To break from the pack you have to be willing to break the rules.

A few years back, together with colleague David Parnell, we interviewed and surveyed 68 AmLaw firm leaders on their firm’s approach to strategic planning and their responses to 18 specific questions in preparation for a conference presentation we were delivering.

The overall results were startling in that despite months of preparation and thousands of dollars invested, less than 10% of these leaders were able to confidentially admit that they might have implemented “ALMOST all of their last strategic plan.”  Our presentation at the time was covered in Law360:  “Your Biz Strategy: Where Time and Money Go To Die” and the Global Legal Post: “Firms Spending Millions Writing Biz Plans That Just Gather Dust.”

We regrettably had to inform a room full of attendees at a New York Summit on Law Firm Strategic Planning that our research indicated that far too many firm leaders suffer an infliction that goes by the technical term of seeing SPOTS, with SPOTS being an acronym for Strategic Plan On the Shelf!

While some years have elapsed, my discussions with firm leaders and personal observations have me concluding that unfortunately nothing much seems to have changed.  In fact, in a discussion with the management committee members of a firm that had, in spite of Covid, completed a rather lengthy strategic planning process, I asserted, “Let me see if I can guess some of the primary elements that comprise your strategic plan.  I’ll bet your plan includes the following:

  • “we will strive to engage in more lateral hiring of good candidates with portable
  • we will seek to enhance the value and level of service we provide our clients;
  • we will find more ways to improve the efficiency of the services we deliver;
  • we will become more proficient in making our AFA and other pricing arrangements profitable;
  • we will organize our efforts to get more work from our key clients; and
  • we will have our practice groups work diligently at implementing our firm’s strategies.”

The committee members all laughed and asked which individual leaked an advanced copy of their plan for me to review.  Meanwhile, I continue to see consultants parading processes to produce strategic plans that evidence a fetish for creating visions, missions, goals, key performance indicators, and all forms of supposed best practices, all deployed as a substitute for the much tougher intellectual task of discerning market insights.  As one observer astutely commented:

If you couch strategy in terms of fluffy positives like vision, mission, and values, no one’s feelings are hurt, no one has to undertake the onerous work of analyzing the firm’s difficult challenges, and no hard decisions have to be made.

Firm leaders whom I’ve had the opportunity of speaking with tell me that as they have emerged from this Covid pandemic and begun to discern how to deal with this turbulent economy, they are committed to reviewing their firm’s strategic direction.  If you are going to do that, you must be able to challenge conventional thinking in order to grow.  Conventional thinking only leads to mediocrity, being stuck in the middle of the pack.

To grow you have to be willing to break the rules.  You can’t grow by following in the footsteps of competitors or simply thinking that you can merge your way to prosperity! You have to break away from the pack.  Unfortunately, some firms tend to drift along with everyone else, reacting to changes in the tide, hoping that maybe things will start coming their way.  From these firms, I continue to hear that “strategy is the easy part, it’s the implementation that is hard.” Implementation is indeed challenging, but the notion that strategy is easy, rests on the mistaken assumption that conventional strategic planning, as it is undertaken in far too many firms, has anything to do with strategy-making.

Then as they begin to explain how they might go about tackling this task, usually over a weekend meeting of their elected board or executive committee at some glamourous resort, I have to inform them that they are only going to be wasting their time, their money—and likely only result in pissing off their partners.

As was confirmed by much of our survey research, today if you have any interest in “real” strategic planning, I tell leaders that there are a number of fatal traps you need to ensure you don’t fall victim to.  Now this is not intended to be comprehensive, and in no order of priority, here are ten specific pitfalls that I would recommend you do your best to avoid:

Fatal Trap #1: Strategic planning that is focused on fixing internal problems.

For anyone truly interested in competitive strategy: there is a huge, fundamental distinction between being reactive versus proactive; focusing on the internal versus the external; and fixating on the operational rather than the strategic.

In our study, we found that among those firms that had a formal strategic plan, 79% of those plans, by their admission, were predominantly internal focused.  These should really be categorized as “Operational Plans.”  There may well be a time when they are required, but do NOT have everyone moving forward under the misapprehension that this is in any way strategic.

If you have chosen to retain the assistance of a consultant in helping with your strategic planning, then having that individual conduct a financial review, look at your firm’s organizational structure, peruse your partnership agreement, and audit past business development achievements may be legitimate steps — in an “orientation process” that any consultant should just naturally take to get to know your firm.  But WHY would you have your strategy process (that implies looking forward) include a formal step that serves to focus internally and look backward?

