Personal Development Planning originated as a management development tool for business organisations in the 1950s. In the 1960s it was introduced into Higher Education in the US to facilitate academic achievement and into UK third level education in the 1990s.
Around the same time it also entered the mainstream as part of the self-improvement boom created by the publication of best-selling books like Covney’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Its popularity reflected a growing acceptance of ordinary people’s capacity to live a happier more productive and less humdrum life than was thought possible up to then.
Nowadays a well thought out plan is seen as an essential first step towards doing something intelligent about your personal development. The focus has also broadened to take in the whole spectrum of life as the practice of dealing with work, career and academic achievement in isolation no longer makes sense as key events in any one area of our lives is more than likely to affect those in other areas (Coopey et al, 1990).
The very first Personal Development Plans were based on participants writing down what they wanted from life and then drawing up a plan for getting it. A surprising number of these are still to be found on some very professionally presented web sites. Dressing them up with impressive sounding tools like Personal Mission Statements, Skill Inventories, Goal Setting techniques, and Mentoring Systems does not address their fundamental weakness.
The fatal flaw of this early model is that it does not address the key issue of identifying strengths and weaknesses. Without this essential piece of self-knowledge a Personal Development Plan is not only worthless but increases the likelihood of participants making incorrect career or life choices and striving for goals that they do not have the appropriate mix of strengths to achieve.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Professionally Researched Alternative
Coopey et al (1990) Develop You Management Potential – a self-help guide. London: Kogan Page
Covey, S., (1992) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. London; Simon & Schuster Ltd.
Luft, J.; Ingham, H. (1955). “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness”. Proceedings of the western training laboratory in group development (Los Angeles: UCLA).
Viscott, D. (1996) Emotional Resilience – Simple truths for dealing with the unfinished business of your past. New York: Three Rivers Press.