OUR BLOG

LEADERSHIP

Ten Traits Of Organizationally Healthy Professional Service Firms
To Grow Your Professional Service Firm, Prize Culture Over Strategy
TP35: The One Tipping Point Mid-Size Service Firms Must Address To Keep Growing
Seven Reasons Most Mid-Size Service Firms Don’t Grow Very Much
Five Reasons Mid-Size Service Firms Need A New Leadership Operating Model
How Leaders Can Address The Growth Tipping Point For Mid-Sized Service Firms
Five Reasons Professional Service Leaders Should Prize EQ Over IQ
Why Mid-Size Service Firm Leadership Teams Need Collective Objectives To Grow
How To Grow Your Mid-Sized Service Firm: Jealously Protect Your Focused Energy
Why Professional Service Firms Should Consider Circle Of Seven Mentoring Networks
How A Leader’s Energy Field Impacts Team Productivity
Don’t Trade Misery For Money: How Professional Service Firms Can Leverage The Great Resignation
Strong Personality Vs. Strong Person: The Makeup Of A Leadership Council
Custer Or Marshall: Why Mid-Size Service Firms Must Choose Their Leadership Model
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Define And Defend Your Values
If You Want To Grow Your Mid-Size Service Firm, Establish A Formal Leadership Council
Want To Grow Your Professional Service Firm? Focus On The One
If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects

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WHY MID-SIZE SERVICE FIRM LEADERSHIP TEAMS NEED COLLECTIVE OBJECTIVES TO GROW

ANNUAL STRATEGIC PLANNING USUALLY DOESN’T PRODUCE MEANINGFUL YEAR-OVER-YEAR GROWTH

Originally published on Forbes.com

Annual strategic planning for professional service firms is standard practice. But in my experience, after coaching more than 70 mid-sized professional service firms, it doesn’t work very well. The problem is that it rarely produces meaningful growth. It becomes a hamster wheel that service firms run on, full-well knowing that they’re not moving forward toward the goals that really matter.

If your service organization has struggled to grow, it could very well be that the problem is not your people, your commitment or even your resources (time, money, staff). The real problem could be your approach. If your organization really wants to grow, I’d like to recommend that you scrap annual strategic planning and instead adopt collective objectives. I’ve found this to be a far superior approach to solving hard business problems that yield real growth.

What’s wrong with annual strategic planning?

If your firm engages in annual strategic planning, I’ll bet it goes a lot like this:

  • You get your leadership team together for a couple of days to talk about priorities.
  • You review your previous year’s results and identify what you want to do better next year.
  • You establish a short list of objectives you want to accomplish.
  • People on the leadership team sign up for one of these and commit to an action plan.
  • During quarterly meetings, people report on their progress. In the first quarter, things are going pretty well. By the second quarter, energy is waning and progress has stalled. By the fourth quarter, it’s clear the goals will not be achieved.
  • You get together to plan the next year and everyone talks about how much they learned from their attempts to achieve the objectives and how much better positioned they are to actually achieve them this year.
  • Rinse and repeat—year after year.

Why doesn’t this approach work? There are all sorts of reasons. But in my experience, the biggest problem is that already-busy executives with full-time jobs have to play the rugged individualist—trying to solve really complex business problems while holding down the fort.

Most people who end up on leadership teams in mid-sized service firms are department heads. This means they have departments to run: budgeting, personnel issues, scheduling, priority setting, communication, hiring and an endless list of meetings. That is their primary responsibility, and departments won’t run themselves. Most department heads I’ve coached already work 50 or more hours per week. How are they supposed to solve complex business problems when their day jobs already take all their time and energy?

If a leadership team has five people on it and they identify five annual strategic objectives and each person takes ownership for one objective, who do they brainstorm with when they run into obstacles? Every initiative I’ve ever seen runs into problems and blockades. Things rarely go according to plan. When the inevitable challenges arise, departmental demands and the absence of someone trusted to brainstorm with leaves an executive feeling like they’re all alone on an island. But it takes teamwork to make the dream work.