“We will review your financial data and convert it into a template that allows us to advise you on how you compare to similar firms.”

In the course of developing a strategy, we should not forget that financial numbers are an abstraction, and often give the illusion of precision.  They are largely historical and can serve to blind leaders to future changes and they rarely get partners too excited.  One firm recently related to me how, as part of their strategic plan, they set a numerical target for their RPL performance over the coming three years and then wondered why their fellow partners weren’t all that excited or motivated by the goal.

In far too many firms, “the strategy” seems to be either fixing problems or trying to emulate some other firm’s best practices.  As lawyers, we are trained to resolve the issue, put out the fire, correct the underperformance and generally fix the problem, which is all time spent looking backwards rather than focusing on the future, exploiting opportunities, and building on strengths.

Fatal Trap #2:  Strategic planning that has a few wise elders going up the mountain to receive the word . . . and then having them invest enormous time trying to SELL it to their fellow partners.

Forgive me for repeating something I talked about in my earlier in Post 318, “Where Leadership Training Falls Short.”

Early in my fortunate career, after stumbling into consulting to law firms, I had a very senior, statesman-like individual, the founder of a major firm, take an interest in me and say to me one day, “McKenna there is only one thing you need know about working with lawyers.”  As I endeavor to always be open to learning, I quickly asked for his guidance.  He said, “Burn this into your brain!”  And over the years, whenever I have had the opportunity, I have invited my colleagues and clients to do the same:

No lawyer, anywhere, EVER . . . gets excited, enthusiastic, willing supports or gets behind . . . any idea, initiative, change, plan or program . . .  that they themselves have not had a PART in formulating!  Your job is not to be the smartest in the room.  Your job is to be the Coach, the Catalyst, the Facilitator; to help them get from where they are to where they want or need to be.

To work, your firm’s strategy must find the means of involving the partnership at various points such that each of your equity partners feels that they have had some input into the final direction, that they can see a glimpse of their fingerprint somewhere in your firm’s ultimate strategy.  If you want your partners to get on board with your firm’s aspirations, you’re going to need to involve them in the process and enroll them in helping determine, what inevitably should be, their future.  The necessary outcome of any strategic planning effort is not analytical insight but resolveWhat is it, that all of us as partners, are really willing and prepared to do?

Now I’ve been told by a couple of firm leaders when I’ve raised this requirement, that they attempted to involve their partners . . . once, only to find that the partners were not really all that interested in investing any of their non-billable time.

If that is the case in your firm, then from my years of experience I would respectfully suggest that it is indicative of one of two realities.  Either your strategic planning process is far too convoluted and involves too much wasted time – OR – your partners have no interest in having input into where their firm is going, simply because they do not see the firm as anything other than a hotel of convenience for a group of autonomous individuals to each do their own thing.  Cf Post 332 (suggesting that most law firms default to a confederation model that requires no strategic planning beyond how profits are divided).  So, if it is the latter, then respectfully, don’t bother pretending that yours is a unified, collaborative firm and that you even need to engage in any strategic planning!

Fatal Trap #3: Strategic Planning that does not eagerly reach out and welcome new voices.

Strategic blindness comes from too much inbreeding and living in a bubble.  It is the result of having the same partners, pursuing the same conversations, about the same subjects, in the same way . . . and expecting different insights to emerge.  What, after all, do the various members of your firm’s Executive Committee or Strategic Planning Committee have to learn from each other?  They have been talking at each other for years such that their views and positions are so well rehearsed, and they can likely finish each other’s sentences.

Innovative insights only emerge from hearing NEW VOICES.  Your firm needs to encourage and welcome hearing from some new voices to have any hope of hearing new strategies.

For example, ensure that at least one, maybe two members of your firm’s formal Strategic Planning Committee are 35 years of age or younger.  The younger generation offers diverse views and has a different model for how they think about things and about how the profession might evolve.  And if you don’t think one of your younger professionals (partner or not) could have some tasty contributions to make participating on your Committee, you are clearly suffering a bad case of truth decay!

Diversify the leadership voices available to your firm.  Set up your own temporary “Advisory Board” comprised of respected business and professional leaders who can meet with your firm’s Strategic Planning Committee members for a couple of working lunches, to offer an impartial view.  Have them tell you what is going on in their version of the real world and what they might do if they were the CEOs of a law firm like yours.

