This post was contributed by Eric Miller, Senior Manager, Consilio Law Department Consulting
During my experience in Consilio’s Law Department Management (LDM) Consulting Group, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a trusted advisor to countless law departments, Legal Operations leads, and General Counsel in the areas of how to improve operational performance through the implementation of legal technology or by recommending industry best practices. Initial conversations on both topics possess similar characteristics of “why” an initiative is needed and will often start with a description of an inefficient current state, followed by an enthusiastic overview of what’s possible through a desired future state. I can tell that each of these groups are passionate and have invested a great deal of time considering “why” a certain initiative is needed, however each are perplexed when the conversation shifts to “how” we can accomplish such a change. That’s because each organization varies greatly in terms of culture, size, complexity and maturity and for those reasons the “how” aspect of driving change can be daunting. While there certainly isn’t a single, one-size fits all strategy for how to successfully implement change across all organizations, there are some common themes that serve as an effective starting point for one to consider at project initiation and throughout the lifecycle of an engagement. I have listed a few of these in the paragraphs that follow.
At project kickoff, my clients will often ask “how will we know if our project is successful?” My usual response is “It depends on what metrics are important to you and your organization.” Why did your group adopt this initiative? How were you able to sell the project to management? How did you receive the necessary funding over competing initiatives? I always close with you’ll know how successful your project is based on the stakeholder feedback you receive throughout and at the conclusion of your endeavor.
Stakeholders will have an interest in the outcome of your project and some are more important (and have more influence) than others, but regardless of title and level, all stakeholder expectations and opinions matter. There is no worse feeling than heading down the home stretch on an initiative and having an unexpected stakeholder pop up with requirements, opinions or advice, especially if the schedule cannot recover. That is why a comprehensive stakeholder management exercise is so important at project initiation.
This can be done by asking the organization probing questions such as “Do my stakeholders only reside in Legal?” “Do any potential stakeholders exist in Procurement, AP or Finance?” or “Are there any stakeholders that reside outside of my organization?”
Change management resources
As captured in the chart below, the perception of influence is that an initiative is identified by leadership, then effortlessly pushed down throughout the organization for adoption. End users are left in a state of vulnerability to either accept the change or face certain consequences. Throughout my experience, this could not be further from the truth as influence is almost always equally driven from the bottom up. As a result, some of your greatest change management resources reside at all levels of an organization. It just takes some patience, persistence and effort to identify them.
On a recent enterprise-wide initiative, it was uncovered early on that many of our core admin users ended up being some of our strongest organizational influencers and therefore our strongest change management resources. That’s because by assisting users in their day-to-day needs these individuals had their hand on the pulse of the organization and for that reason were dialed into how well the entity could manage and promote change. By including these folks in key decision-making initiatives and various project tasks such as testing and training, these individuals became project champions which aided us in promoting the change.
Change management readiness
Before diving in and scoping an initiative, an organization should have an honest assessment of how mature your entity is for undertaking this level of change. During this assessment critical questions should be asked such as “What type of change has worked well (or not worked well) in the past?”, “How well do my users adapt to change?”, “Will my users experience change fatigue based on a recent change related initiative?” or “Should we take a big bang approach to this project or is my organization more suited for a crawl, walk, run strategy?”
The good news is you’re not alone in making this determination which is why the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) has published this maturity model to provide you with an effective benchmarking tool for your organization to consider.
Change management tools
Like some of the themes discussed earlier, successful change management tools vary by organization and it is up to the project stakeholders to recognize which devices are the most effective for adoption based on prior experience. Common effective tools are project newsletters, extranet sites and status meetings, however some of the more creative solutions my clients have implemented are conference rooms capturing project messaging and timelines, the creation of a project logo (or branding) or a friendly competition across departments and/or business units associated with various project initiatives.
This is also where a well thought out communication plan is critical for both short- and long-term change management success. By possessing a clearly defined communication strategy, law departments are better positioned to facilitate organizational change by addressing why the change is necessary and the roles that each user plays in the broader scheme of the initiative.
While the above tools vary, the main theme is that you are consistently relaying the fundamental change to build awareness, and create enthusiasm and user support for the entire initiative.
Along with stakeholder feedback, one of the most important metrics to consider when determining project success resides in the area of user adoption. That’s because an initiative is only successful if users are onboard and satisfied with the change that has been implemented. As a result, it is important for any project to identify various user adoption metrics and consistently evaluate them throughout in order to deem project success.
While user adoption usage rates and the amount of data in the system are both key metrics that can be considered, it is critical to not overlook providing sufficient training and adequate “go-live” support so that users are not immediately frustrated and refuse to adopt the change out of apprehension or fear. The white glove treatment at “go-live” goes a long way.
Consilio is a global leader in eDiscovery, risk management and compliance, document review, and legal consulting services delivered through 70+ offices, document review facilities, and data centers across Europe, Asia, and North America.
Consilio’s Law Department Management Group is comprised of a global team of 30 consultants that regularly serve as trusted advisors to hundreds of General Counsel and Legal Operations leaders. Our team of JDs, MBAs, project managers, business process experts and technologists help our clients accelerate the operational performance of their law departments across a wide range of service offerings, including system implementations, technology assessments, process improvement initiatives and day to day advice and counsel on how to advance law department maturity measures.
About the author: Eric is a business professional with close to 20 years of legal industry experience assisting both the law departments of Fortune 500 companies and a number of AmLaw 100 Firms, through the execution of various enterprise-wide initiatives. A graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Eric possesses a unique, yet comprehensive knowledge of both the internal and external workings of in-house Legal which is necessary for the successful execution of technology implementations, software selections, strategy projects, spend optimization assessments, preferred panel programs, workload allocation, and CLM initiatives.
If you would like to have a conversation on how Consilio Law Department Management can better serve your legal department, then please reach out to either Eric at [email protected] or Robin Snasdell at [email protected].