I have participated on several strategic planning sessions for law firms. Many times the result was a set of ideas that were never written down and were quickly forgotten the next day. There seems to be a feeling that strategic planning is not a key element of success. I believe that both people and organizations need to establish a strategic plan for success. Incorporated in that plan should be;
- The values that decide your actions. These values are your boundaries and they apply to you and your business. For a business the values define how you will value clients, vendors, your staff and the community.
- The vision you have for the future. This is a statement about what you and your law firm want to become. This can be as simple as a couple of words or a lengthy list.
- A mission that defines what you are doing now. This is a description of what you or your business does.
- A strategy that incorporates your strengths and addresses your weaknesses. This should include goals and action plans to guide your daily actions.
I participated with a team that identified its preferred management style as flying by the seat of their pants. I did not see any evidence that the team valued strategic planning or systematic actions as opposed to flying by the seat of their pants. The more I looked into this dilemma the more I realized that the individuals that participate in the planning did not believe in strategic planning as a process at all. Well if that was the case, why would they use it in their business. I believe that your firm’s success and your personal success depend on how well you understand what you want to do. In fact:
- Law firms whose employees understand the mission and goals enjoy a 29 percent greater return on investment than other firms (Watson Wyatt Work Study).
- U.S. workers want their work to make a difference, but 75% do not think their company’s mission statement has become the way they do business (Workplace 2000 Employee Insight Survey).
Most of the time, the results I see from strategic planning do not represent reality. A vision is a statement about what you want your law firm to become. It should resonate with all members of the organization and help them feel proud, excited, motivated, and part of something much bigger than themselves. The vision gives shape and direction to the organization’s future. All great words but if the vision is not real people quickly dismiss it.
This is also true of your personal life. Your personal vision statement should guide your life and the choices you make about your career. Your personal vision statement defines the path you are on. If you do not believe in having a vision for your life you probably won’t have one for your business. For this reason we (Catalyst) will start a new project looking at self-mastery. There are some basic questions we will ask to start this process. Here is a sample;
- What are the ten things you most enjoy doing? Be honest. We will use an exercise from “The Passion Test” by Chris and Janet Attwood to prioritize this list.
- What are your five-six most important values? Discovering what your values are is key to self-mastery. Your values will define the boundaries.
- Your life has a number of important facets or dimensions, all of which deserve some attention in your personal vision statement. Write one important goal for each of them: physical, spiritual, work or career, family, social relationships, financial security, and fun.
- If you never had to work another day in your life, how would you spend your time?
- When your life is ending, what will you regret not doing, seeing, or achieving? In this exercise Cheryl will often ask the question: “What do you want on your tombstone”?
- What strengths have other people commented on about you and your accomplishments? What strengths do you see in yourself?
- What weaknesses have other people commented on about you and what do you believe are your weaknesses?
Once you have thoughtfully prepared answers to these questions you are ready to develop a personal vision statement. Write in first person and make statements about the future you hope to achieve. Write the statements as if you are already making them happen in your life. Keep in mind that your personal vision statement can also change over time, depending upon what is happening in your life. Take the time to formulate answers to the above questions, and write your personal vision statement.
Frequently I am asked if I can stay on plan every day without regard for the demands around me. What they want to know is how I stay focused when the stress of day to day burdens start to pile up. The answer is no, I can’t stay on plan all the time. I have discovered that life is a compromise. Sometimes my health or the needs of others will dictate what I will or should do. I strive not to let this override my vision or my needs so I can have a balance. Think about and write your vision and each day see if you have a balance. If you have no vision there is no possibility for balance and one day you wake up and ask: “Is that all there is”?
If you want a law firm where the staff understands the mission and goals you have to define them first. Want to enjoy that 29% greater return than write your plan. With your vision, mission, strategies and goals all understood and shared you will win the game.