Plan strategically for the New Year

Lt. Col. Gregory Karahalis is the 50th Operations Group deputy commander at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Gregory Karahalis is the 50th Operations Group deputy commander at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo)


Happy New Year.  Maybe you feel the same way I do, but each year in recent memory brings with it evermore change and challenge.  Like me, you may be wondering how to sort out the big goals—strategic issues—that need your attention over the coming year.  I’ll briefly offer a few time tested approaches to improve your ability to identify and plan strategically so that your resolutions have strategic solutions.

In everything we do, especially in the military, having a plan and being disciplined in the execution of your plan is a cornerstone of success.  Your supervisor or commander will help you determine what part of your time should be spent on near-term issues versus long-term goals.  You will frequently confront competing priorities, address those most important to your mission first.  Then work out how you and your team can advance long-term goals, while accomplishing immediate short-term needs.  Creating this plan requires analysis by your team in the context of your work environment.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis is a popular method for generating strategic goals because it provides a structured way to address team capabilities against the work environment.  A team’s capabilities, its strengths and weaknesses, must be known in order to maximize performance.  For example, the team may have excellent communication, but lousy technical skills.  The environment will be filled with threats and opportunities.  This team knows it needs training to improve key skills, access to funding for that training may be an opportunity, but there may not be enough time (threat) to get training before a key deadline.  What then?  Using SWOT analysis as a forecasting tool can help your team prioritize goals and articulate them clearly.  Using the SMART approach helps you to develop the goal into a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound description.  But how do you know you are you choosing the right goals?

Your leadership has likely documented your unit’s strategy.  Your part is to define your work center’s tasks within those larger strategic objectives.  I challenge you to assess your goals for their contribution to success around four areas defined in detail in Air Force Instruction 1-2, Commander’s Responsibilities.  You know them:  Managing Resources, Improving the Unit, Leading People and Executing the Mission.  If your goals work together to address these areas in a balanced fashion and in the context of your leadership’s strategies, then your team is on the right track.

Goal setting is traditional in January.  Take the time now to think ahead about your year and what your team needs to do to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.  SWOT, SMART and MILE provide you a structured set of tools to develop, define and prioritize strategic goals.  There’s much more written about these approaches to strategic planning, goal setting and task execution.  I hope your year is productive because you took the time today to make strategic resolutions.