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Working Through Your Firm’s Biggest Dangers

Feb 22nd 2017
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Dangers are what keeps many firms up at night – their biggest challenges. Today I want to walk you through a process to think about your firm’s dangers.

During visioning sessions with clients, we walk them through a DOS Exercise. DOS stands for Dangers, Opportunities, and Strengths. This exercise helps them to think through what strengths their firm currently has, what opportunities they can develop for future growth, and what dangers they are facing.

It starts by working through the scope of the danger, thinking about the business reasons surrounding it and the personal impacts this danger has directly on you and your team.

When looking at the scope of a danger, you need to develop the starting and ending point on which you’re focused. Don’t say a danger is, “We need to be more strategic.” Be more specific than that.

Ask yourself, why do you think your firm is not being strategic? What specific examples are you thinking about? This is where you may say:

“Well, we have three partners, and they all have their own thoughts on where this company should be in three years.”

Now this is a good start toward figuring out that scope of your danger. Continue asking yourself questions to give you a framework before moving to the next step of the process.

Think about the various discussions your firm has had about this particular issue. Think about the various ways you may, or may not, have tried to solve this in the past.

“A couple of years ago we tried to sit down and have everyone write out their thoughts on the future of the firm. We each shared our plans to see where there might be similarities and differences, but once the exercise was done everyone thought their plan was the best one and we couldn’t come to an agreement. Everyone left the meeting continuing to do the same things they’d always done.”

Once you have a good idea of what your danger is, and can picture several examples of why this needs some attention, you’re ready to look at the business reasons for why this needs to be solved. Think about the ways you’ve tried to solve it in the past and why you don’t believe that they worked.

How much has this danger cost the firm by not being resolved? What negative impact(s) has this had on the firm?

“It didn’t work because there was no one helping to run the meeting and facilitate constructive discussion to get everyone talking about what was best for the firm and the team. This has cost us a lot of time, energy, and even talent. Since the team doesn’t have a clear vision of where the firm is heading, and how they are going to fit in the picture in the future, we’ve had huge turnover at all levels. During exit interviews, the No. 1 reason individuals left was a lack of vision and direction from the top down.”

Once you’ve gone through the second step of the process, you’re ready to look into how this personally impacts you and your team. In the above example we already know that it’s affecting the team with turnover, but think through how this is affecting you directly.

What frustrations does this danger cause you? How does this prevent you from getting your job done? If you have these frustrations, others on your team have them as well.

“It’s frustrating not having a good picture of the future since I don’t know how to prioritize the work I’m given. It’s hard for us to stay motivated since we don’t know the end game and what we’re working toward. It can also be confusing since one partner asks you to do one thing saying it’s the priority, but then another will come and ask for a different project to be placed as your top priority. We never seem to get anything done.”

Now that you’ve worked through these three steps you should be able to summarize the scope of the danger, how it’s affecting the business, and how it’s personally affecting you and the rest of the team. From here you can brainstorm the best ways to resolve this danger and make that a key strategic objective over the next year.

This orignal post appeared on the Boomer Bulletin blog.

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