Do seriously exciting ideas—about new services, new approaches, new methods, new niches, new ways to collaborate—bubble up with great regularity from every nook and cranny of your firm?  UP THE ANTE: Set aside a modest, special budget to fund new experiments and then put out the invitation for ideas across your entire firm.  Assign a couple of forward-thinking partners to oversee submissions and get the word out that the firm welcomes new ideas from EVERYONE, and not just the lawyers.

 Good enough is never good enough; it is only a sure-fire recipe for becoming yesterday’s news—and you know what pet owners do with yesterday’s news!

Fatal Trap #4: Strategic planning that does not involve identifying and analyzing new or emerging trends.

Almost every firm that goes through the conventional strategic planning process uses some form of SWOT Analysis.

To the uninitiated, SWOT is an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.”  It means that we will all engage in an exercise to have a look at what are the various internal strengths and weaknesses of the firm, and then look to what particular threats and opportunities there are that could be exploited.  Sounds sensible enough.  And it is, if you are a boutique practice or smaller firm of perhaps 30 attorneys or less.

But the process, as it is currently, most often executed, is a complete waste of time, especially for firms of any significant size.  In some cases, I’d be willing to bet that it has probably done more harm than good.  In fact, let me press this point by providing you here, with a rigorous analysis of your firm’s current strengths and weaknesses.


  • Many talented attorneys
  • High level of client satisfaction
  • Excellent opportunities for cross-selling
  • Quality of firm’s legal work
  • Ability to serve most client needs
  • Strong reputation
  • Collegial culture


  • Insufficient team approach to providing services
  • Trend toward too much me, not enough we
  • Insufficient cross-selling
  • High hourly rates for commodity legal work
  • Unwillingness to make hard decisions like terminating unprofitable work
  • Weak differentiation from competitors
  • Unevenness of marketing efforts among partners
  • Communication between management and partners

Does any of this sound familiar?  So what is the relevance of all this to strategic planning you might ask.  Nothing whatsoever!  All too often this turns out to be an exercise in identifying the tritest descriptions of what might be going on in almost any firm.

What are high-performing firms doing to examine how they might go about setting their strategic direction?  They are exploring how they might need to adapt to new developments that foretell changes in their fundamental business models, the advent of disruptive technology, and the evolving needs of their clients while also figuring out how to navigate their way through a coming period of recessionary hyperinflation.

Put slightly differently, the executive committees of these firms are beginning to discuss and explore what new trends and issues (weak signals) will potentially impact their firm going forward and what actions they need to take NOW!   Imagine: “What will the nature of the clients we seek to serve, and our legal profession look like, in the year 2026 and if we had a sense of the answer, what should we be starting to do now to get to the future first?”

In one of my recent books, Strategy Innovation: Getting to The Future FIRST, I argue that strategic planning is not some process for transitioning you forward from the present to the future, but rather, from what you believe to be how your future is likely to unfold, transitioning you back into the present.

For example, are you currently monitoring any of these external developments, how they may unfold and how they may affect your practices—your clients, their businesses and their legal needs going forward?

  • Virtual and augmented reality technology is set to transform remote delivery of everything from engineering support to healthcare
  • After years of experimentation and research, drone delivery services have finally received regulatory approval and are preparing for a massive launch
  • Recruitment is set to get high tech with job interviews and application screening to be done increasingly by AI-powered robots
  • An average 4.5 billion words are written daily now using GPT-3, a powerful language-prediction model capable of comprising coherent text as good as written by humans
  • New construction technology uses recycled plastic to create durable and effective building materials, including 3D printing homes
  • Microscopic robots that can be injected into the body to deliver targeted therapies are becoming a reality
  • Smart glass technology will soon allow windows in buildings to change color and become solar-producing surfaces on hot days
  • Blockchain, Bitcoin, and DeFi are in the beginning stages of a deep structural transformation in society

Gone are the days when an attorney would scan a continuous stream of documents to determine if they were relevant or not.  Now AI-powered software can scan millions of documents in the blink of an eye and determine which are the relevant ones.

A good strategic plan should challenge you.  It should push you to step out of your comfort zone. It should incentivize partners to stretch themselves and change some of their rhythms and routines.  If a strategic plan does not coax any kind of change, then what good is it?

London Business School Professor Gary Hamel puts it well when he observes, “You can’t outrun the future if you don’t see it coming.”

Fatal Trap #5:  Strategic planning that is obsessed with cost-efficiency.

Every firm is dealing with clients striving to get more for less.  In planning your strategic direction, you can easily get stuck in an efficiency mindset and become totally reactive.

