Stepping down from anything that might resemble a high-horse, we should stipulate that succeeding at enterprise is not a piece-of-cake. There are far more ways to false-start, stumble and falter than one could enumerate — and many of us have first-hand experience with at least a few.
That said — and notwithstanding the lessons to be gained from the in-depth analysis being done — the thing that is at the heart of the demise of the once venerable law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf is no mystery. It is the same thing that gnaws at potential progress of any collaborative effort.
Where was the long-term strategic thinking?
We’re not speaking of the generic grow-and-be-the-best stuff that too often masquerades as a strategy. Where was the plan born of shared aspirations and a few guiding principles?
Where was the perspective on time that factored more than this year’s numbers?
Where was the framework against which decisions are tested, accountability forced and tomorrow’s stability measured?
The data is stark. Whether a law firm (or a law firm marketing team), a service organization, a government or even a personal relationship, long-term stability is undermined whenever vision and guiding principles (the DNA of a true strategic plan) give way to the siren call of a shortcut or the hope for a quick-fix.
Dewey wasn’t the first, of course. It will almost certainly not be the last.
When immediate revenue comes at the expense of measured investment in the future — when instant gratification, personal advancement and ego trump shared aspirations — when individuals are more important than teams — a vote is cast in favor of the strategy of the short-term.
And as exhilarating as the ascent can be, most who have been through the dissolution of a once grand collaboration will confirm — the disappointment is bitter.