and plans from the WOOP step as a reminder of what you are nervous about in hitting your targets.  The obstacle and plan become far more important in our next step however, when building out our metrics.

Now that we have our big rocks filled out, we are making some serious progress on the end scorecard.  Here’s how the scorecard is starting to look:


In our next process post we will discuss how we are going to measure for success and how we set our time boxes on each big rock.


Building the personal development plan 2

The personal development plan

When we last wrote about building the personal development plan, we ended with building out the four skills and passions that we wanted to focus on over the next three months.  These skills recognized the character strengths necessary to improve or create these skillsets.

The finale of that step looked something like this:


When building these skills out with some of the groups we’ve worked with, the number one piece of feedback we received was that it is difficult to come up with skills and passions that you want to improve when they are not related to problems being faced in the day to day.  Utilizing that feedback, our next sessions will prime the pump before we start deciding on skills.  We will do this by asking our users to first think of those things in the last couple of months where they fell short on something, they felt scared, or they were disappointed in their own performance.  We will be asking them to do this in all four life categories of Work, Health, Play and Love.  Once these issues have been identified we will then ask our users to build out the skills and passions that would have changed these outcomes for the better.


Once the skills and passions have been identified, we then move on to how we are going to act on them.  In a previous post we discussed the benefits of WOOP.  This is a great tool for crystallizing goals.  Once we have identified the problem space and the skills and strengths necessary to overcome those problems, we focus on specifics.  This is where WOOP becomes the go to tool.

The first step of WOOP is the Wish element.  We spend a couple minutes thinking about the most important goal we wish to accomplish in the next three months related to the particular skill or problem set.  Once we have this written down, we focus on outcome.  Outcome forces us to ask: if your wish were fulfilled, what would be the best possible outcome?  How would that outcome make you feel?

Some of ours users struggled with understanding the difference between wish and outcome.  Most of our test group seemed to think it was the same thing.  The difference between the two steps is that the wish is defining what you want to accomplish and the outcome is taking the step of visualizing the positive outcome.  Most of our users believed that they were doing that anyway in the wish step so felt the outcome step was redundant.  To each their own.  We are going to keep both steps because we believe that reinforcing the visualization of success is really powerful.  Not all users will do that in the wish step and we want to make sure that we explicitly call this out.

Once the Wish and the outcome steps have taken place, we end up with something like this:


In the next step we explore our obstacles.  This is where we spend some time trying to understand what is going to prevent us from hitting our goal.  The trick is to be specific.  There are a lot of obstacles that we don’t have any control over.  So we need to hone our focus by asking: what is your main inner obstacle?  What within you is holding you back from accomplishing this wish?  This is a critical step in pulling ourselves out of the victim mindset.  In this step, we are acknowledging that our biggest challenges come from within.

Once we identify the obstacle, we work on the plan.  This is a traditional If..then statement.  If we hit this obstacle then we take this action.  The question we ask: what can you do to overcome this obstacle?  What action can you take when it arises?  This plan gives us the power to do something about the obstacles we know we will run into.

Here’s an example of this phase:


This was just the first of four WOOPs.  Once all four WOOPs are completed, we then move on to building our vision.

Critical Few Objectives (CFOs)

The critical few objectives concept comes from the balanced scorecard discipline.  These objectives are critical because they are our top priorities for the three month period.  If we complete them, they will have a changing impact on our lives.  They are few because our only chance at success is if we keep focus.  The whole thing only works if we pick a small number of achievable goals.  We set the max here at four.  Finally the objective is the SMART goal that comes out of the WOOP Process.

As an aside, we did receive some feedback that we are using way too many acronyms.  Guilty as charged.  This all comes from a biz background where the landscape is littered with these capitalized eyesores.  We will be working to personalize our terms as we build the software.

To build each of our CFOs, we ask our participants to come up with some combination of wish and outcome to create the CFO.  This is primarily a wordsmithing task at this stage.  Here’s an example of two CFOs:


The three month vision

Once all the CFOs are created, they fit nicely into a vision statement.  The vision statement becomes the north star for the next three months.  The beginning and end of the vision statement are boilerplate for the first plan.  Moving forward these become custom tailored as our users get closer to defining their own purpose.  Here is an example of a vision statement.


The vision becomes the keystone for building out the rest of the scorecard.  Stay tuned as we’ll cover that in our next process blog!


Purpose and Finding True North

Setting direction for your personal development plan

In our last blog on the subject we discussed getting to your goals by starting with the skills that you wanted to improve.  We then asked you to narrow this down and loosely try to tie these to the four buckets of health, work, love and play.  All of these are necessary in one form or another to build a life worth living.

Drivers and motivation

Before we dive too deeply into goals, we need to discuss drivers.  What are the things that get us out of bed in the morning?  Our drivers will play a critical role in helping us find that ever elusive purpose.  Management consultant Daniel Pink did a great Ted talk on what motivates us.  He found that motivations, especially for white collar workers, were not necessarily what you would think.  I highly recommend you check out his talk, it’s excellent.  After poring through tons of research, the discovery was that as long as you are making a living wage, money is not a great motivator.  Incenting folks with things like cash bonuses inspires them to perform more poorly than no incentive at all.  This is true for those tasks that require thought, money can still incent performance of pure manual labor.

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose


So, what does inspire us to better performance, to better engagement?  The three keys, according to Pink, are: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  You’re certainly in the right place for autonomy.  You will be building and maintaining your personal development plan by yourself.  We will give you gentle reminders on a regular basis, but you are the mastermind.  As for mastery, that is what the whole skill section is about.  Skills are the vehicle to mastery.  That brings us to purpose.  Purpose is the compass.  It’s the guiding light that takes us from now to then.  If we’re aligned with our purpose, the world feels right.  Everything is lighter and more fun.  If we’re not aligned with our purpose, something feels off.  Contentment and joy are always right around the corner.

