What and How in order to Why – 2 Stage Development Planning

Firstly, an admission.  I wrote this post 4 years ago and can be found here.  Its still incredibly relevant and one of my most read posts.  Although it was originally written to help managers to guide their employees, I think its a great skill set for anyone to have, especially as you start your working career.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at careeringtosuccess@gmail.com.

Original Post

I’ve spent much of the last month working with various managers at all levels in a business to focus on development planning of their employees.

Much of the time, it is seen as a simple box ticking exercise in order to ‘fill out the paperwork’.  The reason for development seems to have been forgotten by all but those who are actively focussed on progression and promotion.  Of course, everyone can develop and improve.

Stage 1

Drivers for your Development

Begin with the outcome in mind. The goal is the activity in which you are trying to deliver a result.

What you need in order to deliver that goal is both the technical skills required for that activity and more importantly the behavioural competencies to help you be more effective in delivering that great result.

Your development should focus on satisfying a need for one or the other of these things, either the technical skill or the competency to help you make a success of it.

This is the first stage; identifying why you are doing it.

Stage 2

Stage two is to figure out the mechanism in which you are going to ‘develop’.  This is the second stumbling block to people creating a good development plan.  A simple thought process to this however is to follow the model What and How in order to Why.


What is the actual need, the specific thing that is required?  Is it a strength that you want to develop to greater effect (yes, development doesn’t need to be focussed on a weakness) or perhaps plug a gap?

Is it a skill required or a competence?

Some examples might be develop presentation skills or learn how to type.

These are not the activities themselves (the How) and they are not the rationalle for doing it (the Why) but they are an essential part.


How really starts to get into the interesting part which requires you to truly get into the specifics of how this can be achieved.  This will likely be more than one action step.

For those followers of GTD, this taps into the idea of a ‘Next Action’; what actually needs to happen to turn the ‘what’ into reality.

Continuing the examples above, it could be read Garr Reynold’s book Presentation Zen or complete tutorial from online touch typing class.


Lastly, the Why.  This actually brings us all the way back to the starting point in Stage 1 of beginning with the outcome in mind.  What goal are you ultimately trying to reach some kind of output on?

When you couple these three things with the transition phrase ‘in order to‘ then you get:

Develop presentation skills by reading Garr Reynold’s book Presentation Zen in order to have a more effective communication style when pitching ideas to senior management.
Learn how to type by completing the tutorial from the online touch typing class in order to become more efficient in creating monthly technical reports.

Now these are relative simple development plans (if only skills and competencies could be gained so easily) but I hope they give you the idea.

Development planning does not need to be complicated but you do need to step back and get back to basics.  Why don’t you try this two stage model with something you want to achieve this month.  Good Luck.

(‘What’ photo by judepics, ‘How’ photo by ivanwalsh, ‘Why’ photo by theeerin via flickr used under a creative Commons Licence)

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