What’s the Process

Most people that I have met do not read process documents. If you give someone a documented procedure, they may read it once and file it away.   Now that is not to say you should not document your processes, you absolutely should.  The documentation of your process allows for incremental improvements in your business process, provides for performance metrics, and provides for training. A good process ensures the right things get done by the right people at the right time. Documenting policies, processes and procedures is a normal progression from strategic planning.

I have seen organizations with a shelf full of processes and procedures.  Each process makes sense, has been approved, and has a rational reason for existing.  Most law firms that I have worked with consider themselves a skill-based workforce.  In this culture you should allow your staff to think for themselves and trust they will do the right thing.  That statement assumes that your staff have read or been trained in your processes. The smart organization will know how to blend process and skill. 

If the business is skill based a good question would be; why do you need any process documentation?  The documentation sets the standard you expect.  If done correctly the process represents the best way to accomplish the task. The documenting of processes will standardize operations making it easier to predict the outcome.

Look for repetitive tasks to document and put under process control. Today there are so many tools out there to automate everything, like case management.  A well-designed process and the right business tool will make it possible for people to participate without the need to understand the bigger process picture, they just need to do the tasks assigned to them, and the process will identify who has to do what, and when. Many case management systems take advantage of documented processes and automate.

For example, let’s say that you wanted to send out a card when a client exits a phase of the case resolution process. You study the process, identify the best place to test for that condition, identify who should do it, and update the process.  Once the process is initiated you can hire someone to send out cards without putting the burden on your legal staff. Let everyone know the process has changed and start tracking the change.  You may find that people need training on the change, the process requires an update to accommodate the change or that everything is perfect. 

A lot is going on behind the scene within any business.  Processes, tools, skills, and training often need to be updated.  Don’t ignore all that is going on.  Have someone outside of the production environment that can administer that activity. People are always going to make mistakes; the thing to do is to recognize and accept that and design your processes with that in mind. Technology, culture and the market all change.  Be ready to recognize the changes and to react to them.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com

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It’s The Process

My first thought when looking at a new business is, we should not point out what is wrong; we should focus on what works and suggest improvements based on experience.  There will be some rough spots along the way, but no significant breakdowns.  We may have to enforce the use of some tools, policies, or processes along the way. Many years ago, one of my mentors told me that it is seldom the person and almost always the process that caused the problems.  He had a three-fail theory, which is the only time I ever heard him use a negative term.  Anyway, the approach was, document the process, execute the process, correct the process, and then enforce the process.  His enforcement idea was if you fail, the process is examined, and if that is OK, you go back into training.  He would do that step twice.  If you fail the third time and the process is still sound, then you may not be suited for the job.

He had another interesting theory – if you receive the same complaint more than twice and have never changed the process, look again because you probably missed something. There is a common element that jumps out at me when I think about this; it is the process.

So, you have documented your process; you have done training, now you are executing the process.  If there is a failure, look at the process and perhaps send people back to training.  You don’t scrap the process, quit, or have meltdowns. 

What I often see is a clash between business systems.  Most business management systems expect a systematic and somewhat rigid business process.  The business owner usually expects an interrupt-driven business system with a high-level forgiving process.  If we want to provide a solution in this real-world environment, we must figure out how these systems work together. 

If I track the process for a short time, I usually discover two areas of concern: the process is not well documented, and the expectations are mixed. It is expectations that are causing frustration. I’m not saying that you can’t have expectations, just that they have to be realistic. I’m not even saying that you have to lower your expectations, only be aware of how they can affect your day. Every time that an expectation bumps into reality, we have an event. If you remember your self-mastery exercise, you should know what an event kicks off. I believe expectations are subjective, biased, and can differ from person to person. Another note I found in my file was this; don’t put expectations on people, events, and outcomes unless you’re prepared to live with them. Some may expect people to follow the process, and the people, in turn, may expect you to leave them alone. But in both cases, people assume the other person knows this automatically, without ever having a conversation about it. This can only lead to tension. The best approach would be to base expectations on reality and, second, communicate expectations to anyone that needs to be involved in making it happen.  My best guess is that lack of communication is the source of the problem.