So how do we figure out what our purpose is?  That’s the million dollar question.  This won’t happen in a day.  This will be an iterative process that we will discover along the way.  Like damn near anything else in life, trial and error provide us with our best roadmap.  You just need to pay attention.  We’re going to give you the tools to make that easier.

That brings us back to drivers.  Trying to pull purpose from the ether is as likely as finding gold at the end of a rainbow.  Burnett and Evans counsel the creation of a life view and a work view in their book, Designing your Life.  These force you to ask yourself some really tough questions to build a coherent picture of what it means to be you.  I found this exercise enlightening but slippery.  While building these views I constantly felt torn between who I thought I was, who others thought I was, and things I thought it would be cool to be.  This made the end result as clear as an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

It did get clearer the minute I started putting these views to the test.  Once I added goals and started chasing them, it became more obvious what inherently worked for me and what didn’t.  Be careful because there’s a trap here that we have to be extremely cautious about.  Goals that are easier to accomplish aren’t necessarily the goals that will help you define your purpose.  Easier goals are a byproduct of a skillset that is closer to mastery and/or the result of setting lower targets.  The goals that help you define your purpose are the ones that make you feel ‘right’ when you complete them.  They make you feel like a better version of yourself.  You’ll know that feeling when you hit it, it’s not just a sense of accomplishment, it’s also a deep feeling of contentment.  It’s like that feeling you get when you lower your sore body into a nice hot bath, except for your brain.  When your brain goes, ‘ahhhhhhh’, then you know you’re on the right track.

Picking a direction

Future-Sign-PostIt is important to pick a direction before you set off.  You may find that you’re going the wrong way quickly and then we can pivot.  You’re not going anywhere though if you try to set off heading East, West, North and South at the same time.  We can only pivot after we’ve decided on a direction in the first place.

This is where character strengths and personality types can help us build a roadmap.  Your top 5 character strengths do a pretty good job of defining your character.  If your purpose is not aligned with your character and values, things aren’t going to go very well.  Let’s look at a couple of examples.

If ‘Love of Learning’ is one of your top 5, chances are you’re going to want to chase a purpose that allows you the chance to do a lot of research.  In some roles, this is obvious.  If you’re a software engineer, for example, you may gravitate towards becoming an architect.  This is someone that is constantly researching, innovating, prototyping and general tinkering.  Love of learning – covered.  This would also work incredibly well in any of the sciences or in academia.  What if you’re a sales guy though?  Are you just screwed?  I’ve worked with a consultant over the years who I respected the hell out of.  He was an incredibly effective sales guy and what got him out of bed in the morning was improving the process.  He researched everything about the process, he gathered tons of data, he analyzed why some sales guys were more effective than others and all of this research led him to become the sales leader for a huge company year after year.  The last time he actually worked for a company, he has his own now, his title was Chief Sales Scientist.  So, it is possible to fit any character strength to any role with a little creativity.

If creativity is one of your top 5, you’re probably going to want to integrate some way to express yourself in your purpose.  If you’re in the arts, this is a no brainer.  If you have a creative side that is just itching to explode from your day job as an accountant though, then what?  This could fall into your ‘play’ goals or you could again incorporate this into your work.  That’s essentially what the big banks did when they created things like CDOs out of thin air.  Not a very ethical use of creativity, but creative nonetheless.  Another example, was the creation of microeconomics and micro-lending.  Companies like Kiva and Kickstarter turned lending into a wellspring of creativity that really has improved the world.

Core Values and Purpose

core_value_imageOur software will provide you with ideas for each of the character strengths.  You can take these ideas, decide to use some of them or none of them, but you will have to build yourself an initial direction.  It doesn’t need to be fully fleshed out but you do need to start somewhere.  Initial direction will be more of a core values approach than a true purpose statement, but core values are a critical first step towards building out your purpose.

As a final example of these ideas let’s look at my core values and purpose.  My top 5 are: Honesty, love of learning, perseverance, leadership and judgement.  Since purpose isn’t too far from core values, that’s a good place to start.  Here’s the core values I’ve lived by over the years :  My word binds me.  My work needs to progress society.  I’m nobody’s victim, I am responsible for my situation.  Study and improve the world.  Embrace change.  Experiences and people over things.  Sound body, sound mind.  Enjoy today.

Here’s the longer version that is my current iteration of purpose:  All actions are done with integrity and purpose.  Be able to look back at past accomplishments with pride knowing we did everything we could, left no stone unturned.  Work extends beyond accomplishment into contribution.  The work we do moves the progress bar for the species.  Set an example my kids would be proud to follow.  Folks will feel better about themselves after meeting with me, not from meaningless flattery but from honest interaction.  Be honest with ourselves as a people. Live in a society where real human dialog and coherent thought trumps curated sound bites.  Envision a world where we can disagree with each other without loathing each other.  Disagreement spawns innovation, but only if we listen.  Study the human condition to bring about real change.  Prove to the world that vulnerability coupled with hard work is far more effective than positioning yourself as a victim.  Enjoy life, love, family and tribe.

This didn’t come about quickly.  It’s also not finished.  I don’t think it will ever be finished.  The world is changing and we have to live in it, so to think that we will have one purpose that drives us for the rest of our lives is naïve at best.  To get here, I’ve done the work view, I’ve done the life view.  I’ve put both of these to the test.  Many of the things I originally wrote, that weren’t authentic, fell off during the trial and error period.  You won’t come out of the gate with a fully articulated purpose but your initial direction is the first step to get you there.

Thanks for reading!  More about next steps in building your personal development plan in our next post.