Too many firm leaders operate under the misconception that once their new strategic plan is developed and committed to paper, their job is finished. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, the biggest one-time effort in strategic planning is getting the new plan off the ground. But maintaining momentum toward your goals and strategies month after month, year after year, requires real and ongoing commitment by your leadership. Considering the investment of time, money, and energy that goes into developing the first generation of a strategic plan, it’s a shame for it to disappear into a Pendaflex file, never to be seen again.

The short term. An effective strategic planning retreat should elicit a lot of enthusiasm and energy from the participants who genuinely want to tackle their firm’s issues and see the action items they take on as an opportunity to make a real difference in their firm’s success. But this initial zeal can easily translate into an overly ambitious plan that bunches up too many action items within the first few months. Soon enough, the realities of everyday life hit these energized planners as they walk through the office door.

To avoid this situation and to make the strategic plan work, the firm leader has to convene short, efficient monthly meetings of the planning team to assess their progress, enforce realistic deadlines, and make necessary adjustments for those who may have put too much on their plates.

The long run. At each anniversary of the strategic plan, it helps to renew the plan by soliciting input through interviews with the firm’s management to identify new issues as well as assess which issues are still unresolved. These interviews can be augmented by a written employee survey to reveal how the entire firm feels about the firm’s progress and any other items on their minds, as well as a series of client interviews to gauge market perceptions of the firm and get an external perspective on industry trends.

Then, the firm should conduct a one- or two-day facilitated retreat to update the their long-term vision to take account of internal and external changes, as well as to identify new or lingering issues—and develop new strategies and action plans to wipe out those issues once and for all.

The CEO’s job. Some firms work up an extensively detailed job description for their president/CEO, but in reality that person’s singular focus can be distilled down to this: the development and ongoing implementation of their firm’s strategic plan.