Better Business Basics


Sunday, December 2, 2001

Achieve personal success
by managing strategically

As a teacher of strategic management at Hawaii Pacific University, my role is to increase business students' awareness of the need for businesses to continuously evaluate their external and internal environments, as they plan and implement decisions for their future success.

This philosophy can also help an individual take more charge of his/her future.

What does it mean to strategically analyze your own life?

>> First, it means being in touch with the world around you. For example, what are the general political-legal, economic, technological, and sociocultural changes happening in society? Do these changes have the potential to offer any opportunities or impose any threats upon your way of life? Your career?

>> Second, it means being in touch with your area of expertise or field.

How long has this field been around? Are there established rules to follow, in order to progress in your career? Are there major players in your career? How did they get there? How competitive is your field? Is it easy or difficult to get in or out? Are there alternative fields that might provide similar satisfaction in working conditions? Who controls the direction of your field and your responsibilities? How much control do they have? Who uses your services? How much control do they have over the field?

Answering questions like these makes you ready to assess the possible opportunities and threats from your field that can affect your way of life.

Prioritize these opportunities and threats based on: 1) Their probable impact on you and 2) How well you have responded to them over time. This will tell you how well or poorly you have been responding to the external environment.

>> Next, assess the attributes and advantages that you possess that have led to your life successes, thus far.

What are the tangible and intangible assets that you possess? What are your unique capabilities over time? What are you especially good at doing?

After looking over what you personally possess and what you find the external environment portrays as opportunities, think about the advice for future success that you would give anyone in your field, experiencing similar conditions.

>> then, it is time to get to know your personal strengths and weaknesses. First, compare yourself, over 3 to 5 years, to yourself.

What have you been doing well over the past 3-5 years? Consider these activities/traits as your strengths.

Poorly? Consider these activities/traits as your weaknesses.

Next, compare yourself to peers whose lifestyles and stages of career progression are similar to you.

Finally, compare yourself to the advice you would give anyone in your field, experiencing similar conditions.

How does your experience relate to the advice you developed earlier? Have you been subconsciously following this advice yourself (i.e., strength) or is it totally different from how you have been living your life (i.e., weakness)?

Prioritize these strengths and weaknesses based on: 1) Their impact on your position, and 2) Your response to each strength and weakness. This will tell you how well or poorly you are considering your own strengths and weaknesses.

>> Now it is time to develop a summary of what you have learned from doing this strategic analysis on yourself.

First, what are the uncontrollable issues that you have found out from this analysis? These issues will mostly come from the external environment. They are good to know about as reference points. Next, what are the controllable issues that you have uncovered about yourself?

These are the areas for improvement that you will probably need to work on, in order to move in a successful direction. By combining your specific strengths and weaknesses with the environment's opportunities and threats that you uncovered, in various configurations, you will come up with multiple directions to move in.

Once you determine which choices seem logical, based on your intuition, assumptions and analysis, it will be up to you to develop objectives to achieve a choice direction.

Make sure that your objectives have reach to them and yet, are still realistic. Attach a timeframe for fulfillment and measurable criteria to your objectives. Most importantly, make sure your objectives are consistent with one another. Chances are, you will fulfill these objectives, since they will be effectively written.

Take responsibility for achieving these objectives with the appropriate resources and remember to periodically evaluate your progress. Revise your strategic analysis if it is not leading to the results that you desire.

Now you are strategically managing your life.

Susan Fox-Wolfgramm is an associate professor of management at Hawaii Pacific University. She can be reached at

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