I am frequently asked whether a strategic plan really makes a difference in firm performance. As I have encountered many firms without strategic plans who have achieved high levels of success, this is a fair question.
The reality is that the survival instincts and talents of the partners in many firms are the primary drivers of their success. These firms operate at very high energy levels, emphasize clients and cases, and measure success in mostly economic terms.
As firms mature, however, it becomes more difficult to compete using a two dimensional approach. To be consistent winners, firms need a strategy to identify opportunities that allows for real growth in capacity and capability.
A strategic plan is most effective for achieving the following:
- Sustained success in the long term;
- Alignment of leaders and future leaders;
- A basis for choosing between opportunities; and
- A basis for measuring performance.
Education before plan development
While many attorneys agree that a strategic plan could make a positive difference in their firm performance, they fear that the process of creating a plan will not result in meaningful change. Having read a number of strategic plans that were never implemented, this also seems be a valid concern.
I recommend a process that consists of education before actual plan development.
The main areas of concentration include:
- Marketing and client service
- Attorney development
- Staff development
- Succession and transition
- Leadership development
- Short and long term incentives
Partners and other key personnel who can view issues from a common frame of reference are more likely to produce a meaningful plan. A plan built on a solid understanding of the market-based fundamentals that includes sustainable incentives is more likely to be embraced by the full firm.