Chris Montague says that to create a clear vision, you have to prioritize, really understand what the important activities are and stay focused on those.
If you don’t, the vision can easily become so complex and involved that the execution of it would become difficult to manage, says Montague, managing partner of Plante & Moran PLLC’s Chicagoland offices, which posted 2008 revenue of about $25 million.
“If you, at the outset, lay that groundwork, you have the opportunity to stay focused,” he says.Smart Business spoke with Montague about how to create a vision to move your company forward.
Q. How did you create your vision?
It would have been a combination of the leaders of the practice here in Chicago along with several of the firmwide leadership group. It would have been a series of meetings where we would have started with growth objectives, focusing on the industries and services we feel we really bring a unique solution to and that are well aligned with the Chicago market.
Then we matched that up against resource needs, which, in our case, is typically people, and then laid out a plan on how to both grow the practice and attract and retain people over that five-year period.
Then, that plan and not all but many of the key initiatives would have been shared with the staff in the office so they have a clear idea of where we are headed.
It would not be things that we don’t want to share with them; it would be things that we think aren’t really all that meaningful to the direction and the larger objectives. It’s important to keep it simple and straightforward. It’s just making sure we are focused on the most important activities. There’s a real talent to being able to condense your message and your vision to the bare bones.
Q. How do you communicate your vision and make sure the employees understand it?
We have a very clear goal of doubling in size in the next five years. We have created a vision around that objective of what we’ll look like in five years, including what our strategies and key initiatives will be.
That vision includes both quantitative metrics and also some qualitative goals that we think are important to our firm and our firm’s success and our firm’s culture.
That vision and those major initiatives had been shared with the entire team, all 150 people. We keep that vision and those initiatives in front of the team through our annual planning process where, each year, we are going to establish goals and objectives that are aligned with the vision. Then we review that plan and results on a very regular basis with the members of the team.
Q. How do you keep the vision simple?
You need to understand your organization’s strengths. Wherever possible, you need to align your vision with the things you do well or with those things you think you can get good at in a very reasonable amount of time. Then, execute against those.
The other thing is, you need to be realistic in your assessment of your organization and the market. You need to be realistic in your assessment of your resources and then what you can accomplish.
Q. How do you monitor the vision?
I think being appropriately hands-on. Being engaged with your team throughout the day, throughout the week, continuing to share the vision and then understanding what is going on to make sure it’s in alignment with what you are trying to accomplish.
Being accessible to employees and staff at all levels is important, and being responsive. When someone comes to you for help or looking for assistance in one of these activities, you are responsive and available.
Maybe another way to say it is consistency in terms of message, consistency in terms of availability, and consistency in terms of follow-up and monitoring.
Q. How do you identify your strengths?
Leaders need to be involved in client service. The leadership throughout our firm and I would be included in that still have client responsibilities.
That allows us to stay in touch with what our clients are looking for, what we need to be doing in terms of service delivery, what we need to be doing in terms of value proposition.
That gives you the opportunity to identify and understand what your strengths are.
The other side of it is in knowing your internal resources. So I have the opportunity to interact in those client service situations with staff and other partners.
Just by having an active role in client service, a leader then gets to have an … understanding of how people are performing and where maybe we need additional resources or where we think we can leverage those we already have.
How to reach: Plante & Moran PLLC’s Chicagoland offices, (312) 899-4460 or www.plantemoran.com