To paraphrase Verne Harnish, the author of “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” and “Scaling Up,” if you want everyone to be on the same page, first there must be a page.
Sounds simplistic, but you would be surprised how much impact this small discipline can have at your firm. As leaders (and everyone at the firm is a leader in some capacity), we often expect those around us to read our minds and know exactly what we are trying to accomplish. We are shocked that those around us don’t know exactly what we mean. “I told you in that meeting”…”I sent you that email”…”We talked about it the other day”…. We need clarity on the direction of our firms, and it needs to be understood by our leaders. Here is how we recommend that you do it.
- Set the Vision – At Vista, we recommend that the leaders at the firm take time each year to set the direction of the firm. For most of the firms that we work with, this is typically done in November or December. If the firm has not gone through this process in awhile (more than a year or never), we recommend that they stop what they are doing and go through this process.
We tell them to write down today’s date, then write down the same date three years from now, and imagine what your firm looks like if you got everything right—if you were able to mold it the way that you wanted to. How many cases are you handling? How many cases is the firm handling? What types of clients do you have? What types of practice areas are you handling? What is total revenue? What is total profit? Are there key hires that you have made? Are there other personnel changes you have made? Jot all these ideas down on paper and start to flesh out what that firm looks like. If you are not excited about owning or working at that firm, go back to the drawing board until you have created a vision that excites you and your leadership team.
Once you go through this exercise for three years out, ask yourself, “In order to get there three years from now, where do I need to be one year from now?” Then, go through the same exercise and create a picture of what your firm looks like one year from now and reduce it to writing.
- Determine How You Will Measure Progress – Once you have clarity on what you want your firm to look like three years from now and one year from now, the next questions are, “How are you going to measure progress in each of those areas?” and “How often are you going to measure progress in those areas?” The easy answer is that we recommend that you measure progress on a weekly basis. Your leadership team should be getting together on a weekly basis, and going over progress towards reaching the overall vision should be a part of that meeting. How are you going to measure progress? There are a number of ways to measure progress, and it can be different for different types of initiatives. It may be a percent complete, milestones, or a target number. Whatever it is, get agreement on it, and if you discover a better way to measure progress, don’t be afraid to adapt. One of the best books out there on the subject is “The Four Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney.
- Take on Projects that Align with Your Vision – There are a lot of good ideas out there. However, not all of them are good ideas for your firm. We all read books, go to conferences, and talk to colleagues about great things to implement. However, before we implement, we should ask ourselves, “Does this get me closer to the vision for my firm?” You can only do some much at any given time. It is important that you choose the things that will have the biggest impact on getting your firm where you want it to go. So many times we see owners or leadership at firms implement things just because they heard someone else was doing it. Don’t do that. You will frustrate your team and make them feel like they are running in circles. Focus on what matters. What matters for another firm might not matter for your firm.
- Communicate the Vision Regularly – Once you have the Vision for the firm in writing, share it with your leaders. Everyone should be able to look at it, understand it, and understand their role in making it happen. If there is confusion, it should be clarified immediately. If your leaders are taking on projects that don’t line up with this vision, it should be questioned whether it is the appropriate use of resources. We recommend that the leaders of your team get together on a weekly basis, at a minimum, to discuss progress toward this vision.