When I first began making presentations to industry groups about strategic planning (a couple of decades ago…) I would open with an audience poll asking which firms actually had a strategic plan. At the time, about half the hands went up. I hardly have to ask that question today, because in my experience almost every firm has a strategic plan, which is a very good thing.

But I’ve become concerned that simply having a plan isn’t good enough, especially when so many firms let too much time lapse between updates or renewals of their plans. How long is too long between strategic plan renewals? Only you can answer that for your firm, but as food for thought, ask yourself what has changed inside your firm as well as in the outside world since you developed your firm’s last plan.

In recent years I’ve done a fair amount of research and presentations on long-term industry trends, and I’ll be speaking and writing about trends a lot this year, so here are some questions I’d recommend asking:

Within your firm:

  • Is there an unfulfilled appetite for expansion and improvement, either yours or among your colleagues?
  • Has your firm’s financial performance—revenue growth and/or profitability—changed, either for the better (how could it be further improved?) or for the worse (what needs to be done to bring it back?)
  • Have your firm’s capabilities changed? Do you have staff today who have new interests and competencies? Have you lost people—or are you in danger of losing people, even to retirements—who have strengths that are important to the future of your firm, as well as to your clients?
  • Do you have the right people on your staff, and enough of them?
  • Are you capturing your firm’s market share in its target markets?
  • Does your firm strategically employ rapidly evolving technological tools?
  • Has addressing leadership succession and/or ownership transition become more urgent?

Externally in the marketplace:

  • Have the dynamics in your target markets changed due to the economy, demographics, regulations, technology, or the environment? Do you forecast increasing demand in some markets and diminishing demand in others?
  • Has competition for clients and projects intensified? Are your clients having difficulty distinguishing your firm from the competition and resorting to fee-based selection?
  • Has the competition for employees intensified? Is your firm—and are your competitors—becoming more aggressive in hiring practices? Do you feel vulnerable at the prospect of losing key people?

If your strategic plan doesn’t adequately address these potential issues, then—yes—it’s been too long since your firm updated its strategic plan.

If this resonates with you, we’d love to hear from you.