Consider a far better approach—collective objectives.

If what I’ve described above sounds familiar, I’d like to present an idea for changing your strategic planning approach. I call these collective objectives. Here’s how they work:

  • Once a quarter, the leadership team gets together to talk about what’s most important right now. They ask themselves one simple question: What business problem must we absolutely solve before the end of this year?
  • They pick one objective. Not two or three. One objective.
  • As a team, they brainstorm their best ideas about how to achieve the objective.
  • They translate their ideas into a Gantt chart with tasks for everyone on the leadership team. The division of duties here is crucial.
  • For the coming 90 days, in whatever free time each executive has, they work on their tasks to get them done.
  • They commit to reporting on the progress of their tasks in monthly meetings. These usually can be achieved in about an hour.
  • If an executive runs into a blockade (and they always do), they can use either the monthly meeting to brainstorm with colleagues or they can set up a more informal time in between meetings.
  • When they get together for their next quarterly meeting, if the goal has not been achieved, they do not pick a new one. Instead, they go back to the plan and refocus it on a new set of tasks that will achieve the objective.

Why is this approach superior?

I have found this way of handling strategic planning to be far more effective. Why?

  • The objective becomes a team goal, not an individual goal. This means no one person is overwhelmed by the goal.
  • A singular focus on a single objective greatly increases the likelihood that it will be achieved. This brings clarity and simplicity to everyone’s actions.
  • Everyone on the leadership team knows what other members of the team are working on. This makes brainstorming so much more effective because everyone is familiar with the problem they’re trying to solve. There’s no ramp-up time.
  • It greatly enhances accountability. No one wants to let the team down because they didn’t get their tasks done.
  • It enhances camaraderie. It’s very motivating when you see a colleague experience a breakthrough on their set of tasks. It gives you confidence that you’ll do the same.
  • It fosters healthy competition between leaders. I’ve seen leaders place bets about who’ll get their tasks done first—a bottle of wine going to the winner.
  • The plan gets far more thoroughly vetted and refined. When you have five people brainstorming a specific problem and coming up with solutions, the quality of the ideas will be far better than if just one person came up with them.

One of the biggest benefits of collective objectives is the sense of teamwork it produces. It feels like everyone is pulling in the same direction and that can be very motivating. Give collective objectives a try, and I’ll bet you never go back.

About The Author

Randy Shattuck is a seasoned entrepreneur who works hand-in-hand with senior leaders of mid-size professional service firms to grow revenues, acquire clients, open new markets, increase profits and effectively position their brands.

OUR BLOG

LEADERSHIP

Ten Traits Of Organizationally Healthy Professional Service Firms
To Grow Your Professional Service Firm, Prize Culture Over Strategy
TP35: The One Tipping Point Mid-Size Service Firms Must Address To Keep Growing
Seven Reasons Most Mid-Size Service Firms Don’t Grow Very Much
Five Reasons Mid-Size Service Firms Need A New Leadership Operating Model
How Leaders Can Address The Growth Tipping Point For Mid-Sized Service Firms
Five Reasons Professional Service Leaders Should Prize EQ Over IQ
Why Mid-Size Service Firm Leadership Teams Need Collective Objectives To Grow
How To Grow Your Mid-Sized Service Firm: Jealously Protect Your Focused Energy
Why Professional Service Firms Should Consider Circle Of Seven Mentoring Networks
How A Leader’s Energy Field Impacts Team Productivity
Don’t Trade Misery For Money: How Professional Service Firms Can Leverage The Great Resignation
Strong Personality Vs. Strong Person: The Makeup Of A Leadership Council
Custer Or Marshall: Why Mid-Size Service Firms Must Choose Their Leadership Model
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Define And Defend Your Values
If You Want To Grow Your Mid-Size Service Firm, Establish A Formal Leadership Council
Want To Grow Your Professional Service Firm? Focus On The One
If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects