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Julie Winkle Giulioni


Seven Deadly Sins of Development Planning, Part 1

Avoiding ambiguity and assumptions

Published: Thursday, November 21, 2019 - 13:03

It’s the time of year when many leaders find themselves consumed by the business planning process. They scour through historical data, evaluate the current state, scan the environment, forecast the future, identify multiple scenarios that may present themselves, consider alternatives that will drive organizational success, and create actionable strategies and tactics to realize results.

What if leaders brought the same thoughtfulness, rigor, and discipline that’s applied to business planning to individual development planning?

After all, it’s people within an organization who connect with customers and clients day in and day out. It’s people who can surface issues, improvements, and innovations. It’s people who either have or lack the skills to execute on enterprisewide plans. And it’s actually people—and how well they’re developed—who dictate the success of any planning effort.

For sustainable success in today’s rapidly changing and ambiguous environment, it’s becoming increasingly important to find ways to incorporate meaningful individual development into broader business strategy planning. That’s because a well-trained, highly engaged workforce committed to continuous growth and learning is the most powerful differentiator that any organization can bring to the marketplace.

Doing this is a lot easier than it may seem, but only if leaders are able to break some unproductive habits that have developed—and in many cases institutionalized—over the years. In fact, there are seven deadly sins that, if addressed, can unleash potential and the power to move even the most ambitious business plans forward. Here are four of them.

Deadly sin No. 1: Focus on the form

Completing the fields and checking all the boxes on the prescribed paperwork is not the same as development. Too frequently, leaders rely on organizational processes and well-executed mechanics, and forget that development is a human—not a human resources—endeavor. Shift the focus. Move the conversation and the relationship into the foreground, and allow the form to simply memorialize a great conversation.

Deadly sin no. 2: Conflate development with performance

Many organizations have distanced performance reviews from career development for good reason. Discussions of performance, while critical to the individual and organization, are backward looking. Development needs to start with the here and now, and project that out into the future. Certainly, performance and skill gaps can and should be addressed and incorporated into growth plans—but only as one of many factors that can help propel others forward.

Deadly sin No. 3: Assume everyone has their sights set upward

The primary explanations leaders give for shying away from career development conversations is their belief that everyone wants a promotion, pay raise, corner office, or other perk leaders can’t deliver. And that’s so unfortunate because study after study suggests that only about 25 percent of the population is actually plotting their next promotion. Most employees are looking for ways to expand their skills and contributions. In fact, research I conducted with Beverly Kaye as we wrote Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want (Berrett-Koehler, second edition, 2019) found that the No. 1 outcome employees want from a career conversation with their supervisors is “creative ways to use my skills and talents.”

Deadly sin No. 4: Force it all into a single meeting

“One and done” is appropriate when it comes to development planning. The old annual ordeal has always been overwhelming and undereffective. But given the rapid pace of change, it’s unreasonable to expect that planning conducted today will still be relevant in seven months, seven years, or sometimes even in seven days. A distributed approach to development, one that’s more iterative, better fits the cadence—and needs—of today’s dynamic business environment.

Check in again to learn about the remaining deadly sins associated with development planning in the second part of this series.

First published Oct. 10, 2019, on the SmartBrief blog.


About The Author

Julie Winkle Giulioni’s picture

Julie Winkle Giulioni

Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-founder and principal of DesignArounds, a bi-coastal consulting, training, and development firm, committed to maximizing individual and organizational potential. Giulioni is the author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want with Bev Kaye. Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about her consulting, speaking and blog at JulieWinkleGiulioni.com.