A different S word

Read Stefan Stern’s latest column in the FT, Time to get your strategy right. It has been a pretty grizzly year, and it is not getting easier fast, but we will come out of this recession: and professional service firms, like any other business, need to be ready. So, as Stern opens, “We need to talk about strategy” – but, and this is where it starts,

. . . business leaders ought to recognise, as they catch their breath after months of turbulence, that the strategy they were pursuing until recently is unlikely to be right for today.

It’s not just that markets have changed. Your organisation has changed. You may have all been through a near-death experience. Even if you avoided calamity, it is unlikely that colleagues are the same carefree people you remember from a year or two ago. Most businesses have been making serious cutbacks. Co-workers may be doing their best to look calm and positive. But they can see unemployment rising and know that sustained recovery is a long way off.

Not waving but drowning

Train journeys offer an excellent opportunity to catch up on reading, both professional and management. Travelling to London recently, I re-read Rob Millard’s The Strategy Executioner (you will find it in Edge International September 2008 Law Firm Strategy Newsletter).

Millard sets out ten easy steps to ensure your firm’s strategy never sees the light of day; number seven particularly caught my eye,


The successful strategy executioner pays no heed to ridiculous ‘balanced scorecard’ approaches to performance measurement and reward. They keep the focus squarely on production and only production. Measure and reward billable hours only! That way, people are discouraged from poking their noses into areas where they don’t belong. If anybody asks about strategy, smile and wave and tell them that their own interests would be better served by simply working harder. An added bonus is that this approach tends to maximize short-term profit, which your partners will appreciate when they make their drawings. As to the long term: leave that up to the poor idiot who comes after you!

So now you know.

Neglecting strategy

An excellent email in my in box this morning from Edge International, with their Law Firm Strategy Newsletter. The topic? The Strategy Executioner (or, to paraphrase the opening, 10 easy ways to ensure that your law firm’s strategy never sees the light of day). You will need to subscribe to the Newsletter and visit Edge International’s website for more (their RSS feed is not great) but good reading, and a very telling conclusion,

The sad truth, though, is that much strategy fails because of simple neglect rather than active sabotage.

S words

Succession and Strategy: two words that most lawyers do their best to avoid. Succession because it implies mortality and loss of control; and strategy because it asks us to consider a horizon somewhat more distant than the end of the partnership year. We ignore them, however, at our peril. One of my favourite blogs is Jordan Furlong’s Law 21- Despatches from a legal profession on the brink. It may be Canadian but what applies that side of the water does this side as well. See Jordan’s post Surving a succession crisis.