Be Careful What You Ask For!

I  had a very frustrated client.  When I questioned her about what was upsetting her, she said all these new cases.  This is too much to do and she was getting stressed out. I was a little confused because just a few weeks ago all she wanted was more cases.  Kind of reminded me of that old saying, “Be careful what you ask for because you may get it”. This particular young lady was a recent graduate from our self-mastery course.  We talked about the philosophy of self-mastery, which promotes the idea to ask for what you want and want what you ask for.  This was a qualified first step.

Self-mastery starts with a clear definition of what you want, your purpose or your vision. The next step is to break this down into a mission or a definition of what you need to do today to realize that vision or purpose.  OK, she decided that what she needed was more cases.  The problem here is that there was no strategic planning done.  It was kind of a best guess that she needed cases.  If a little planning were done she would have realized that what she needed was a lot more.  She needed skills, resources and qualified cases.  A strategic plan would have defined a process and a set of goals to address what she needed.

As simple as this may sound, I frequently find there is no evidence of strategic planning.  Many times I see that people get just what they asked for but it was not really what they wanted.  We can explain this phenomenon over and over again and we still see a rush to execute.  The real problem here is that the vision defined really did not ask for more cases.  The end result being sought was much more global and it was probably something like: I want to be happy.  In her mind she analyzed that and decided that to be happy meant less stress and to have less stress meant get out of debt.  OK, so far – to get out of debt meant increased revenue and increased revenue meant more cases.  So, she wanted more cases. Beyond that there was no analysis done.  The first flaw in this analysis is that you don’t need more revenue to accomplish getting out of debt. You want more profit.  Besides new cases you probably also want to better qualify the cases you get, improve the efficiency of your operation and increase your capacity.  In fact you may discover that you really don’t need “more cases”, you need a better business process.

I have had this conversation many times and the feedback I get would suggest that most people don’t really see the benefit of strategic planning or they don’t believe that focus on a defined vision is beneficial. Even if they did, most of the people I talked to are fighting demons. They are in immediate response mode busy fighting issues and have lost sight of any vision or higher level purpose. Many times I will see a law firm spend time and money to develop a grand vision or a strategic plan only to put it on the shelf and “get back to work” as soon as the exercise is over.  I have seen groups spend days putting together a good plan and all agree what the priorities are and on Monday morning toss all that aside.

Failure to execute strategy is one of the main reasons businesses fail and law firms are no exception. We know what to do, but don’t do it. Many times there is a disconnect between the people that developed the strategy and the people doing the work. A lack of leadership.  The other big ah ha moment was that the teams are under pressure to deliver results and do not have time to understand the great strategic plan sitting on the shelf.

Spending a little time to think about what you really want and how best to realize that dream can save a lot of time and greatly reduce the stress level. When I find a well-used strategic plan that has evidence of being opened up and read I usually find an efficient business.  If you do not explain the plan to the workers or you just don’t believe in the plan, it was a waste of time. Without that plan you will not gain the competitive advantage you need in today’s environment.