Law Department of the Year Nominees #ILTACON

2016_ILTACON_logoSession Description: And the nominees are…Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Prudential Financial, Inc. and RBC. Watch as the short list of nominees for ILTA’s 2016 Distinguished Peer Award for Innovative Law Department of the Year present their innovations. Attendees at this session will vote for their favorite, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday evening at the Awards Dinner.

Speakers:

  • Robert Bell, Assistant General Counsel and Legal Knowledge Officer at Royal Bank of Canada
  • Molly Perry, Chief Operating Officer, Office of the General Counsel at Hewlett-Packard
  • George Chiu (IT) and Brian Burlew (Legal Operations)

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
    • RBC is the largest bank and the largest company in Canada.
    • Their CEO is a former programmer — he speaks digital.
    • Their General Counsel Group has several sub-groups, two of which are:
      • Their eDiscovery team has significantly improved turn-around on discovery work and savings.
      • Their external counsel group has meaningfully improved their monitoring and measurement of external counsel, leading to significant savings.
    • RBC Connect
      • RBC Connect is their social enterprise network, powered by Jive
        • early adopters of this social tool have experienced a dramatic reduction of email traffic
      • In April 2016, they logged 50.4K monthly users. This represents 2/3 of all potential users in the company.
      • The General Counsel Group has a vibrant presence on RBC Connect
        • they provide private and open communities so they can collaborate with their internal business clients
        • they provide  for a wide range of
      • They have a new role of “knowledge anchor” each of whom is a legal subject matter expert who works to promote key team knowledge and post it in relevant places (including their knowledge hubs).
      • They have a knowledge and meeting hub:
        • The knowledge hub contains key resources that may be hard to find in the DMS
          • Substantive Law Primers
          • Materials from preferred external law firms
        • The Meeting Hub stores meeting agenda and resources in a single place for each group that holds meetings
      • They use the search tools in RBC Connect to see the materials that their business clients use on a daily basis. This allows them to develop and enhance strategic relationships with their business partners.
      • They also create communities that involve both members of the legal department and the various business groups they serve
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise. They are focused on bringing legal work in-house because they have been able to generate substantial savings by doing so
    • Strategic Framework
      • Smart Solutions
        • MitraTech TeamConnect for matter management
          • Outside counsel have access to this
        • SalesForce for IP sales management
        • Project management for M&A transactions
        • Dealflow — extends their project management tool to other uses
        • they use HPE predictive analysis and coding in their discovery work
        • they use the HPE records tool and have created significant cost savings by digitizing ahead of schedule
        • Business clients have self-service access to create confidentiality agreements
      • Inside Game — tools & processes that help their team most efficient and effective so they can bring more of the work inside the legal department.
      • Game Changers
      • Talent Factory
    • They had a massive challenge when they had to use their resources to help manage an enormous corporate separation. This involved separating assets and allocating people
    • Their Innovation: Time reporting made simple — used by more than 650 professionals worldwide
      • During the corporate separation, they monitored their internal time reports. These data revealed that they were spending too much time on low-value contracts. Consequently, they implemented an internal time recording tool and protocol to continue creating and gathering time data.
      • They use business intelligence tool that shows external spend data, internal time data, and internal pro bono hours. The connections between internal time and external spend have been a “goldmine” of useful information.
        • Managers can generate the reports the need on a self-service basis
    • Contracting Metrics:
      • They handle virtually all their contracting in-house.
      • They are able to track  internal time spent on contract type, value and geography.
      • They now can see if their time is spent on the most important tasks. They have used these data to reduce time and expense
      • Managers have dashboards and can generate reports on a self-service basis
    • The Litigation “Inside Game”
      • They can correlate internal time to the time spent by external counsel. This helps them see where their use of external counsel is efficient and where they should increase staffing internally.
  • Prudential Financial.
    • They have a “solid and flexible platform” = MitraTech TeamConnect. It supports
      • Matter management
      • Spend management
      • Integration
      • Collaboration
    • It was originally intended for matter management and e-billing. Since then, they have built suites for several compliance groups. In addition, several operations groups are using TeamConnect’s workflow tools.
    • TeamConnect required very little staffing. They do some configuring (and a little customizing, as necessary). Both IT and the Legal Operations Group work together to support TeamConnect.
    • Internal and External Partnership
      • Internal
      • External
        • Mitratech — leader in Enterprise Legal Management (ELM)
    • Their Innovation: a very close and dynamic working relationship between legal operations and legal IT.
    • Any innovative technology is only as good as the people who design it and the people who use it.
    • Their work has been speedy and extremely cost-effective.
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Keynote: Measure Twice, Cut Once: Solving the Legal Profession’s Biggest Problems Together #ILTACON

