As we approach the end of the year, many firms are moving deep into the planning and budgeting process for next year. So, I thought this would be a great time to reflect on year-to-date performance and look forward to the opportunities of next year.

Earlier this year, I had the fantastic opportunity to be part of an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workgroup led by Ed Jacobson, Ph.D. ( The work in the group had a profound impact on how I look at my personal life. AI has also changed how I think professional services firms should look at marketing and business planning. If you are not familiar with Appreciative Inquiry, it is a development approach that focuses on increasing what an organization/individual does well rather than on eliminating what one does badly. (A tip of the hat to Ed for the AI insights)

Schedule time to think about these important questions.  As you look backward, ask yourself:

  1. What are we excited about for the new year?
  2. Now, look forward, visualize the organization’s success and ask:
  3. What have we learned from the bright spots or missed opportunity?
  4. Where did we miss an opportunity?
  5. What are two high points for the year (i.e. it is significant, you weren’t sure it would come into being, its occurrence surprised you)?

Now, look forward, visualize the organization’s success and ask:

  1. What are the “bright spots”?
  2. How did we perform against our goals?
  3. What successes do we take forward?
  4. What’s our greatest opportunity looming for next year?
  5. What’s required for us to capitalize on that opportunity?
  6. What can get in the way of realizing this opportunity?
  7. Imagine it’s one year into the future. What do you want to say about the year?

Then ask these final questions:

What would we do if we knew we would not fail?

We would ____________________________________________________

What can you do—what would it require—to go for it?

We can ____________________________________________________

These questions are powerful personally and organizationally. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on both levels.  Have a great future.

Be prudent.



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