September 27, 2011

Practice Management Primer, Pt. 3: Translating Goals Into Actionable Tasks

 

In the last post of our seven-part blog series on practice management, we discussed techniques for assessing your practice and how to use those techniques to set goals. These topics are essential ground to cover if you’re working toward fine-tuning your practice, and they pave the way for the next step: turning your goals into actionable tasks. 

Making the leap from talking about goals to taking action is a big step and there are a number of factors you need to consider before jumping in. Taking action is your goal, so the most important factor is to make sure that you have the capacity to tackle each required task.  

To start, make sure that you separate goals from tasks. It’s an important distinction to make and one that will help you more clearly envision what you want to do and what you need to do. Think of it this way: goals and metrics are things that you cannot completely control, but activities and tasks are what you have direct control over. That’s not to say that goals and metrics are any less important than tasks and activities—they’re simply different, and you have the ability to adjust and modify your tasks to meet your goals and improve key business metrics. 

As you look at your overall list of goals, pull out one or two that you’d like to start working toward as soon as possible. Once you have established these goals, it’s time to start creating strategies, tactics and tasks that will move you toward achieving your objectives. 

For instance, if one of your goals is to increase assets under management by $50 million prior to December 2012, there are several strategies you could pursue: 

  1. Acquire another practice;
  2. Deepen wallet share with existing clients
  3. Acquire new clients 

Of these three strategies, you would need to focus on just one, and which one would depend on the nature and characteristics of your practice. The assessment you’ve just done, and which we covered in the last post, can be a valuable resource in making that decision. 

When you’ve chosen a strategy, it’s time to break things down even further, into tactics and tasks, which are different. Your strategy is your approach to achieving your goal (e.g., deepen wallet share with existing clients). Your tactics are the methods you’ll use to support your strategy. And last, but certainly not least, your tasks are the actionable elements of your tactics—things you can start working on or assigning to put the whole process in motion.

As you look at each tactic, you need to determine how to break it down into bite-size tasks

that can be assigned to a single individual. Most important, you have to ensure that the individual you assign the task to has the ability to complete it.  

Using the above example, in order to execute on the strategy of deepening wallet share with existing clients, you may define several tactics, such as identifying small business owners or determining clients with employee stock options. The tactic of determining clients with employee stock options and effectively exercising those options can be broken further into several concrete tasks. For example, identify clients who work for publicly traded companies that receive stock options; identify a software system and training for analyzing optimal employee stock option exercise strategies; embedding an agenda item in upcoming meetings to review employee stock options etc. 

By breaking each goal down into specific tactics and tasks you can develop a realistic plan on how you are going to achieve each goal. Then you can create clear accountability and follow up processes to ensure that you are doing everything in your control to achieve your most important business objectives. 

This is one of the most exciting steps in strengthening your practice. While goals are an important part of practice management, they can sometimes feel distant. However, following this process brings them down to earth and gives you a concrete path towards achieving them. 

In our next post, we’ll discuss the importance of assigning tasks to the right people – those who have the will, skill, knowledge and time to perform them.

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