Thinking about efficiencies is easier than developing effectiveness.  You simply focus on the way you do things now, like the kinds of matters and engagements you are already doing for clients – and make doing them a little bit better.  It is relatively safe, measurable, and satisfying. Alternatively, effectiveness requires that we transition from an operational (internal) lens (are we doing things the right way, a managerial imperative) to the strategic (external) lens and requires that we consider the leadership imperative – are we even doing the right things in the first place?

This can all become highly stressful to answer.  It may mean questioning the kinds of work that we are accepting and doing for clients – and even the kinds of clients we are accepting into our firm.  It may mean questioning why we are discounting our fees, only to fill our shops with more low-margin (commodity/junk) work.  Many of your partners don’t want to deal with this issue.  In this economically challenging environment where they are being called upon to increase their revenues, they simply want to put their heads down, keep moving (not necessarily forward) and continue with what they’re already comfortable doing.  For these partners, thinking about effectiveness is too upsetting of their comfortable status quo; too long term.

However, real competitive advantage is built on effectiveness, not efficiency.  Consider whether you’ve invested so much time being efficient at doing commodity legal work that you’ve missed the opportunity to invest some of that time in building your skillset to find and do the higher-value work.  There is an intrinsic bias within many firms in favor of cutting costs and finding ways to improve efficiencies at the expense of actively exploring, investing and supporting the creation of intrapreneurial, revenue-producing opportunities.  Time devoted to finding new ways to reduce costs can be time stolen from the much more important activity of innovation and new revenue creation.

The more competitors pursue this kind of cost-efficiency strategy the more they will all converge upon doing the same things.  In a brilliant article entitled “The Innoficiency Problem” sale consultant Brian Enns shows how innovation and efficiency are mutually opposable goals.  He makes a convincing argument that “the Innoficiency Problem is to think an organization, department or individual can increase efficiency or innovation without decreasing the other.  It cannot!” So, obsessing over trying to convince clients that you can do it better, faster, and cheaper than your competitors may only result in your strangling any hope of innovation within your firm, plus the perverse effect of making all competitors more alike.

An effective strategy should put you in the position of staying one step ahead of needing to be efficient.

Fatal Trap #6:  Strategic planning that treats the firm as one homogeneous entity.

If the only contribution the practice and industry groups are expected to make is to voice opinions about your firm’s strategic plan or sit quietly by, waiting patiently, for their marching orders from on high, then we have effectively short-circuited the audience that could make the most meaningful contribution to your firm’s strategy, progress, and prosperity.

The norm in many firms would appear to be that the Executive or Strategic Planning Committee determines the firm’s strategy and then directs the various practice/industry groups to develop action plans that will support the firm’s overall plan – in a top-down planning process.  It has long been debated as to whether the most effective strategic planning is a top-down process or a bottom-up process.  My observations and experience convinces me that . . . it is both!

The top-down process needs to be concerned with the growth and direction issues that result from looking to where the profession is evolving and how we might best allocate critical resources to take advantage of the future.

NEWS FLASH: What the leadership of any firm is really doing is managing not one homogeneous firm, but a “portfolio of very different businesses” such that any real strategic planning needs to include having each practice and industry group (“business units” – is a term I prefer and as they are called in some firms) develop their own specific strategy with action plans identifying those market areas of opportunity that they are committed to developing and being a go-to player within.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  Imagine your firm has a Financial Services Industry Practice which has a sub-group serving the FinTech industry.  You are likely competing with many firms outside of your geographical footprint and firms that you may not otherwise be competing with, such that it makes sense to think through how we are going to grow that practice into being one of the top ranked in the country.  If you have no recognized special quality, occupy no distinctive niche, you are a commodity and you may expect to be priced accordingly.  So, each practice and industry group’s plan needs to specifically identify – “what can we do better than our competition?”

The bottom-up process is simply a recognition that the greatest opportunities for truly differentiating your firm, gaining competitive advantage and generating new revenue emanates from individual practice/industry groups.  If we recognize that our firm is comprised of discrete business units, we see that the way in which you market an employment practice is likely to be very different from how you might market a healthcare practice. So too your employment group likely competes with a very different collection of firms than your healthcare group might compete with.  What naturally follows is that the “needs” of employment clients and the emerging opportunities for the practice group to explore requires that the group develop their own strategies interdependent of the firm as a whole.

What we have learned from those firms achieving above-average performance is that they have balanced the need to develop an overall top-down strategic plan for the firm — with having multiple bottom-up plans developed by each practice group — where many of the most important growth opportunities exist.

