Our firm is a twenty-attorney litigation firm in Miami, Florida. We are managed by a three-member management committee supported by a firm administrator. While our committee and our firm administrator are entrusted to make many of the operational decisions, all partners must weigh in on and vote on all major decisions as outlined in the firm’s management plan. Currently we do not have a strategic plan and our firm administrator has suggested that we can accomplish this in a one-day, offsite retreat with all the partners. Is this realistic?
This is a little bit aggressive and optimistic. The strategic planning process is as important as the end result – the strategic plan document, so you don’t want to rush the process. Two sessions a few weeks apart would be better as it would give some time for the ideas and discussion from the first session to cook and simmer until the second session. However, you might find that one session is all that you are going to get. If this is the case, you need to do some homework before the retreat. I suggest the following:
- Solicit feedback from all your partners using a questionnaire. An online questionnaire such as SurveyMonkey would be preferred. Questions should include general attorney demographic information as well as issues and challenges facing the firm and suggested solutions, future direction of the firm, succession planning, talent management, practice area expansion or contraction, etc.
- Develop a retreat planning session agenda and workbook with all relevant supporting materials such as questionnaire results, financial reports, recent relevant articles, draft strategic plan with at least a mission, vision, goals, objectives, and issues sections completed in rough form. This should be developed by the management committee beforehand.
- Provide all your attorneys with the agenda and workbook at least two weeks prior to the planning retreat to allow them to come to the retreat fully prepared.
- Keep the retreat focused on strategic issues with day-to-day operational items discussions being off limits. Discuss the questionnaire results, then use the draft strategic plan as an outline for the session. Try to get consensus on mission, vision, goals, objectives, and issues by the halfway point of your session. Focus the remainder of the session on developing specific strategies dealing with issues and goals outlined.
- After strategies have been developed, develop specific action items for each strategy with start and completion target dates for each action item, with the name of the person that will be responsible for completion.
Once the retreat is over, the management committee should finalize the rough notes from the planning session into a initial draft of the strategic plan and circulate to all partners for review and comment. Hopefully, the management committee based upon comments can finalize and launch the strategic plan within thirty days. If not, a partner meeting should be scheduled for additional discussion.
Using an approach to similar to what I have outlined will improve your chances of a successful one day planning retreat.
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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
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