KM’s Role in Leading Innovation & Managing Change in Law Firms #ArkKM

Session Title and Description: KM’s Role in Leading Innovation & Managing Change in Law Firms

Innovation and change management are processes, not projects. And in today’s law firm setting, there is demand for both but great sensitivity around how much change the organization can endure at one time. This next case study will explore the theory and process behind successful innovation as well as how to make change stick—transforming best intentions into best practices—sharing examples concerning the role of KM in innovation and change projects at White & Case.

Speakers:

Alicia Hardy, Director of Professional Support, White & Case (UK) Oz Benamram, Chief Knowledge Officer, White & Case

[These are my notes from the 2015 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, 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 they innovate.
    • Innovation is about accelerating the cycle at which small experiments fail.
    • Turning successes into processes by normalizing them and then scaling them up for wider adoption across the firm.
  • Innovation in law firms is hard.
    • Innovation is often the result of a big crisis. However Big Law does not feel that it is in crisis. So the drive to innovate diminishes.
    • Lawyers and law firms are risk averse.
    • Lawyers and law firms are not tolerant of failure.
  • KM should become the R&D function inside law firms.
  • Managing Change.
    • Focus on the emotional and psychological reactions. A tone-deaf approach to change management will amplify natural human emotions of fear and anxiety.
    • Be aware of dangerous assumptions such as one way is better than another.
    • The stages of acceptance of change are not dissimilar to those in Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ study of the five stages of death and grieving. So be aware of this inevitable journey for every one of your internal clients when you propose a change in the way they work.
  • Kotter’s 8 steps to change
    • (See the wikipedia summary)
    • the burning platform = a sense of urgency
    • pull together the guiding team
    • develop a shared vision and strategy for the proposed change
    • plan at the very beginning for good communication to enable understanding and buy in
    • empower others to act
    • produce short-term wins
    • don’t let up — persistence pays
    • create a new culture — this is about anchoring the new way of being/behaving so people cannot backside
  • Lessons from case studies.
    • Communication is key. People will resist that which they do not understand.
    • Be flexible. Your original plan will  inevitably have to be adapted to special or local conditions. Be open to this — within reason.
    • There is no change without casualties. So be strategic when you pick your casualties (i.e., when you decide who will pay the price for change).
    • When there is real risk attached to project, create a cushion. For example, when you are making dramatic change to the work environment (e.g.,  the DMS), allow people to work in either the new version of the DMS or the old version for a transition period.
    • Because people do not read email, they tried alternative forms of communication. Their most successful method of communication turned out to be sending everyone a postcard.
  • Conclusions:
    • Understand the problem.
    • Adapt the solution to fit your firm.
    • Have a plan, but be prepared to change if..
    • Communication is key. Communicate and promote at every opportunity.
    • Prepare to play the long game. Then everything is possible!
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