Now, many firms claim to be “diversified” into a good number of very different practices and industries.  So, visit with one of your larger “diversified” corporate clients and ask them how they engage in their corporate strategic planning.  Do they concentrate all their efforts and time on developing a strategy just for the corporate parent, the mother ship, or do they also have each of their “business units” developing competitive strategies?

You already know the answer!  So why are you engaged in this futile top-down-only approach and ignoring the development of your various business unit strategies—the very units from which your marketplace success and year-end profitability will be determined?

Fatal Trap #7:  Strategic Planning that does not actively solicit the views of the clients.

We will conduct in-person interviews with a number of your most significant clients.  These interviews make it possible to assess the service levels your clients perceive as well as identify areas in which you excel or need improvement.

How do you argue with motherhood?  Yes, yes, it seems that in spite of the numerous articles written in law practice management journals over the years, on the extraordinary merits of assessing client satisfaction, there are still those firms that have NOT made it an operational habit.  But . . . once again, this is an operational issue.  Assessing client satisfaction should be an ongoing process and not merely relegated to being part of your (once every three years) strategic planning.

The strategy issue is not client satisfaction!  The strategy issue is client (and prospective client) “needs” — and the highest performing firms clearly understand that.

Your firm needs to welcome hearing directly from clients in order to hear new strategies.  How might you do that?  Imagine interviewing some of your largest, or some of your most innovative, and/or absolutely include some of your most critically demanding clients to ask them questions like these:

  • As you think about the service that your law firm(s) provide, what could an innovative law firm be doing, that clients like you, may not yet have even asked for?
  • How could we better use technology to be of real service to you?
  • What is the most important business issue that you believe law firms will need to address over the next two to three years?
  • Are there any non-legal services that you think we are missing out on making available to companies like yours? If you were appointed the CEO for a law firm like ours, what would you do differently?

Meeting with some of the clients has been a non-negotiable requirement for me to work with any firm.  It just makes no sense to me that you would not do that as part of your strategic planning efforts, and yet I find so few firms bother, unless forced.  And I have evidenced countless times where a firm elicits some extraordinarily valuable insights and guidance that none of their people would have thought of; and advice that could shape a winning competitive position going forward; AND these clients are in the ideal position to test some of your initial thinking such that you can solicit their candid views with respect to any number of your contemplated action plans.

And are you ready for this: IF approached correctly, I have NEVER had a non-client refuse to meet with a couple of law firm partners to discuss strategic issues and questions like I have just listed!

Remember, many of the things that made you successful in the past may now prove to be nothing more than time-worn assumptions about what clients really value, or what services remain worthwhile offerings, or what ensures quality performance.  For your strategy to be sound, you need to examine your various assumptions to see if they are truly viable.

Fatal Trap #8: Strategic planning that falls short of truly differentiating yourself.

At a time when the demand for legal services is rather flat, the root of all successful strategies lies in being differentiated.  You need to be able to effectively answer any prospect (or client) that asks, “Why should I choose you, your group, your firm; what makes you distinctive; and what value do you specifically bring to my business matters, that I cannot get anywhere else?”  And don’t fool yourself, if they are not directly asking you this question, they’re definitely thinking it!

Your firm and your individual business units must all work at making themselves distinctive and intrinsically more valuable to clients.  The curious irony is that most law firms go to great lengths to look like every other law firm.  In fact, the common response that you are most likely to elicit from the leadership of any firm when first presenting a new concept, idea, or potential market opportunity is: “Who else is doing this?”

Rarely do I see any law firm website that identifies: “What Differentiates Our Firm (or Our Group).”  By definition, if you are doing what everyone else is, you don’t have any advantage.  To test this thesis, let’s think for a minute.  Did your last strategic plan show you doing anything meaningfully different from your three or four significant competitors or cause other competitors to see you as a leader in some particular area?

Constantly question “the way things are done,” and never, never allow your partners to rest on their laurels.  Some partners can be like those old spring-powered watches — they have to be shaken hard to get them going.  Especially beware one of the fallacies in the mindless espousing of “best practices”— you can’t just be as good as the competition . . . that never leads to market leadership.

Your firm can outperform rivals only if you can establish a difference that is provable (sorry, it is not about what you assert) and that clients actually value.  Strategy is about making difficult choices: Sorry again, but you can’t be all things to all people.  It is about deliberately choosing to be different.