2016_ILTACON_logoSession Description: Clients and law firms need to work together to solve the biggest problems facing them both, including the optimal overall data strategy for collection, hoarding, preservation, measurement and metrics; data we should collect today to help answer the questions of tomorrow; leveraging current technologies to improve data measurement and regularization and overall collaboration; measuring the performance of and determining fair value for legal work; how to create appropriate micro-incentives to further innovation; startup technologies being developed that are worthy of consideration; and where we’ll find the staff to manage it all. Together, we’ll measure twice, cut once and start solving legal’s biggest problems.

Speaker: Daniel Katz, Associate Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law.  Dan is a scientist, technologist and law professor who applies an innovative polytechnic approach to teaching law, meshing litigation and transactional knowledge with emerging software and other efficiency-enhancing technologies to help prepare lawyers for today’s challenging legal job market. His forward-thinking ideas helped earn him acknowledgement among the Fastcase 50, which “recognizes 50 of the smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders in the law.” He was also named to the American Bar Association Journal‘s “Legal Rebels,” a prestigious group of change leaders in the legal profession. Professor Katz teaches civil procedure, e-discovery and entrepreneurial lawyering at Chicago-Kent and spearheads new initiatives to teach law students how to leverage technology and entrepreneurship in their future legal careers.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2016 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • How to build a more perfect supply chain.  This requires that we move more parts of legal practice from the “art” column to the “science” column. This, in turn, requires that we measure our work more rigorously.
  • Economics of the law.
    • What’s a lawyer’s value proposition? What do lawyers solve for? If you get too far from that value proposition, you become irrelevant.
    • the value proposition:
      • help people manage complexity
      • help people manage enterprise risk
    • Lawyers as Complexity Engineers: In the face of growing legal complexity, we have applied greater and greater numbers of human experts to solve problems. (We throw more and more labor at the problem.) This, in turn, creates a huge opportunity for disruption. Do we really need all these people? Can some of what they do be done by a machine. Better yet, can we remove some of the complexity?
    • Where are the large-scale complexity-filled opportunities in law? Banks! They do very complex transactions and need increasingly efficient ways to cope with the legal complexity of their transactions.
    • Paul Lippe’s insight on three types of lawyers:
      • Mediocre lawyers play whack-a-mole, seeing legal risk around every corner
      • Clever lawyers find solutions to those legal risks
      • Great lawyers help design systems that can balance risk and then price risk correctly.
    • Why do we have law firms?
      • Every client has to decide whether to make or buy.
        • Law firms help offset peak load by helping law departments from having to staff up when unusal issues arise.
        • Firms provide high value by providing expertise that is rarely used or hard to acquire
    • The problem of agency costs:
      • If I am the principal and hire an agent to act on my behalf, the agent often has more information than the principal. This creates agency cost. Therefore, this relationship is always slightly antagonistic.
  • Moving from Artisinal to Industrial.
    • Across many industries, we are moving things from the artisan column to the industrial column. This requires standardizing and measuring business processes. The result is reliable and repeatable.
    • This does not need to mean a loss of quality. We do not need to move from being Sal’s artisanal pizza to Dominos. We need to produce artisinal- quality pizza with the economies of industrial processes.
  • Creating a Data-Driven Enterprise.
    • Our understanding of our processes is imperfect. We rarely appreciate how complicated they really are. We rarely see how simple they really should be.
    • The first step is process mapping. When process mapping, don’t make it so granular that it turns into a #ridiculogram.
    • Don’t merely aim for understanding the average cost/effort. Focus on the variability. Understand what moves things out of the left tail and into the right tail.
    • Transparency is the glue that builds relationships. But in the legal industry, we hate transparency. If we want real change in the industry, the transparency has to work both ways. Both law firms and clients must share their data. Only then will we have a clearer understanding of actual opportunities and risks.
    • Data-driven outcomes = using data to underwrite legal risk.
    • Data-driven transactional work = using data to determine the value of particular negotiating and drafting approaches. If we don’t know how much risk is being avoided or created, how can we choose the right approach?
    • We need a better understanding of the actual drivers of risk. A mediocre lawyer sees risk everywhere. A great lawyer has the data to explain the actual risks.
    • Human are good at pattern detection. A high-frequency trader may take only 60 seconds to identify a pattern, but in that minute the arbitrage opportunity will disappear because computers are faster.
    • Predicting case outcomes using data. When it comes to forecasting, there are only 3 ways to predict: experts, crowdsourcing, and algorithms.
      • However, “experts” don’t really need to be expert in law in order to predict well. Take the example of Jacob Berlove, an actuary who lives in Queens, New York, who is one of the best predictors of supreme court case outcomes.
      • Yet there is something that can outperform a high-performing individual. A Human + a Machine always outperforms either a Human OR a Machine.
  • Legal Analytics & Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS). Law is a relatively small vertical. And it has a great diversity of expertise. Therefore, it is unlikely that the big players such as IBM will focus on the legal vertical. However, we can take IBM’s general offerings such as Watson and conquer the last mile, which is to figure out how to adapt it to the legal industry.
  • Fin(Legal)Tech.
    • If you are offering alternative fee arrangements, you are self-insuring because you are assuming the risk. However, most firms do so without the necessary data or models. Crazy!
    • Fintech is about removing socially meaningless friction and then characterizing and pricing exotic risks. Once we understand the data under the legal system and use that data to characterize and price legal risk, we will create Fin(Legal)Tech.
  • Practical Steps You can Take:
    • Improve your early case assessment. Collect and understand the data your have in your firm regarding litigation cases. Then build a predictive model.
    • Improve your transactional predictions. Collect markups on every deal document. Understand what they are and why they are done. Then you can predict the next negotiating/drafting tactic of opposing counsel. And you can assess the costs of every move.
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Your Clients Want Trilingual Services