The concerns with expectations are enhanced if the process is not understood.  That can be because the process is not documented, it is not enforced, or the process does not match reality. The level of detail in a process, or the need for procedures, is based on the skill level of the user.  In a law firm you usually have a mixture of skill levels from attorneys to process workers.  Make sure that the output of the process represents what you need.  With that verified, document the process so that multiple skill levels can use and understand it. Now communicate the process to everyone that will use it and include your expectations on the degree it is followed and the output.

Have you ever heard what gets measured gets done? The same is true for expectations. That which is expected is what usually happens. The frustration starts when we realize that there are competing expectations.  If you expect that people will not follow the process, you will find evidence of that. If you expect that they will follow the process and you have communicated that expectation, you will find evidence that the process is being followed. Now we have to get into management and leadership.  That is a topic for another day.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com

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A Team Approach

When we first started working with law firms, the focus was most often on getting the largest settlement.  That is not bad but should not be the only focus.  As the law firms we worked with became larger, the overhead cost started to climb.  Eventually, the law firm owners discovered that profit margins were shrinking.  That is when we got called in.  We found that there was no penalty for overhead because the rewards were still focused on settlements.  I remember the first firm I visited there was a celebration for a million-dollar settlement.  When I asked what the return-on-investment was for that case I got blank stares.  Turns out, they lost money.

When we find a situation like this, our next step is to apply overhead cost evenly to all the cases to determine the efficiency of the case resolution, and the return-on-investment (ROI).  That created an environment where attorneys took advantage of the system.   They would justify using large amounts of resources, knowing that there was no penalty designed into the program.  The overhead was evenly distributed.

There is a balance between a vast list of best business practices and the needs of a business.  I believe that you should look at the culture, size, and complexity of the business to select the best set of practices to use.  A small law firm with less than 20 staff, or less than 500 active cases, is much different than a firm with 750+ active cases and 25+ staff. Based on our experience, the dividing line is around these parameters. 

When you look at the big picture, there is a need for more accountability, better teamwork, and more accurate tracking. The use of a profit center could provide all of that. There are several kinds of centers, profit, cost, and revenue. My experience tells me that a profit center is the best fit.  This would allow for some combination of revenue and cost center elements.  The first step would be to define and collect data on revenue, indirect cost, direct cost, staffing and payroll cost.   We then look at the vision and mission statements to determine what is important to the Firm.  With all that information we can define a balanced scorecard, profit centers, and an implementation plan.

The idea of a profit center has two primary features.  The first is, the overhead would more closely match what was used. The second was that a team was more efficient than a single skill focus.  These features can be further broken down like this:

  • A profit center cost included all the payroll costs for the members, a portion of the burden cost, and the direct cost. You can debate expenses like the cost of a case management system, but most count this as a direct cost. The cost of QuickBooks could be considered as overhead or an indirect cost. The cost of legal staff (attorney’s, paralegals, etc.) are part of production but the cost of administrators or support staff are not. Other expenses, such as rent, utilities, business insurance and the cost of supplies that do not become a part of any products or services are overhead expenses, or in-direct.
  • The team concept caused the workload to be distributed.  There was some redundancy built-in as well. The typical increase in production expected due to a team was also a benefit.
  • Increased productivity: A broader range of skills can be applied to case resolution.  There is also a competitive element that I often see when a team is formed.
  • Skills development: skills were shared. There was a team spirit that promoted the idea of each member of the team was part of the solution.
  • Redundancy: team members tend to backup each other. Once the idea that the success of the team would be rewarded, this idea grows.

The first lesson learned was on the distribution of expenses.  There was a point where the cost of distribution was prohibitive.  Trying to keep track of how many sheets of paper or stables were used cost more in tracking than any benefit realized.  So, the cost of payroll and benefits that were easy to track were passed on.  The cost of supplies, rent, heat, and other burden was distributed by a formula.  Over time we decided to distribute burden cost based on the number of cases.  We eventually modified that by defining a case weight to better distribute. The decision to use cases as the distribution element instead of hours worked or people assigned was because that was easier to track.  A focus on cases also better matched the mission of the business.

