Successful Professional Services Management

The following is an excerpt from the opening chapter of Adam Bager’s Book Eight Measures for Successful Professional Services Management

Introduction

You can measure many things that you cannot manage. You can measure the temperature on a sunny day; you can calculate the average temperature over a season. If you live in London, you can count the days of continuous rain, and, in the Sahara, the days of drought. However, sadly, these phenomena remain beyond our powers of management.

But there aren’t many things you can manage that you cannot measure, whether measurement is formal, analogue, digital, quantitative, qualitative, or subjective. You can’t manage the temperature of a room if you can’t measure it, even if the measurement you make is an informal one, such as how you feel about the heat, rather than the precise measure of an automatic air conditioning system. And you can’t manage a business unless you can measure it – its profitability, its efficiency, its cash, and the trends of each of these. Without measurement, decision-making is intuitive and irrational.

Measurement and management go hand in hand. This is commonplace in most industries and a vast assortment of business systems reflects this. You can’t run a distribution company without knowing how much stock you’re holding, how fast it moves, how long it takes to procure it, and how its cost relates to its sales value. And there isn’t a single company in the world that can be managed well without a financial system (even if based on the abacus). Measurement is central to management everywhere and in all branches of business.

But in the professional services industry measurement is usually partial. Professional services companies succeed through the profitable deployment of their skills, and yet, these products being human, professional staff, whether lawyers, engineers, programmers, accountants, tax consultants, teachers or others, are often averse to measuring what they do. How many professionals do you know who obtain pleasure from filling in a timesheet?

But this attitude, that human beings are beyond measurement, is the beginning of chaos and in some cases the cause of financial collapse. At the very least the serious mismanagement of professional services organisations. Without measurement a professional services company is like a ship at sea without a GPS device (or whatever passes for a compass nowadays). If it doesn’t know how busy it is, how busy it’s going to be, where its profits lie, what skills it’s short of, it’s permanently at risk.

This book is about the key measurements that I believe a professional services company must be aware of, and about how measurement, management, and even motivation, can be made to work well together. It is only secondarily about how these measurements can be made. For a small company sometimes even Excel or Access may be sufficient, whereas for others, specialist software, such as [email protected], is the answer.


Underlying all the observations in these notes are the following assumptions, which I hold to be truisms in business:

1. Only things that are measurable are manageable
2. Information is only useful and worth preparing if it affects the decisions you make
3. No process will work if it isn’t to the advantage of those who should observe it
4. Motivational measurements work only if they fall largely within the control of those whom they are designed to motivate

This is why measurement, management and motivation are so closely linked. It is all very well to set up sophisticated mechanisms of management and reporting, but unless these work with what motivates professional staff and management, you might as well not bother.

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