Well-implemented strategic planning provides vision, direction and goals for the firm, practice or attorney; but operational planning translates that strategy into the everyday execution tactics of the business, ultimately producing the outcomes defined by the strategy. The day to day execution or implementation planning is the conversion of strategic goals into execution. No business legal, or other like to admit that most are lacking in the know-how, skills, knowledge, experience and discipline to carry off precise execution of strategic plans. This is often poorly handled, resulting in at best mediocre results and worst management making assumptions that plans don’t work.
The fact of the matter is the execution component is equally as important as the strategic visioning. I have a formula with my clients: Strategy + Implementation = Results. The implementation side of the equation is where a lot of firms fail, regardless of whether they are solo or in a larger firm. There are huge road- blocks that get in the way to the business of implementation. Authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, in their book “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done”, discusses this in detail. Proper execution is a disciplined process or logical set of activities that enable a business to make its strategy work. Not having a planned approach to execution will increase risk of failure. So not only do you need a vision, you need a system for execution.
Below are some common reasons why strategic plans fail:
- The planners and ‘doers’ are not part of the same planning process. Often times, the planners, often senior partners see themselves as elite and above the ‘doer’s or worker bees. If things don’t go well the ‘doers’ often get blamed. The fact of the matter remains pretty much everyone from senior level is a doer. The greater interaction, involvement and communication between these groups the more that is executed efficiently.
- Good employers, with the right skill set are needed for the execution process. Execution requires considerably more time and effort than the planning process. It is not the result of a single decision or action but more of a series of integrated actions over a period of time.
- Most of us, particularly lawyers don’t like change and try to minimize it as much as possible, oftentimes to their own detriment. Strategy and execution demands change, which requires changes in people’s behavior.
- Clear responsibility and accountability is critical to ensure successful implementation. Management must know who is doing what, when and why and more importantly steps in the execution process.
- Leadership, whether its practice group leaders or an owner of a small law firm must not only drive the firm to success but they must motivate ownership and commitment to the implementation process. Make sure you engage your associates, interns, and all of your support staff.
- Consistent communication to ensure that everyone planners and does are on the same page. All the relevant teams must be communicated the businesses outcomes, progress and changes. In a sense, senior partners and practice group leaders have to sell the importance of importance to execution to their teams…the infamous WIFM (what’s in it for me).
- Organizational goals should be constructed in terms of outcomes; that will mean something tangible to customers, employees and the organization’s markets served. Likewise, goals should be defined in such a way that they can be measured and managed throughout the layers of the organization. Goals should help propel action and achievement from the managers and workers who will be involved in accomplishing the goals.
Linking strategy to action must be a critical part of any planning process. (During the VIP Business Intensive days, I do a fair amount of organization and calendaring with clients) To reduce risk and ensure success, systematic steps must be clearly outlined within the execution process to all the stakeholders so that they can visualize the change. Finally, by no means is this list complete, but its definitely some of the recurring themes I’ve seen when clients come to me frustrated and trying to understand what went wrong. As I’ve said in many of my previous blog posts, none of this is rocket science. Most of its common-sense, which in my experience is in very short supply. I’m just a phone call away for a conversation.