The downside, although not a big impact, was this forced a lawyer into a management role.  This had the advantage of awareness but the disadvantage that this was not what lawyers were trained for.  So far, the benefits have always outweighed the negative.

Another interesting observation based on the increased focus on accountability and business metrics. Over time we learned that the real benefit of profit center accountability and/or Firm metrics was in the trend and not in the number.  We decided to use a rolling 12-month trend.  This meant that we had to have at least two years of data to develop any meaningful trend lines.

The strategic plan for any of the Firms we worked with was a combination of values, vision, mission, business metrics, culture, and best business practices.  

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com

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Measuring Law Firm Success

By David Favor

Law Firm Coach Dave Favor

President, Strategic Thinker

Many law firms just measure revenue as an indicator of performance. That metric by itself does not tell you the full story. I once visited a law firm that was celebrating a million dollar settlement. I had to say, that was impressive, but I also had to ask how much was spent to get that million. This put a damper on their celebration, but it is still a valid question. The next day we discussed performance metrics with numbers like return-on-investment, overhead, and burden rates.

Return on investment is the “return” or financial benefit from an action, divided by the cost of that action. The “ROI” for a law firm is not so obvious. My first thought was that it would be the total revenue generated minus the total expenses divided by the expenses. One problem with most law firms is, they make the lawyer’s earnings equal to any leftover profit. This makes the expenses equal to the revenue. My next idea was to assume a zero cost for the lawyer, and that gave me a false view of the true cost. The compromise I came up with was to assign a base salary and make leftover revenue after expenses a bonus. This provided an ROI I could use for trending.

I have found that the number, by itself, is not very meaningful. I can play with the numbers and create any result I want. The best we can do is create a trend using an ROI measure and see if we are doing better. So, is it a good metric or not? I think the trend can be a good indicator. By “trend”, I mean calculating the ROI every month or quarter to see if it is going up or down. As long as the definition of the numbers is consistent you can develop a trend. I like to use a rolling average over a span of two years. When we first look at a law firm, we generally use 30% as a good return on investment. That is a good starting point anyway.

I could see a problem developing. It is relatively easy to discover the revenue, but how do we calculate the dollar amount of the investment that created that revenue? One idea for getting the expense number is to eliminate any expense that did not directly contribute to generating the revenue. The term overhead or burden is usually used to group expenses that are necessary to the continued functioning of the business but cannot be immediately associated with the products/services being offered. Another way to look at this is, any expenses present even if no products or services are sold would be overhead. Expenses like rent, electricity, computer hardware, or licenses. Does that mean it is part of the investment or not? This can quickly turn into an interesting discussion.

Then there are production expenses. For a law firm, we define the salary of the lawyers as production cost. We generally also include the cost of medical records, accident reports, investigators, and depositions. This is an arbitrary decision, so other costs may be bundled into production. For example, you may determine that the cost of the case management system is production cost. It does not affect the measurement much as long as you remain consistent over time because it is the trend that is important.

The burden rate is a ratio or burden cost to production cost. Generally, a burden of greater than 50% will be a red flag, and we will look at expenses to see if we can lower the burden. You would want to keep this low and make sure that the trend is not going up. The tricky part is to agree on what you consider to be overhead. As long as you keep your definitions consistent, you can create a good trend for this number.

Return on Investment, burden rates, and process times can be used to measure internal performance. Eventually, you will develop a well-balanced scorecard tailored to your law firm that can be used to track your performance in several areas. I generally look for 3 to 5 different areas. Client service is usually always there. Internal process measures are often forgotten, and we add them in. So, with the financial metric that completes the three basic measures. Now we can add metrics for staff (retention, development, happiness, etc.), community service, reputation, etc. With a more comprehensive measure of how your business is performing, you can track progress better and prevent surprises.

One of the keys to all of this is a good financial system that can keep track of expense and revenue categories. Once you have that you can drop those numbers into a “bucket,” like overhead. I pull numbers from the financial system into an Excel spreadsheet and calculate any of the metrics I want. What metrics do you like?