foreign dictionaries - guidebooks-1425706-1600x1200Law firms are like professional sports teams in one critical respect: they pay a premium for top talent. Until now, that premium has gone to new graduates with the best grades and lateral lawyers with the best books of business.  Unfortunately, this overly narrow view of talent has been a costly mistake. Instead of focusing on academic pedigree or client numbers alone, firms should be focusing on a specific capability: being trilingual.

While speaking a variety of languages is life enriching, SmartLaw* has clear business reasons for requiring its personnel to speak three specific languages:

  • Law
  • Client
  • Technology

A command of the language of law is the one capability for which law firms have always hired. This one is obvious if you actually want to deliver legal services. However, speaking “legal” is not enough. It equips you to create legal services, but it does not help you do so cost-effectively or in a way that actually connects with clients. That’s where the other two languages come into play.

Speaking “client” means the ability to hear what your client is telling you and to interpret those words from the perspective of that client rather than merely from the perspective of that client’s outside counsel. This empathetic knowledge goes way beyond Google Translate (if, in fact, Google Translate could handle it!) to a deep understanding of the needs and aspirations behind the words. This is a language you learn best by being the client or by walking in the client’s shoes for many miles.

Speaking “technology” means more than just operating digitally. It means understanding the array and logic of the digital resources available. It means an openness to rethinking the way you work so that you can take advantage of the rich possibilities of those digital resources. And, above all, it means being willing to create safe-fail experiments that allow you to try new things as you explore novel ways of working. Without this willingness to experiment, you can never improve and you most certainly will not speak technology well.

It should go without saying that this trilingual capacity is not a requirement limited to lawyers. In a SmartLaw firm, all personnel will be trilingual and respected for it. When everyone in the firm has native ability in these three languages, then your firm is ready for the future of legal services.

*This post is excerpted from HighQ’s ebook: SmartLaw: Expert insights for the future of lawDownload the whole ebook here.

[My thanks to Rick Krzyminski and Richard Robbins for the conversation that led to this article.]

[Photo Credit: Dog Madic]

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No Free Tech Ride

I_VotedFor the last few decades, we have been like children let loose in a candy store, never stopping to consider the negative consequences of stuffing our faces with sweets.

What is this candy store? The Internet.

For the last few decades, we have been on a deliriously fun tech ride. We have come to take for granted the ease, the convenience, and the sheer joy of immediate gratification the Internet provides. All of this and more can be yours with just a little connectivity.

Of course, we know that if you consume too much sugar you destroy your teeth and set yourself up for diabetes and a host of other bad health outcomes. And, as we have come to learn, all that consumer tech convenience sometimes come with a very large price tag: hacker convenience.

