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The Mad Clientist

Itty Bitty Goals—Strategic Planning’s Fourth Deadly Sin

By February 24, 2015April 16th, 2020No Comments

The only thing scarier than a big goal is a small goal.

Big goals are often wrongly equated with big risk. You are taking a chance. And you just might lose. But, a well-crafted strategic plan can reduce risk and point you to the strategies capable of delivering outsized returns.

Small Goals only Masquerade as if They Have Little Risk

The risk in small goals starts with your people. The influencers in your firm want something big and are often disappointed and feel stifled when constrained by small goals. Your people also become indifferent to the strategic plan—small goals end up sounding just another day at the office: maintain our market position; exceed market growth; become a preeminent player. Few people read or become engaged with a small goal strategic plan because they know exactly what to expect—more of the same. Small goals make strategic plans look more like operating plans complete with budget fights and negotiations.

Big Goals Eliminate the Understated Risks of Small Goals

The big goals catch and keep your people’s attention. Leaders and line partners become more engaged and invested in the outcome. These same partners will want to take bigger and bolder actions with their clients as they see these actions supported by the firm’s goals. Strategic planning documents are actually studied to see how they will reach this goal. Key people read the big goal plan and ask: What can I do to make this happen?

But the benefits don’t end here. Your mover and shaker partners—the ones who will implement the plan—will be looking for an active role. The challenge and excitement of the chase are the food keeping the movers and shakers alive.

The potential rewards from your big goal tell everyone the goal is worth changing behavior. The big goal, and its big reward, is one of the few proven tools to herd cats and get a partnership to march in a new direction. The big goal is more powerful than words as it shows intent. And big intent can drive big change.

Examples of big goals we have seen drive success include:

  • Growing total fees from a firm’s top 25 clients 15% per year over the next year
  • Establish clear thought leadership in litigation as measured by the number of inbound leads, new clients and new business from existing clients at higher rates
  • Provide the gold standard in client service to surpass all other law firms serving our clients. (Backed by client service training for every partner and in-depth client feedback for the firm’s top 140 clients, including client service performance metrics as measured by clients.)
  • To gain at least 35% of the market share of the 100 largest and most active acquirers of companies in the world
  • Add 20 new clients (from a strategically developed list of 50 potential clients) in our 3 state region while growing revenue

Small goals will typically preclude exploration of opportunity. We aren’t looking for much so we can spend less time looking. The big goals drive exploration and new approaches which would otherwise go unnoticed. In short, the opportunity cost of small goals can be very high.


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