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com.

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Don’t Get Distracted!

By David Favor

We are not cool, logical, and efficient decision makers. Instead, we are emotional, reactive, and judgmental processors with biases. The lessons of self-mastery seem to come up all the time in business and personal life. I would always say that I was a logical thinker, but it turns out that my decisions were plagued with emotion and bias, just like everyone else. I have found that no matter how well we think through and document our values, vision, or plans for the day, they can all be overruled by emotions. There is no magic connected to self-mastery. Self-mastery is intended to make you aware of the impact of your emotions and biases.

Our focus this month is on strategic planning and self-mastery; values, vision, and emotions are all active in the first stage of strategic planning, so we must stop to consider each as we plan. While we are talking about strategic planning, it is a good time to mention that there is no magic to that process either. Strategic planning is intended to get you to think through what you want, review what resources you have, and then map all that to the business environment you are in. A strategic plan can be as formal or informal as you are comfortable with.

With all that said, the first step of strategic planning is to discover what is important to you. What are your values, what business principles do you want to adopt? We often use a deck of value cards to establish a starting point when we do strategic planning. The idea is, you list all the values that come to mind and then arrange them by priority. If you have partners or a team, compare the list each has built. The list of values held by each team member may be different, and that is okay. There will be a set of overlapping values that will represent the team, and that will become the values of the business. Before you agree on the makeup of the team, look for values that are not compatible with your set. You need to decide if someone with values outside of your list should be on your team. If the values are different but not in opposition to the main set, that is okay.

Once you define the team and develop your composite list of values, ask the team if they can support this list that will represent the business. If you are in a business association, like a state bar, they will have a list of values that they adopt and expect their members to adopt. Include that list with yours. We are often surprised at the differences we find, even with partners that have been in business together for a while. At this point, the lists tend to merge, and you negotiate what you want the business to reflect. There is no absolute correct list of values, but there will be a list that best fits the culture and audience of your business.

You can do a similar exercise with the vision. Have each partner or team member develop a vision, and then compare what each has developed. You will often get good ideas, and when all the ideas and visions are merged, you will have a good starting point for the business. If the process were followed, the vision would not conflict with any of the values adopted.

We have not started looking at problems to solve yet. For most of our strategic planning sessions, we try to avoid discussion of problems and solutions at this point. A discussion of problems tends to impact the vision and the values being developed. Your vision and values should not be defined based on a specific problem. If you start planning or spending money too early, you can get your team in a bind. You can become a slave to a decision that was made before you understood what you wanted. You create a business plan to support some tool or policy that does not map to your wants.

Once you have a good starting point defined, you can look at things like SWOT (Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunity; Threats) analysis, prior business performance analysis, and the five W’s (why, what, where, who, and when) study. Having a good starting point tends to keep you on track. There is nothing fixed in any of this, and often changes are made as the team learns more during the analysis phase.

When you have the values, vision, and analysis for the business in hand, you can start to define problems. It is because we are emotional, reactive, and judgmental that we can easily get off the path. Before we know what happened, we are focused on problem resolution and get distracted from the primary goal of implementing a vision.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com.

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What’s the Purpose?

By David Favor

When people feel like they have no purpose in their life, it’s often because they don’t know what’s important to them, or they don’t know what their values are. Well, what about businesses? I have found the same to be true. Based on my research, I found businesses with a defined purpose (other than making money) were more successful than most.

The businesses I worked with that primarily focused on making money usually had only financial metrics and KPIs to measure performance. That seemed natural to me, so why were businesses focused on a more inclusive purpose more successful?

Over time I discovered some clues. If you are focused on money, you work harder to make more. The world around you is against that focus, so you have to work even harder. Eventually, you are working too hard for too little. Often you get such tunnel vision that you do not see what is happening around you. It is a never ending cycle.

Then I looked at businesses focused on a purpose instead of profits. These businesses did not see their efforts as work. They enjoyed being focused on their purpose. Here is what they did:

  1. They developed a vision – what is the desired future?
  2. Now the mission – what are we going to do?
  3. Strategic plan – how are we going to do this?
  4. Goals and metrics – how well are we doing?

