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Individual Development Plans (IDPs) Are Worthless

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) Are Worthless

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

October 01, 2010

…if no action is taken.

I take a lot of pride in helping people write “Individual Development Plans”, or IDPs. Thousands of people have stumbled upon Great Leadership searching on this topic, and I’ve probably helped write over 1000 of them as part of my day job.

When working with a leader or aspiring leader, I’ll follow this process:

We usually have a great discussion, and the leader leaves energized about what they are going to do to develop as a leader.

Yes, I’ll tell you, I’ve helped write some beautiful IDPs. I should start a portfolio; maybe publish one of those big coffee table books, or frame them and hang them in my office.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid many of them are worthless pieces of paper. They are fairy tales, complete fabrications, and boldfaced lies.

How do I know this? Because when I check in with the leader (or leader’s manager) 6 months later, more often than not no action has been taken. That’s of course if they can even find the plan.

These are not slackers that I work with. These are high achievers – A players. Heck, I just pulled my own IDP out and realized there were quite a few things I never did. Why not? They sure seemed like great ideas at the time – I was committed, motivated, and had my manager’s enthusiastic support.

This lack of IDP follow-up is a nut I’ve been trying to crack for years. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how well intended people are, development will always be neglected unless some sort of process is put in place to follow-up. That’s why people struggle so much to lose weight on their own. Weight loss programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig work best when you have to weigh in once a week and talk to your counselor, track your progress, and face the consequences or reap the rewards.

The same thing happens after a training program. Participants leave all excited about putting their new ideas and skills to use, and within a few weeks, without follow-up, it’s right back to where they started.

Next: Step One >>

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