Development Plans-Some Key Success Factors. Its about the Individual and the Organization

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walking through the woodsWhat is a good development plan? How do development plans grow individuals to be leaders? Are all development plans the same? As we approach the ‘review’ cycle within each of our organizations, how do development plans fit into the reviews of key leaders and high potential employees? Here are some ideas, sometimes controversial, of key elements for a successful development plan.

Some key success factors for a development plan.

  • Tied to hidden assumptions. It cannot just state the goal for the individual. It must be tied to sources of resistance and hidden assumptions. As part of the development plan, an Immunity Mapping exercise should be conducted so the individual understands what is truly blocking him/her. It’s the assumptions and competing commitments that are the reasons many development plans are difficult to embrace and reach. Unless the individual understands the true source of the challenge, it will be difficult to overcome. You need to go deep on this one in terms of emotions.
  • Multiple Strategies. It needs to marry the long term goals of the individual and the strategies of the business. There needs to be a balance between the two. Although you want to groom your leaders, you want to groom them in a way that benefits both them and the organization. Otherwise, the plan may not have the “want it” where the individual is truly driven to change.
  • Coaching from outside. I have become such a believer in the value of coaching. Having an outside person coach key leaders and individuals allows the leader to truly grow in a safe environment with a person they trust.
  • Awareness. As stated by Stringer, “awareness building must be the dominant theme of any good development plan” (Cheloha & Stringer, 2004).  It’s critical that the individual wants to change and sees the value. It’s ultimately up to the individual to make it happen so it’s critical that they believe in it, its value, and own the plan.
  • It needs to be personal. Not everyone is the same. Not everyone has the same strengths/weaknesses and goals. The development plan should be personalized to the individual. This is also key for them ‘owning it’.
  • The plan should have key measureable actions that are included. Small wins go a long way towards behavioral change.
  • Tie to current tasks. For stretch goals, there should be tasks at work where the individual can grow themselves, try new things, fail, learn and grow. Otherwise, the goal is just a goal. Without an environment to experiment and learn, reaching the goal becomes difficult.
  • Plans should be living documents. They are not something that is a once a year process. They should be revisited, modified and adjusted throughout the year between the individual, his/her manager, and potentially their coach.
  • Good development plans should include some element of an assessment, which gives an unbiased view of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Positive. I am a big believer in positive development. The development plans should include places for individuals to grow. But they should also include ways to leverage the individual’s strengths in different ways.

The most effective way to ensure the success of an organization is to invest in future leaders, both formal and informal leaders.


Stringer, R., & Cheloha, R. (2004). The power of a development plan. Human Resource Planning, 26(4), 10-17.