Success: identify your objective, plan the future, make it happen

friday, 17 february of 2012

Success: identify your objective, plan the future, make it happen

by Linda Julian

Former French President, Charles de Gaulle, once said "success is a matter of identifying your objective, planning the future, then making it happen".

Yet too many professional service firms still talk endlessly about their strategy, mission, vision, value proposition, and differentiation in ways that do little to create purposeful action.

Professionals and firms with strong strategic intent have and can clearly articulate their "big picture" aspirations for the longer term.

They then set about keeping or acquiring the resources and capabilities necessary to achieve those aspirations. Their strategic intent is sufficiently broad to adapt to changing circumstances and every so often they take a reality check. The best are highly opportunistic, alert to possibilities, and remain flexible.

Professionals have more than ordinary ability to create or influence their own future, both individually and collectively within firms. Each has a range of alternative possible futures, some far better and more appealing than others.

Purposeful action to bring about an interesting and worthwhile tomorrow is central to engagement and rewards. Not only is getting into the driver's seat more satisfying than being a career "passenger", but the driver has much more influence over direction and destination than those in the back seat.

In the professional services sphere, a strategic goal of simply being more profitable or bigger may be achievable, but it's an unlikely foundation for sustained success. If your real (but probably unspoken) strategic intent amounts to little more than making current partners richer, it may well (and understandably) be difficult to galvanise non-partners in pursuit of that objective.

Professionals and up-and-coming stars are far more likely to be propelled into positive action around aspirations to be:

  • preeminent in something

  • widely known as truly excellent in a specific area

  • involved in the most interesting projects, deals, and developments

  • working with the most sought-after clients in a particular industry or activity.

It is both unrealistic and unwise to ignore today's performance and work solely on the long-term. The best strategy in action involves thinking and acting across multiple time horizons: now, soon, later, and eventually. Your strategic portfolio should comprise initiatives which deliver results in early-, mid-range, and longer time frames.

Too many confuse strategic health with financial health -- although they're linked.

Financial success is an excellent indicator of past performance. We all know that cost-cutting is one method to improve short-term financial results. But most often, long-term results are the product of investment in capabilities and reach into markets.

  • what is the reputation and standing of the organisation ?

  • how will my/our profile be improved by association ?

  • do we have high relevance to the target association ?

  • is it a "natural fit" ?

  • aside from any expectations about getting work, is there a sufficient business case to join ?

  • what motivates others to join ?

  • if we have work to refer, are these the people and firms we'd want to send it to ?

  • do we have sufficient work to refer for the recipients to sit up and take notice ?

  • if overseas conferences or interesting events are part and parcel of the connection, when the time comes around to participate, will we have the availability and still feel it's a good use of our money ?

  • how will we keep the connections active between meetings ?

  • do they want me/us as members and why ?

There's an inevitable tension between short-term financial goals and long-run practice outcomes. Well-conceived strategy balances current and future performance, investing in sensible and thought-through initiatives with payoffs over all timeframes (including early indicators of later success).

As the old saying goes, success is far more likely when opportunity meets preparedness. The strategically effective get a clear fix on what they want to achieve, organise to do it, and get into action.

If we can help you to formulate and reality test strategy, set clear objectives, assemble the resources you need, mobilise purposeful action, and make it happen, please get in touch.

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© Trey Ryder

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