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Advisors: Develop Measurement That Really Matters

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“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”  ~ Ancient Chinese proverb

Every year I encounter advisory firms who spend countless hours – and often tens of thousands of dollars – to develop their strategic direction, create marketing plans, or train their associates.

The goal of these efforts is to create long-term, lasting change and improved results within the organization. Yet what I find most frequently is that firms may experience an initial boost in results and morale, but these improvements frequently, and quickly, disappear shortly after the focused effort ends. From my research into these flagging results with many firms the root cause is that they are simply giving their employees a plan, not teaching them how to execute the plan by linking plan goals to measurable actions.

I recently completed work with a fairly large RIA firm that presented a perfect example of this scenario. This firm was struggling with lackluster growth for several years and we engaged to help them develop a business development structure that was consistent, effective, and long-lasting. Within the discovery interview I found out the firm worked with a consultant several years before who gave them a marketing plan that was expected to help with their growth issues. When I asked about the results generated the firm mentioned that the plan was never implemented. The firm principals admitted the plan was overwhelming in its scope and they did not know where to start. This plan was long on objectives, yet painfully short on actionable steps.

What this client needed more than a plan was a process for executing that plan that includes what I call GMAs (Goals & Measurable Actions)SM. A GMA process creates a simple path to plan implementation that includes a clear accountability loop. Everyone in the organization knows the overall firm goals and exactly what measurable actions they must complete to achieve these goals. Trying to execute a plan without a GMA process is like trying to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture without the step-by-step instructions. You may get close to your goal, but without measurable action steps your chances of having a functional piece of furniture are not high.

Related: Four Key Ingredients to Successful Strategic Planning

I have used the GMA process consistently, and with great success, for the past 15+ years with numerous teams and organizations. It can, and should, be incorporated into any type of plan – strategic, marketing, business development, project, etc. – you are working with. The goal of the GMA process is to develop a clear set of measurable actions, and an accountability loop for those actions, that leads to a higher goal achievement success rate.

The GMA process has 3 distinct steps:

WHAT –

What are the overall goals to be achieved by the plan? Ideally, a plan should have 3 – 5 high-level measurable goals. (Example – Grow net new clients by 12% per year for the next 3 years, that is an addition of 15 net new clients per year)

HOW –

What are the specific action steps to be taken to achieve the overall plan goals? These actions should be as detailed as possible. (Example – Conduct 5 prospect meetings per week)

WHEN –

This step is the accountability loop. In it you break down your overall goal into smaller time segments so that you can more quickly assess how well you are tracking to your goal and make course corrections when necessary. (Example – Close 3 net new clients by end of 1st quarter)

Implementing the GMA process as part of the business development plan with the aforementioned client broke down the overall plan into smaller pieces, provided clear and measurable action steps, and created an accountability loop allowing firm principals to assess plan progress at any point in time. They expressed feeling a greater sense of focus and control in being able to execute on their plan and achieve their goals.

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