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    March 31st, 2009

    Take me to the magic of the moment
    On a glory night
    Where the children of tomorrow share their dreams
    With you and me…

    Lyrics and music by: Klaus Meine, recorded by  The Scorpions, “Wind of Change

    “The only constant is change.” Ηράκλειτος (Herakleitos; Heraclitus) of Ephesus (c.535 BC475 BC)

    Howsoever that statement is true, it is inaccurate in one respect – it suggests that change is constant but in fact, I believe it is actually accelerating (second derivative > 0 if you look at it in mathematical terms).

    Change occurs all around us – most of the time we accommodate to the change but there are instances when we must ourselves be an agent of change.  Sometimes that change is relatively small and the consequences relatively inconsequential – but there are occasions when much rides on the change and the successful implementation of same.

    Today any managing partners’ skill set must include the ability to successfully implement change. There are instances when that change is personal, there are times when that change relates to a department or team, and there are occasions when that change relates to an entire organization or system.  One other thing is constant – one cannot sell change.  For change to successfully occur, others must be brought into the equation and become supporters of change themselves.  Of course there is planning, communication, consultation and hopefully, agreement followed by action.

    Implementing change means seeking ways to overcome skepticism, passive/aggressive tactics and at times, outright resistance.  Some of the elements of implementing change successfully are:

    (1)    Begin with the end in mind: Covey’s advice is apt – know what the goal and success look like and how the organization will be improved by the change.  By having a firm vision in your own mind of where the change is headed, you can help others in their understanding.

    (2)    Build the business case:  Lay out the reason(s) for the change from a business perspective.  Everyone recognizes that organizations have to adapt – having an explicit business case shows that you have done your homework.

    (3)    Involve others:  Top-down mandated change may be effective in a crises, but in most other settings it rubs people the wrong way and is counter-productive to successful change management.  People want to be involved, they want to be able to have input and a voice and they want their concerns to be heard.

    (4)    Communicate: This means mostly listening.  Most often when a change is sought, management spends most of their time talking – trying to persuade or pressure others into conforming. Personally I think this is the wrong approach. Management should spend time laying out the vision and the goals for the desired change – and then sit back and let those who have to deal with the change ask questions.  Management gains credibility by listening to those questions and answering them if they can or by stating: “That is a really good question.  Let us think about that and get back to you by {date}.”   If you follow through and provide the requisite answer, you communicate that you care about the questions and the effect of the change on your staff and you are actively looking for ways to accommodate their concerns.

    (5)    Seek the Third Way: This is a powerful technique. When you know the goal and are aware that there are many paths that lead to that goal, you can open yourself up and be prepared to accommodate ways that meet others’ needs.  Thinking win-win is another way of stating this technique.

    (6)    Seek Face-to-Face Time: Email, memos, policy and procedure manual changes and similar communications all have their place to provide a written reference of the proposed change.  Nevertheless, they are not a substitute for the opportunity to meet and discuss perspectives and concerns; particularly when dealing with the sensitive parts in the change process and when you need to develop understanding – on both sides of the change.

    (7)    Develop a Sense of Timing: We have all seen instances when the timetable for implementing a change was introduced before there was any consensus achieved over the need for the change.  I think that is a mistake.  If you start with laying out the proposed change and your vision for the change without discussing timing, you should arrive at a point when people say: “Ok, I see the need for this …now ..when are we going to do this?”  At that point people have moved on from debating if the change is going to happen to becoming involved with the process of how the change is going to be implemented.  You have successfully engaged these staff members and brought them onto the change management team.

    (8)    Act the Part: Many people think that to appear a strong leader, they also have to appear like they have all the answers and fall into a command role.  The truth is that the most powerful leaders are those who treat others with humility, respect and integrity and have the patience to understand that change takes time.

    (9)   Empower People to Act:  In order to implement change, you will need to empower early adopters to become agents of change.  Provide support and recognize achievements.  Foster (and model) the kind of behaviours that you wish to see.

    (10)  Use S.M.A.R.T goals:  SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  Rome wasn’t built in a day (as my mom says so often) and change should not be expected to be achieved overnight.  By having smaller discrete goals that result in the achievement of the overall vision, you have let people climb to new heights using small stairs rather than a single bound (which, as we all know, was only possible if you were Superman).

    (11)  Keep the Energy Going! When the going gets tough, the staff will be looking to their leader for encouragement and inspiration.  Churchill had nothing to offer to Britain at the height of the Blitz but the glimmer of hope and hard work. Or as he put it: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

    (12)  Lastly, Institutionalize the Change: Reward those who assisted with the change and acted as change leaders.  Place them in new positions in the organization if possible to serve as change agents in the future.  Recognize and celebrate your success!

    Finally recall that dependable, reliable steady-as-you-go personality types are not the ones who welcome change – they see change as a threat and a risk. Law is also not a fast-changing profession. Accordingly, I think that adapting law firms to see change  in a positive light is a uphill battle.  But law firms and legal organizations must change and adapt to survive; the managing partner and law office administrator will need this skill in order to ensure the viability of their organization and have it weather the wind of change.

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 3:57 pm and is filed under Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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