That is the reality. There is no such thing as a consequence-free candy binge. And, there is no such thing as a free ride on technology.

I was reminded of these realities when I saw Bruce Schneier’s recent article in The Washington Post with the scary title “By November, Russian hackers could target voting machines.” According to Schneier,

Over the years, more and more states have moved to electronic voting machines and have flirted with Internet voting. These systems are insecure and vulnerable to attack.

But while computer security experts like me have sounded the alarm for many years, states have largely ignored the threat, and the machine manufacturers have thrown up enough obfuscating babble that election officials are largely mollified.

For years cyber security experts have warned about “walking talking security threats.” By this they mean you and me — the people who use ridiculously easy-to-guess passwords or do not lock our devices or refuse two-factor authentication or surf the web merrily over insecure public wifi. These reckless behaviors can lead to a host of terrible outcomes, including identity theft or breaches of an employer’s firewall.

If this were not bad enough, Schneier suggests that people with the ability to harm society have indulged in even more reckless behavior.  Schneier is talking about a whole other level of tech-ignorant behavior that has resulted in an insecure electronic voting system could imperil our democracy. If he is right, we should be angry and terrified.

At every level of society, starting with you and me, we need to take a serious look at how our negligent use of technology can have disastrous consequences. The party has been fun, but now it is long past time we grew up. After all, we now know there is no such thing as a free tech ride.

[Photo Credit: Denise Cross]

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How to Make your Clients Happy

smilies-110650_1280It turns out that the formula for making your clients happy is pretty simple: First, make your employees happy. As the video below from Harvard Business Review reports, there is a correlation between customer satisfaction, on the one hand, and engaged and motivated employees, on the other hand. Businesses with strong company cultures and positively motivated employees tend to have the highest customer satisfaction ratings.

So how do you make employees happy? Use positive rather than negative means to improve their motivation. It turns out that the traditional quantitative factors such as compensation and performance reviews don’t help improve employee motivation as much as we thought. Factors that have a much greater positive impact on employee motivation are well-designed roles, the mission and impact of the organization, clear career ladders, and a sense of community.

Why people work is actually central to how motivated they are. In “How Company Culture Shapes Motivation,” Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi report that there are six main reasons why people work: “play, purpose, potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia.” Of these, the first three have a positive effect that tends to improve performance, and the last three have a negative effect that tends to diminish performance.

  • Play — you work because you enjoy it
  • Purpose — you work because you value the impact of your work
  • Potential — you work because it increases your potential
  • Emotional pressure — you work because some external force threatens your identity (e.g., guilt, shame, fear, etc.)
  • Economic pressure — you work to gain a reward or avoid a punishment
  • Inertia — you work because that is what you always do, even if you do not know why

Company cultures that emphasize play, purpose and potential yield better employee motivation and performance. Company cultures that use emotional pressure, economic pressure or inertia to spur employees on do not create happy, engaged, and positively motivated employees.

The takeaway from this research is that it is worth investing in an inspirational company culture. But, as you are pursuing that grand goal, be sure that you pay attention to the practical things that make your employees glad to get out of bed and come to work.

[Photo Credit: RSunset]

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Training Your Backwards Bicycle Brain

Thanks to the generosity of a friend on social media, a video posted on YouTube over one year ago finally caught up with me. (Or, more properly, I finally caught up with it.) And that video got me thinking hard about how difficult it can be to change the way we work.

The video in question is The Backwards Brain Bicycle and it has a simple premise. People say that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. In this video, we discover just how hard it is to unlearn how to ride a bike. By using a bike that was deliberately designed to operate in a strange way, the rider was forced to struggle between his newly acquired knowledge of the redesigned bike and his ingrained way of riding bikes. And the struggle was real.

But here’s the thing: No matter how difficult it is, we need to develop our ability to unlearn in order to develop our ability to learn. While we may not ever have to ride a backwards bicycle, there are lots of things we confront daily that require us to look at things differently or think about things differently. There were things that were standard when I first began my legal career (e.g., hard copy treatises, pocket parts, IBM Selectric typewriters, dictaphones, etc.) that are now extinct or irrelevant. As a result, I have had to unlearn my old ways so I could master new tools and techniques to get my job done.

Even if you were not practicing law in the dark ages when I first started working, I am certain you have had a similar experience of seeing old ways of doing things slip away, to be replaced by new ways that you have to learn quickly.

