If you are an attorney saying “What firm vision?” after reading the title of this article, don’t worry – you are not alone. Last month I had the privilege to hear Harvard Law Professor David Wilkins speak on “Strategy and Alignment in Professional Service Firms.” The program was part of this year’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference. While Professor Wilkins was also the keynote speaker for the conference, I took part in the CMO Summit that gave us the opportunity to explore strategy, vision and tactics and their application to law firms and other professional service firms (PSFs) using a case study approach.The program was particularly helpful to me as I am much more of a “big picture” kind of thinker. (For those of you who are into Myers-Briggs, I am an “NF“.) We discussed the difference between vision, strategy and tactics and how oftentimes law firms execute marketing and business development tactics without first understanding vision and strategy. For me, as well as many other legal marketing professionals, we can see the end goal, but need to take a step back to ensure we are executing tactics which support our firm’s vision and strategy. For a general overview,
- Vision is WHAT you want your organization to BE. The big picture idea of where you want to end up.
- Strategy is what you are going to do to get there. As Roger Martin puts it, “[strategy] is the making of an integrated set of choices that collectively position the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns.”
- Tactics are the actions carried out to execute the strategy and require an action, purpose, schedule and measurable result.
In many law firms, as well as other PSFs, lawyers operate in silos, executing on the tactical level – “random acts of marketing” – with no picture of how their actions feed into an overall firm strategy that in turn supports the vision. The business model of old for law firms encourages this, but we all realize that this business model is no longer working. Law firms must adapt and begin to operate like the businesses they represent.Professor Wilkins suggested a helpful tool to facilitate these discussions in our law firms: the McKinsey 7S Framework. (Image Source: mindtools.com)You can find a helpful overview on how to use the McKinsey 7S Framework here, an article which includes and description of each of the 7 “S’s” and this paragraph:
You can use the 7S model to help analyze the current situation (Point A), a proposed future situation (Point B) and to identify gaps and inconsistencies between them. It’s then a question of adjusting and tuning the elements of the 7S model to ensure that your organization works effectively and well once you reach the desired endpoint.
- How would you analyze your current firm using the framework?
- How would you like your firm to look in the future, especially given way the profession is changing?
- Once you identify the gaps between the two, what do you need to change, and of those changes what takes priority?
Luckily Professor Wilkins reminded us that developing your strategy is an ongoing process. It is never perfected. What is important is to start these conversations among the attorneys in your firm. The 7S Framework gives marketing professionals the language to structure those conversations.