Make no mistake: making money is a requirement if you want to stay in business, but for these companies profits were de-prioritized in the mission and the strategic plan. Their focus was on the vision and the purpose; this gave the business much more wiggle room to adapt to the environment in which they participated. Their measure of success included several metrics outside of financials, much like the balanced scorecard idea developed back in the 70’s.

This idea of a vision and a purpose is often foreign to many of the people I talk with. The idea that we were each born with a mission and it is our purpose to find out what it is, is kind of daunting. This, and many other childhood lessons have fallen by the wayside for me. We are on this earth for an undetermined period. During that time we do things, experience opportunities, have failures, and generally keep busy. Some of that busyness is wasted on dumb ideas, and some are very fruitful. A lot of that wasted time for me was sitting on a couch munching on snacks and wondering what the meaning of life was. I would have better spent that time getting up and discovering what feels right.

Instead of waiting for the answer to appear, experiment. What did I enjoy doing or eating? What caused people to say good things about me. My problem is, I feel safe on the couch. Right now, there is something that I am thinking about doing, but I never do it. I have great reasons why I should not do it, but in the end, I stay on the couch eating snacks. Most of the time, my reason is what I think other people will think. If that is how you feel, that is how you will run your company.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at dwfavor@catalystgroupinc.com.

For more information on creating a strategic plan that works, contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com.

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Out of Chaos Comes Change

By David Favor

For the last 19 years, we have served as mentors to law firms and other professional practices, transferring knowledge based on current and relevant best business practices. We believe our clients should create a strong vision for themselves both personally and professionally and design a firm that supports that vision. We develop a strong personal relationship with our clients because we want them to be successful. We are about telling our clients the truth and finding ways to create a life they want to live.

Over those years, we learned a lot about the practical application of what we were teaching, which gradually changed our teaching moments. The principles were the same, but the reality of the execution of these principles gradually changed. We recognized that common sense in making decisions to develop plans, coupled with best business practices, was making a difference in the growth and development of our clients. We also learned that most clients would fail if they failed to implement the plan.

We have added some strategic partners to help us in areas we feel are better served by their expertise. We then got together with one of our strategic partners (Dr. Shawn Noble), who does problem-solving and ideation techniques, helping us examine where we want Catalyst to go and how we can fit it in with our vision. We are in the process of reviewing all our seminars, forms, and intellectual property to design a way to let our clients get access to this wealth of information.

The biggest lesson we have learned is while we want to create an effective strategic plan, our clients are often looking for problem-solving when we first meet. In other words, they are searching for a way out of a chaotic situation (or so they think). Once we can get the main issues under control, they are then willing to work with us on a long-term vision with a short-term business plan that allows them to grow. Initially, our clients never think about defining their work and their practice based on values to support decision making. Most of the time there is not a clear set of values or a vision in place. Sometimes there is not even a mission statement in place, just some vague idea of making money. They have a general idea of what “might make them happy” but no clear-cut vision of the future. Most of the time we scramble to fill in the blanks and reach back to find their values, vision, mission, and expectations. Our goal is to help our clients understand that to be successful they need a roadmap.

A good strategy will identify your starting point, consider internal and external factors, estimate investment costs and returns. It must be understandable. It’s got to be realistic, reflecting and anticipating changes in the market. It must describe who’s going to do what by when, and to what effect. It takes time and resources to develop a good strategy.

So how do you develop a first-class strategy? Strategic planning is a process used to define your strategy or direction and make decisions on allocating your resources to pursue this strategy, including capital and people. A good strategy describes how your firm or business can be successful. It’s not a Vision – that’s what describes what you want to become, how you want to look and feel. And it’s not a Mission Statement – that’s what explains why your firm or business exists. A good strategy is that road map you need. First, be clear on where you want to get to and what you want to be. Develop the strategy with your team – use their knowledge and skills and achieve their buy-in. Do your research to understand your market and understand your clients. Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. And keep it simple. A well-written strategy will be the basis of all key business decisions. As you go through the strategic planning process, you will define problems that need to be addressed. You will get information from your business analysis, define some conflicts with your values, or identify new skills needed.

