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8 de Junio de 2010

Successful Strategic Implementation

Let’s start off with a pop quiz this month. Are you experiencing strategic success if you are quickly and successfully implementing a plan that is not actively supported by most of the firm?


I recently caught up with the members of the leadership team of a mid-sized firm to discuss their progress with strategy implementation. They're about a year into their implementation program and their progress report was nearly perfect. They're sticking

to a tight schedule; they addressed all the internal issues first to allow them to focus externally; they opened a new office under the direction of a relocated partner; and the revenue growth in their chosen areas of focus was almost on target to their adjusted (for the recession, yet still quite aspirational) goals.

In spite of all the good news, however, there was a strange feeling in the meeting. The group's excitement and pride in their efforts didn't rise to a level that was commensurate with the results. They explained their achievements in a very matter-of-fact manner that left me confused and, quite frankly, a little bored.

Given that the group members looked deprived of the emotions they richly deserved, I started asking questions to better understand this dynamic. The truth surfaced from the question, "Are the partners still energized by the strategy, because this group doesn't appear to be?"

The responses came quickly: "They don't see it at all," "It's dead to them," "Non-existent!" The emotion level in the room was now accelerating at a rapid and helpful pace so I probed further with, "Why not?" I braced for a more heated discussion but, to my surprise, the energy immediately vanished and was replaced with sheepish looks all around. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, one member confessed, "Because we're doing it all and not involving them ... it's quicker and easier this way."

Unless you're driving and have found a great shortcut to your destination, the words "it's quicker and easier this way" are usually associated with the defence of a lost opportunity. It's "quicker and easier" for a partner to draft a document than involve an associate who will make mistakes and require guidance. It's "quicker and easier" to rank an assistant with all five on the evaluation form than to discuss any shortcomings. Yes, it's "quicker and easier" for a small, empowered group to drive strategy implementation rather than involve the whole firm.

I reminded the group that the implementation plan did not call for a burned-out,  exhausted and resentful core leadership group but this is exactly what we had. Impatience got the best of them. So where did this group go wrong?

The management team counted on the individuals to determine what they needed to do to help the cause. That's what the management team was doing, individually, so this was viewed as a reasonable expectation for everyone. "Our partners are very smart people ... they'll figure it out."

Upon further review, management found that most of the partners in the firm were simply waiting to be told what to do. Absent any direction or linkage to the plan, those not involved in management returned to their practices, comforted by the fact that management was dealing with the plan - whatever that means.

The need to slow down and make the process

 more cumbersome is counter-intuitive.

We played our scenario out a few years and concluded that the current approach would continue to generate short-term wins for the firm but strategic planning would eventually lose support and momentum because a) the driving forces would tire from doing all the work and b) trained, committed replacements won't be available to step in. Therefore, we agreed to several changes that would lead to broad-based involvement in the process and a much slower implementation schedule.

In the complex collection of driven over-achievers that are at so many law firms, the need to slow down and make the process more cumbersome is counter-intuitive. If, however, lasting change and broad-based support for the strategy are goals - and they should be - remember that success usually comes from hard work, not from "quicker and easier" plans.

About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, tax and accounting, scientific, healthcare and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota. Thomson Reuters employs more than 50,000 people in more than 100 countries. For more information, go to www.thomsonreuters.com.

About Hildebrandt Baker Robbins
Hildebrandt Baker Robbins is a multidisciplinary consulting firm, helping law firms, legal departments and other professional service organizations plan, implement and measure key strategic, management, operations and technology goals. The firm serves major global law firms and corporations, and its consultants provide practical business and technology solutions from offices in New York; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Chicago; San Francisco; London; Somerset, NJ; Eagan, Minn.; Beijing; Hong Kong and Sydney. For more information, please visit www.hbrconsulting.com or send an email to info@hbrconsulting.com.

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