Margie Warrell calls this “learning agility” and says that it is now “the name of the game”:

To succeed today you must be in a constant state of adaptation – continually unlearning old ‘rules’ and relearning new ones. That requires continually questioning assumptions about how things work, challenging old paradigms, and ‘relearning’ what is now relevant in your job, your industry, your career and your life.

Learning agility is the name of the game. Where the rules are changing fast, your ability to be agile in letting go of old rules and learning new ones is increasingly important. Learning agility is the key to unlocking your change proficiency and succeeding in an uncertain, unpredictable and constantly evolving environment, both personally and professionally.

As you head out for a well-deserved long weekend, consider what you are being asked to learn and then think about what you will have to unlearn to make that learning possible. You cannot do one without the other.

If you don’t believe me, then believe Yoda:  “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

 

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When Scope Creeps Like Kudzu

1024px-Kudzu_field_horz2 Japanese arrowroot is the name of a group of plants in the pea family. Sounds innocuous, right? What if you learned that these plants are “climbing, coiling and trailing perennial vines”? Still sound innocuous? What if you were then told that these plants are more commonly known as Kudzu and are considered noxious and invasive? Now are you concerned?

You should be. On his website Jack Anthony has some astonishing photos of what happens when kudzu is left to creep unchecked. These photos are accompanied by equally astonishing commentary:

Kudzu vines will cover buildings and parked vehicles over a period of years if no attempt is made to control its growth. A number of abandoned houses, vehicles and barns covered with kudzu can be seen in Georgia and other southern states.

Even if you don’t work in landscape design, I am certain you have experienced the encroaching nature of kudzu at the office. It is most commonly seen in projects that lack firm direction and a disciplined team.  While the project may start out with a clear purpose and agreed budget and schedule, over time the budget, schedule and even purpose can get blurry as well-intentioned people start adding items to the project’s scope. In extreme cases, scope creep (like kudzu) can obliterate the landscape, while totally demoralizing team members and tarnishing their professional reputations.

If you are ever tempted to turn a blind eye as project scope creeps around you, consider the extreme case of the Bradley armored personnel carrier (see below) and think again. Would you ever want to be associated with a mess like that? If not, then be sure to curtail the kudzu around you.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Galen Parks Smith, Kudzu covered field near Port Gibson, Mississippi)

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Find Your Fool

389px-Jester-_Joker_Card001It’s April Fools’ Day. So keep your eyes open for the best jokes and pranks.  Typically, Google goes above and beyond by offering a variety of ways to mark the occasion. (For example, see how Google puts “the ‘real’ in ‘virtual reality‘” by creating Google Cardboard Plastic.) To keep track of Google’s 2016 efforts, VentureBeat has created a list of Google pranks that will be updated over the course of the day.

Not to be outdone, even normally staid news organizations will likely get into the act. In 2014 NPR pranked all those people who jump to comment on articles they haven’t bothered to read.  The NPR headline asked Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore? The comments that followed more than proved the point NPR was making.

If you’re looking for a great way to celebrate the day, may I point you in a different direction? Rather than looking for a clever prank to play, try looking for your own fool instead. What fool, you ask? A court jester kind of fool.

Let me explain. In earlier times, a court jester or fool was hired to entertain people of wealth. The fool might dress in brightly colored, eccentric clothing and would likely speak in a provocative or discomfiting manner. While many jesters entertained, others were hired for a much more serious purpose: they were required to speak truth to power. In fact, some were hired expressly for the purpose of criticizing their employer. According to the Royal Shakespeare Company, “Queen Elizabeth (reigned 1558-1603) is said to have rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her.”

While criticism is not in short supply in some work places, consider the type of direct feedback you usually receive from your team. Do they feel comfortable telling you the truth? Are they willing to take a position that you do not endorse? Do they let you know when things are about to go off the rails? Are they able to point out shortcomings in policy or action, and do so in a constructive manner? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” it may be time for you to find your own fool: a truth teller whose honesty will help you bring your best game every time.

Now do you see the value of a fool? If so, celebrate April Fools’ Day 2016 by finding your own fool. And then see what a difference a forthright, constructive colleague can make in your life.

 

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Have You Eaten a Child Lately?

knife-fork-1498188Regular readers of this blog will know that I am extremely interested in productivity. Along with my interest in productivity, however, is an even greater interest in impact. At the end of the day, if what we do does not make a difference, then why bother?

So why do we repeatedly allow ourselves to work on too many projects in the face of too little available time? The predictable result of this diffusion of energy and attention is diminished impact.