Now that you have a better definition of the problems you want to resolve you can start looking at all the methodologies available. Over the years, we have used storyboarding, brainstorming, ideation, root cause analysis, and a few others. Each of these methods has some advantages, but the key to the choice is knowing what the problem is.

Over the remainder of this year, you will find us writing blogs that will give you hints on how to define your life, your business and drive a return on your investment. After all, “What part of profit don’t you get?”

Today’s law firms are more than ever in need of firm management coupled with defined expectations and accountability. Best business practices control profit. You can’t be successful and “wing it”. If your strength is not management and business accountability, then find the right person to work with you.

One of our clients is not big enough to pay for the CEO approach and has used us for oversight. We meet regularly and have a plan for which we hold him accountable. It has been interesting to watch him grow and make his firm stable by learning all the best business practices coupled with the high-performance work culture. It took a strong plan plus commitment on his part to make the firm into what he wants…not what others want.

We are always interested in hearing what our clients or readers want to know. If you have questions, send them to us or tell us what is important to you or where your problem areas are. We have started a monthly newsletter that has free advice, sources, and information. Make sure you go to our website and sign up for our newsletter. (www.catalystway.com or www.lawfirmcoach.com)

The bottom line is, the practice of law is so different than the business management of a law firm. If you are doing both, then you have our deep admiration because this road requires focus and due diligence.

Catalyst Group is a national mentoring company that works with professional practices and small businesses in designing common-sense plans that incorporate profitable business practices with a balanced work life. Contact cheryl@catalystgroupinc.com for more information.

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Calculated Problem Solving | Developing the Solution

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Define the Problem. Develop Solutions. Execute the Plan.

By Dr. Shawn A. Noble 

This is part three of a three-part series on problem solving

As stated before, most organizations do not employ any structured process to handle organizational problems. Although employees are quite capable of putting out fires, they quickly get tired of addressing the same issues and morale suffers.

Instead of only dealing with the fires, it is possible to prevent the fire from ever happening by using the following three-pronged approach.

Defining the Problem

Albert Einstein has been attributed to making the following quote related to having only 1 hour to solve a serious problem, where he said, “I Would Spend 55 Minutes Defining the Problem and then Five Minutes Solving It.” Although we are unlikely to have Einsteinian ability to either define a problem or solve it, the point about the importance of defining the problem is well stated.

Most of the time organizations only have a fuzzy understanding of the actual problem, which often leads to focusing on the wrong problem to solve. This is because it takes times and discipline to surface all the facts and identify those which are the main contributors to the problem.

Until you clearly understand what you are solving, you should not move forward with developing a solution.
How much time do you typically spend dissecting problems within your organization? Do you use a structured approach to deeply understand why things are happening or just get the basics of the problem and then try to solve it?

Developing Solutions

Solving problems should be fun, providing that you have created the right atmosphere to allow for creative solutions. All too often, brainstorming sessions are conducted in methodical step-wise fashion in a stuffy boardroom. Employees’ solutions are quickly shot down (from verbal and non-verbal cues) if they suggest anything radical or outside the norm. Sadly, the usual conclusion is that brainstorming does not yield any worthwhile results and things either quickly return to normal or in many cases get worse.

Do you create the right atmosphere when conducting brainstorming? Do you look for multiple solutions to the problem or just stop at one and try to make it work?

Creating and Executing a Plan

The third step is all about establishing accountability, actions, and timelines. I’ve witnessed too many times where an organization will invest $100K+ to fly in several high-priced executives who spend a couple days working with a consultant to define the problem and create solutions. However, when it comes time to establish the execution plan, those same executives are rushing off to catch their flight or to catch-up on the emails they missed. The hard truth is that without this plan none of the work will get done.

From the start of the meeting, there needs to be an expectation that the meeting will end with a plan that states what tasks need to get done, when will the tasks be done, insights on how the tasks will get done and who owns each task. In addition, there needs to be a governance structure established that helps keep things on track.

