Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning: Don’t Miss the Boat (or Plane)

Have you ever made plans for something in the future only to realize later that you weren’t thinking clearly during the planning stage? I am all too familiar with this feeling. In January I had some fairly major surgery that kept me in the hospital for four days and another two weeks at home on painkillers and house arrest (I mean rest…) One of my first ventures out of the house was when my wife and I attended a funeral in Tampa, Florida on Friday February 6th with a return flight on Sunday, February 8th. We flew down on an uneventful flight (the kind we all love) and spent the weekend with the family of our friend.

On Sunday, we arrived at the airport at 2:15 for our 4:00 flight back to Atlanta. I tried to check in online but was unsuccessful so we tried the terminal kiosks and were again rebuffed. The last alternative was the ticket agent line. The agent was pleasant and tried to check us is but her system said it was “too early” to check into the flight I had booked. She asked for the confirmation number which I gave her and watched as a puzzled look crossed her face. “Mr. Collins, this is Sunday FEBRUARY 8th , it seems you booked your return flight for Sunday MARCH 8th , which makes your flight home next month!” I looked at my wife for relief or encouragement and let me just say, there was none. I quickly looked back at the confirmation email to investigate and sure enough, there it was, return on March 8th. As I looked at the date of booking, I realized I had booked this flight during my house arrest while on some nice morphine based pain killers. Nice….. but what does this have to do with the pitfalls of professional services planning?

Lessons Learned to Avoid Future Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning

As I drove back to Atlanta in our one-way rental car that night, I realized that I often approach business decisions with this same reckless abandon. There are times and events in our company’s life that should preclude us from making definite plans for the future. It’s like going to the grocery store when you are hungry, just don’t do it. We should never make future commitments in our business when our judgment is clouded by something. Other than narcotic painkillers and hunger, some other things can be just as detrimental to our ability to think rationally. For example:

Manufactured Crisis Leading to Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning

Manufactured Crisis All businesses have crises (yes that is the plural of crisis..thanks Intenet!); however some crises are manufactured. A misplaced priority of a team member can throw the entire team into turmoil. Just because Fred wants the company to branch out into a new product offering or market by an arbitrary date doesn’t make it a crisis if it isn’t part of the mission statement or strategic plan of the business. Look through the lens of your plan.

Unrealistic Goals Contributing to Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning

Unrealistic Goals We all have goals. We need goals to push us forward; however, when we set unrealistic goals it can lead to operational chaos. Desperate and unfettered actions often follow a goal not tied to the reality of your business. Be bold, just don’t let the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) force you into unwise decisions.

Pitfalls of Professional Services Planning Due to Obstructed Views

Obstructed Views The other side of the coin of Situation #2 is making a decision with only an obstructed view of the opportunity in front of you. Many times companies choose to abort a lucrative strategy because the due diligence put too much weight on the complications and possible negative outcomes. These scenarios are important to consider but only as a compliment to the realistic potential upside of the strategy. We need to make sure that when we forge a path ahead, it is not only with a clear mind but also with a clear and unobstructed view of the target.

I love business. I love overcoming the pitfalls of professional services planning and dealing with the constantly changing opportunities and challenges. But I am fooling myself if I think I can make wise and accurate decisions while under any of the mind altered states mentioned above. Believe me, when we make bad decisions it is a long, lonely, quiet, seven-hour drive back home.