It was in this vein that I began to consider cannibalism. To be clear, I am not literally suggesting that each reader give expression to their inner Hannibal Lecter. Rather, the type of cannibalism I had in mind was product cannibalism.

Consider Apple. In a 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose, Phil Schiller (Apple’s head of marketing) admitted that Apple often pits one of its products against another:

Charlie Rose: Is there danger of one product cannibalizing the other product?

Phil Schiller: It’s not a danger, it’s almost by design. You need each of these products to try to fight for their space, their time with you. The iPhone has to become so great that you don’t know why you want an iPad. The iPad has to be so great that you don’t know why you why you want a notebook. The notebook has to be so great, you don’t know why you want a desktop. Each one’s job is to compete with the other ones.

On the other hand, consider Bausch & Lomb. According to The Economist’s overview of cannibalisation,

Bausch & Lomb invented the soft contact lens but failed to launch it because the firm did not want to lose the lucrative business of selling the drops that hard lenses require. As a result, Johnson & Johnson swept into soft lenses, and the market for hard lenses (and their drops) disappeared.

The uncomfortable truth of strategic product cannibalization is that you have to be willing to grow some children at the expense of others. Bausch & Lomb responded to this discomfort by trying to protect their eye drop business. I’m sure it seemed like a rational decision at the time. By contrast, Apple deliberately refuses to protect its products. Instead of wrapping their products in cotton wool, Apple insists that each product earn its place by being strong enough and excellent enough to fight off the competition — including internal competition.

Each law firm support function offers a range of products and services. Does your support function demand such excellence from each product and service that you do not have to waste time worrying about competition from within your group, from other parts of your firm or from an outside vendor? If your product or service is not best in class, then the smart thing to do is engage in a little strategic cannibalization.  If you are not willing to do it, someone else will do it for you. And, if you abdicate this responsibility to someone else, I can almost guarantee that you will not be happy with the results.

So be sure to ask your team this question regularly: Have you eaten a child lately?

[Photo Credit: Simon McEldowney]

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A Leap Day Proposal

engagement-ring-1244468-1599x1066Legend has it that St. Brigid challenged St. Patrick to defy convention just one day every four years. What was her suggested break with tradition? She asked that on leap day women be permitted, for a change, to make marriage proposals to men. This opportunity for a woman to take control of her future was a rare one because the overwhelming norm of the day made it the man’s prerogative to choose if and when to propose, while the woman simply waited.

So what does this have to do with us? Your firm’s HR department will be glad to know that I’m not suggesting that we actively encourage an outbreak of marriage proposals at work. Nonetheless, I do think we can learn from Brigid’s audacity and Patrick’s flexibility. The audacity is found in Brigid’s willingness to speak up, to confront authority, to work to rebalance a system that tilts heavily in favor of one group at the expense of  another. She also cleverly sought the support of an influential person (Patrick) to accomplish her goal. The flexibility is found in Patrick’s willingness to listen to alternative points of view and to permit a departure from standard operating procedure in support of a good cause.

Channeling these two saints, perhaps we could re-examine some of our standard operating procedures.  Do they still make sense? Or are they traps of habit that leave us blind to the need for change? Do they create imbalances in the system? Could those imbalances lead to unhappiness, unrest or inequity?

As a manager, are you sufficiently like Brigid: willing to speak up, to confront authority, to work to rebalance an inequitable system?  Do you have (or are you able to get) the support of influential allies for your work? As a manager, are you sufficiently like Patrick: willing to listen to alternative points of view and to permit a departure from standard operating procedure in support of a good cause. Or, do you keep you head down and cling to the established ways of doing things — regardless of possible negative impacts?

While habits and standard operating procedures provide a measure of reliability, predictability, safety and comfort, they can in certain circumstances cloud our vision and stop us from seeing a problem or even a possible solution. These standard operating procedures also run the risk of falling behind the times, unless we rigorously and routinely examine them to ensure they respond appropriately to current realities.

If all you have the energy for today is micro-steps rather than taking on the system, consider the following incremental ways of following the model of Brigid and Patrick: seek out the input of people who normally do not have the floor, look to see if there are people in your department who could and should have the ability to exert more control over their work and prospects, solicit the advice of a person who has a different background or life experience from yours. I guarantee that you will be astonished by the insight that results — if you let it.

 

[Photo Credit: Bettina Schwehn]

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