Do you typically end your major meetings with a clear plan for execution? Do you have a structure in place that helps to guide accountability for the work to be done?

In close, ask yourself if you are spending more time than you would like extinguishing fires. If so, talk to The Noble Consulting Group about how you can deploy a calculated problem-solving approach to help you get back to doing what you love.

For more information concerning services for law firms by Dr. Shawn Noble please go to www.thenobleconsultinglawfirm.com or contact cheryl@lawfirmcoach.com Law Firm Coach uses the concept of ideation or creative thinking to develop common sense law firms that withstand the test of time.

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Calculated Problem Solving | A Structured Process

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

People and Their Problem Solving Styles

By Dr. Shawn A. Noble 

This is part two of a three-part series on problem solving

When it comes to problem solving, empowering them with decision rights is critical to fixing the problem. And, although it is vital to involve many people in the problem-solving process, it is also important to have clear identification of the person who owns the problem to solve. Yet, there is also an equally important factor that goes beyond the role of the person in the organization, which is the style that a person uses to solve problems.

Style relates to a preferred method of doing something. Just like the choices that we make with clothing, the preference is not permanent nor innate. In other words, problem-solving style is highly influenced by the environment. This is great news as problem-solving styles can be taught to and adapted by employees.

Research has identified the following 4 types of problem-solving styles:

  1. Generators (big picture thinkers)
  2. Conceptualizers (problem definers and ideators)
  3. Optimizers (guide order from chaos)
  4. Executors (get stuff done)

Note, we all are a blend of each of these styles, yet we all demonstrate a stronger preference for at least one of them. Each of the styles has pros and cons, which can create disharmony in organizations, as people favor a certain way to approach a problem. No one style is better than any other; yet, the catch is that all 4 styles are necessary to implement an effectively solution.

Are you aware of the problem-solving style of yourself and your fellow employees? Furthermore, do you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each style and how each style can be effectively activated?

In the third and final part of this blog, we will look at the importance of having a solid process to solve your firm’s problems. Read part 3 now.

For more information concerning services for law firms by Dr. Shawn Noble please go to www.thenobleconsultinglawfirm.com or contact cheryl@lawfirmcoach.com. Law Firm Coach uses the concept of ideation or creative thinking to develop common sense law firms that withstand the test of time.

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Dr. Shawn A. NobleBy Dr. Shawn A Noble

This is part one of a three part series on problem solving

When it comes to your law firm, have you ever asked yourself, “What happened to all the fun I was supposed to be having?” After all, you got into this profession to help others and protect their rights. What could be more noble than that?

Instead of practicing what you love, you likely spend most of your time dealing with things such as: cash flow management, managing employees, creating processes to run the business better, bringing in new technology, keeping existing technology working, time management, delegating tasks, updating strategic and marketing plans, and of course growing the business. This leads us to conclude the understatement of all time…running a business is hard work…but does it need to be this difficult?

The above problems are not exclusive to your law firm or to any business for that matter. Yet, what tends be ineffective is how those problems are solved. Most businesses are focused on the execution of tasks, which means that actions are done quickly in a reactive nature. Rewards and recognition are often given to those who can act efficiently to provide a remedy. While this keeps your practice moving, the result is more long-term organizational stress as only symptoms are addressed and the cause is never fully considered.

To get to the root cause of your organization’s problems a more proactive means of solving the problem needs to be utilized. And for this to happen two things must be considered:

  1. The problem-solving style of the people who are solving the problem
  2. The process being used to solve the problem.

When considering the process, best practices include:

  • Defining the problem
  • Developing solutions
  • Creating and executing a plan

In part two of the series, we will look at the impact that people and their problem solving styles have on solving problems. Read part two now.

For more information concerning services for law firms by Dr. Shawn Noble please go to www.thenobleconsultinglawfirm.com or contact cheryl@lawfirmcoach.com. Law Firm Coach uses the concept of ideation or creative thinking to develop common sense law firms that withstand the test of time.

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