Sunday, November 10, 2013

Unfinished Business

It's that time of year again - The weather is getting cooler, the stores are pushing Christmas on us earlier than ever, in house lawyers are working up their 2014 budget, and law firms are drafting their annual letters letting their clients know that they've unilaterally decided to give themselves a raise.  It's also the time of year that I remind those trying to get or keep my business of my Ten Commandments, and begin to take inventory of the things I've accomplished this year and what's still left to be done.

This year has been one of ups and downs for me.  As a result, there's a lot on my to do list from January 1st that hasn't been done yet.  And now it's time for me to come to terms with the fact that some of it just won't be done this year.  Given the personality types that the practice of law attracts, it's understandably difficult for many of us to let go of the unfinished business.  This is true in my personal life as well as my professional, but I hope I'm getting better at both - my husband may disagree.

It's also difficult to recognize that I'm not the only one struggling with this.  Friends, family and even my business partners are having to admit that some of those goals set at the beginning of the year are no longer realistic.  That may mean that vacations are canceled and holiday plans are postponed until next year.  The most frustrating for all involved are the times when business expectations aren't met.  We didn't close that big deal we were counting on so bonuses will be reduced; we couldn't recruit fast enough to get the new feature in the roadmap finished so we'll have to keep using the inefficient work-around; the patent office was slower to respond that we had predicted and now the cost of that patent gets pushed to next year's budget.  To a certain extent these things are affected by things outside our control.  Which is why it is so frustrating.  And having to come up with a plan to compensate for the effects is an exercise we'd all like to skip.

When this happens in your organization, you need to be the voice of cautious optimism.  What can we do to minimize the pain of not having met the goal?  Will working an extra hour a day get us over the finish line by December 31?  Can we restructure the offering to make the customer come back to the table while still maintaining profitability?  Can we take a goal from 1Q14 and move it to 4Q13 to compensate?  Or maybe we could just not pitch a fit about not getting the entire bonus projection.  The one goal I am going to keep this year is to not sweat the small stuff.