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June 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 4| Page 10
FRONTLINES

Strategy

Beware the Obstacles to Executing Your Plans

It takes stamina to stay the course, but if you're prepared, you might just reach your goal.

To effectively transform your best intentions into best practices, there are several common hurdles that you need to overcome. Thinking through the following will help you make the leap.

Strategizing and implementing are interdependent. In many firms the processes of formulating a plan and implementing it are separated. Logically, implementation needs to follow formulation, since you cannot implement anything until the plan exists. But if the partners who formulated the strategy have no responsibility for executing the strategy, it threatens knowledge transfer, commitment to sought-after outcomes, and the entire implementation process.

Planning is not doing. Unfortunately, some partners believe that implementing the strategy and “getting their hands dirty” is beneath them. They act as if implementation is something best left to nonlawyer professionals in the firm. This view holds that one group does the innovative work (planning), and then hands the ball off to lower levels. If things go awry, the problem is placed squarely at the feet of the “doers,” who somehow couldn’t implement a “perfectly sound” plan.

Effective implementation involves many hands. Implementation always involves more people than the initial planning did, so communication throughout the firm or across different practice groups becomes a challenge. And linking strategic objectives with the day-to-day objectives at different offices and practice groups can become a demanding task.

Implementation requires enormous time. Overall, successfully executing a plan takes even more time than the hours and weeks invested in developing the plan. It can be extraordinarily taxing to the billable-time expectations and client obligations of the partners and others involved. It takes stamina to stay the course—but if you can prepare for what lies ahead, you might just reach your goal.

About the Author

Patrick J. McKenna , is a principal with Edge International, consults with law firms on competitive strategy, and can be reached at (780) 428-1052.

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