Your Strategic Planning Committee needs to be continually asking: What are we best at?  What makes us unique?  How are we going to serve our clients in a way that nobody else can?  And what are we going to do that will truly lead the market in the coming years? Meanwhile, the more you seek to copy some other firms, the more indistinguishable you inevitably become from your competitors.  Not a winning strategy!

Fatal Trap #9: Strategic planning that does not address how the firm is actually going to improve profitability.

The financial results you get this quarter are largely the consequence of decisions you made at least 12 months ago and probably long before then.  Too many firms, when engaging in strategic planning, think in linear terms: “We are here and we need to get there,” with “there” representing only some aggressive financial goals.  In other words, the strategic plan is really nothing more than a budgetary goal or projection of wished for profitability, increasing RPL, and lateral recruitment growth aspirations.

I remember one firm where they had a 3-year strategic plan that projected a 20 percent annual growth in revenues but with no REAL identified action plans intended to make that goal a reality.  When you set a stretch goal and call that your strategy it usually requires building on some key practices or capitalizing on an expected change in firm direction that opens up new opportunities – something . . . other than just wishing for it to happen!

If you’re so focused on some ambitious financial goal but don’t look at the environment you’re in, and all the contextual factors that could impact that end result, then you may find that your strategic plan is grossly inadequate.

Growth, profitability, and other financial goals may be the outcome of your strategy, but they are not the insightful sources of a winning strategy.  Don’t assume that the delivery of a superior competitive strategy demands little more than a statement of intent.  Much of what passes for a “strategy” in many plans that I have personally reviewed is little more than a collection of aspirational targets and performance indicators.  Something I have come to call “wet dream strategizing.”

Fatal Trap #10: Strategic Planning that ignores WHO specifically is responsible to do certain of the implementation tasks.

There are two aspects of implementation that can become quite challenging.

One is the unfounded belief that you should wait until your finalized plan is totally completed before taking any action whatsoever.  Logically, the implementation should follow the formulation of the plan since you cannot implement anything until a plan exists.

That said, in a number of firms I’m familiar with, while going through the process, the planning committee happened upon an opportunity that required immediate action in order to properly capitalize on the situation.  For example, in one firm, the opportunity involved setting up a subsidiary office within an attractive new high-technology industrial park center before any other firm was even aware of the possibility.

The second occurs when some of your power partners believe that implementing the strategy and “getting their hands dirty is beneath them.”  They often act as if the implementation work is something best left to the more junior lawyers and administrative professionals in the firm.  This view holds that one group does the intellectually challenging (brain matter) work, and then “hands off the ball” to lower levels for execution.  If things go awry, the problem is placed squarely at the feet of the “doers,” who somehow couldn’t implement a perfectly sound and viable plan.

For this reason, I strongly contend that your “Strategic Planning Committee” members MUST agree to ALSO serve as your “Strategic Implementation Committee” or do NOT even bother proceeding.

Successful execution takes far more time than that invested in developing the plan.  Don’t delude yourself into believing anything less than a regular monthly (two-hour) meeting of your entire “Implementation Committee” to review key projects and initiatives, together with other meetings involving various Implementation Task Forces as well as your Practice and Industry Group leaders will be sufficient.

Who is responsible for what? If you don’t elicit a volunteer or assign a specific partner to each part of your strategy, no one will take charge and make sure it gets done.  This slows everything down and creates confusion about how it should actually work.  Ideally, your firm needs to have an identified point person to drive each element of your strategic plan to ensure key milestones are met, along with assigning senior partners to oversee different parts of the strategy.  The layers of responsibility may vary but the idea is to make sure someone is taking ownership for each piece.

For additional insights on holding partners accountable, see Post 329, “Ensuring follow-through on partner promises.”


In our highly competitive knowledge economy the only path to success is to out-think (innovate), out-learn (continual knowledge and skill development), and out-run (become a first mover in lucrative micro-niches) your competitors.  Reinventing your strategy process and not falling into these traps is not a ‘nice to do’, it is a ‘must do’ – and every improvement will feed directly through to your firm’s prosperity and partner career satisfaction.

Now if this all seems like too much work, you can always join those other firms who have made growth in size their strategic planning priority. Just look at the number of firms fixating on who they might merge with in order to be perceived as a more desirable client choice.  So, find another firm of the same mindset, some other dinosaur to mate with.  It all reminds me of a 2017 article entitled: “For Growth’s Sake, Enough Already.”  NEWS FLASH: Bigger is not necessarily better!

For those of you committed to doing some real strategic planning, please remember what I said about seeing SPOTS.  Unlike fine wine, strategic plans do not have a long shelf life!