There is always a need for planning in business. Good businesses are constantly operating in the cycle of planning, executing, evaluating and re planning. Whatever managerial role you find yourself in, there will always be an ongoing requirement to develop some sort of strategic plan. But where do you start? How do you begin to develop a plan?

One methodology is to take a four-step approach and ask yourself the following questions: Where are we now? How did we get here? These two questions provide a benchmark or baseline measurement and in combination are often called a situation analysis. Next question: Where do we want to be? This is the objective setting part of the process, and this is followed closely by the final question: How do we get there? This is the strategy.

So, there you have it, four simple questions that should provide a workable framework to help you structure a planning process. Clearly you can use this macro-approach for any form of strategic business planning, but it has relevance in career planning as well. Variations of this approach are often used by business coaches when working with individuals or companies and it often provides a simple roadmap to harness thoughts and capture the essence of that change.

So, let’s take these questions in turn and see how they could be applied to your career plan. Where are you now? Think deeply about this and conduct a self-audit. Of course, this could cover all the topline factors such as job title, age, grade, salary level, business sector and location but could also extend deeper to reflect your breadth of experience (or lack of it), accumulated responsibility areas (or gaps) and even the type of person you are. Secondly, pause and have a think about the second question: How did I get here? Consider what the key factors affecting and influencing your career choices to date have been. Think about why you are really doing the job that you currently turn up each day for.

Next comes objective setting. So, the tried and tested question: Where do you want to be? Set yourself some milestones, anything from six months’ time, to five years. Don’t just think about job title and salary, but consider some of those deeper factors you have just audited such as types of experiences and responsibility areas that might interest you. Think expansively and horizontally and don’t just limit yourself to the next step up the ladder.

Lastly comes the strategy piece: How do I get there? Get thinking and start to develop all the specific steps required to get you to your first identified milestone. And please, start doing something about it today!