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Before I give an answer to the question, it may be useful to have a solid definition of exactly what constitutes strategic planning.
Strategic planning is a management tool for organizing for the "now" on the basis of the projections of the desired future. That is, a strategic plan is a road map to lead a law firm from where it is now, to where it would like to be at some pre-determined point in the future.
Fair enough – but is it recession proof? The answer is emphatically yes! Strategic Planning is the one business tool, which if done right, can make your firm essentially immune to business cycles. The key part of that sentence is "if done right".
Strategic Planning is, at its core, a method for predicting the future. Strategy is the game plan to create your future – to win – even in the face of resource constraints, or intense competition. Strategy:
Think about it: In almost every industry today, there are two kinds of organizations. First, there are those like Microsoft, Google, and Dell that change the game; they shape the 'rules' to their advantage. Second, are all the other organizations in those industries that are left to follow in their footsteps. When the competitive rules change, and they will change, the followers must do all they can to adapt, just to stay in business. They are, in a sense, on the defensive, and that is not a particularly advantageous place to be.
The 'game-changers' have a significant advantage because, since they left the starting gate before their competition, they get first crack at market share, and mind share. Simply put, when you make the rules, it is easy to win the game.
A major benefit of strategic planning is to help your firm see the big picture, especially from a marketing point of view. By creating good strategic plans, you will be better able to understand the need for timely changes in your marketing approach and product mix. Strategic planning is, however, more than just an envisioning process. It requires setting clear goals and objectives, and meeting those goals and objectives during specified time frames.
Why? – as I said earlier, strategy is about predicting the future, making assumptions about what is going to be, and making commitments based on those assumptions. If the future you predict is wrong, all of your right actions will still doom you to failure.
There are ways to ensure you don't guess so wrong that you jeopardize your firm:
Strategic Flexibility is the key. You want to be in a position where, even if some of your assumptions are wrong (and they will be); your business is still viable.
One way to create flexibility is to think like a chess champion. You need to master the concept of "Down Board Thinking". World class chess players do not simply think about their own moves, they look 'down board' and consider their opponents (competitions) possible responses to their moves, and plan a number of alternative moves ahead. This kind if thinking is particularly relevant both in creating your strategy, and in managing and monitoring the implementation of your strategy.
Much like a modern 'smart bomb', your strategy, once launched requires constant monitoring of its progress. Down board thinking will help you anticipate the world in which your strategy will exist, how market conditions might change, and to help shape that world in such a way that you greatly enhance your chances of success. Do this, and you will be light years ahead of your competition.
Another way is to have enough actions (tactics) going on at roughly the same time (in parallel) so that even if some of them don't turn out as well as you expected, you will still prosper because you have enough right actions happening.
The real aim of Strategy then, is to have a set of actions in place consistent with your view(s) of your desired future. Once you have those actions in place, with systems, processes, metrics, and exit plans (because all strategies end), you can begin to manage strategic uncertainty, overcome business cycles, and prepare your firm to be the one that prospers, even in times of recession.
Wolf Management Consultants uses the Prometheus Strategic Planning System. We can help your firm create solid, executable strategic plans that will help you not just survive – but thrive.
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