Time to "Take a Lesson" from Covid-19

Time to "Take a Lesson" from Covid-19

James R. McCarthy, MS, CPC

Time to read: 3 minutes

Seldom have American law firms had the opportunity to examine essentially all aspects of their strategy and operations as they have now because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Given the tremendous disruptions experienced by the end users of your services (clients), firms all across the spectrum find themselves in the midst of a unique moment. They have "permission", indeed, almost a mandate, by their entire firm’s ecosystem (clients, associations, strategic relationships, firm partners and associates and even, to a certain extent, government regulators and politicians) to look at their entire value chain, and find ways to make it resistant to the sort of wholesale disruptions wrought by the current Pandemic.  

Using a process called "Strategic Lessons Learned", firms of all sizes, and in all sectors can examine all aspects of their operations to determine what, if anything, they can do better to make themselves more flexible in the present, and adaptable in the future. For some law firms the Pandemic has been, and continues to be, an existential threat, while for others, it has caused severe financial and organizational pressures. The Strategic Lessons Learned process can be quite useful in helping firms to take full advantage of the current, extraordinary state of affairs.

The most successful law firms are proactive when it comes to paying attention to Strategic Lessons Learned. They see the process as a means to improve and / or perhaps add or eliminate services or practices, increase revenue and overall productivity, boost efficiency and create a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Evaluating Strategic Lessons Learned should be part of your firm’s routine, because it allows you to continuously train your firm to be more flexible and adaptive, better focused, and more profitable. Sharing lessons from our accomplishments, and learnings from our mistakes, seems obvious, but without a formal process, it just doesn't happen.  Instead, redundancy occurs and mistakes happen - over and over.

So, what does a Strategic Lessons Learned process look like? Think of the concept as a sort of Firm Reengineering. Reengineering, as a concept, is simply the process of reviewing all the different levels of an organization’s ways of doing business against its strategy and market imperatives, and considering how to improve operations, processes, communications, teamwork, etc. The goals of reengineering include increased firm revenues and output, improved competitive advantage in the marketplace, consistent delivery of superior results, excellent client service, consistent, enhanced public image, etc.  

Reengineering requires a law firm to look closely at its strengths, weaknesses, and overall legal services environment, and to ask difficult questions where necessary to make changes for the betterment of the firm. Depending upon the results of your analysis, the process does not have to result in wholesale changes to the firm. You can also use tools of the reengineering process to take a ‘tactical reengineering’ look at specific aspects of your firm where you feel it will have the greatest impact.

How does one conduct a Strategic Lessons Learned Program?

In Brief:  First, review your existing strategy. If you do not understand, or have broad agreement on what you want your firm (or specific practices, services, processes, functions, levels, etc.) to look like at a certain point in time, it will be very difficult to know exactly where to focus your efforts. Doing the wrong things may be just as harmful as doing nothing.  

When your strategy-making process or review is complete, and with your strategy in mind, ask yourselves:

  • Where did the Pandemic exert the most pain or pressure in your operations?  
  • Where, in your firm operations, can you get the biggest "bang for the buck" in the quickest amount of time, at the lowest cost?
  • Where are the longer-term opportunities, and how can you begin to realize the projected benefits?

Next, after taking the high-level look at your organization, and coming to agreement about where your near and long-term opportunities lie - rank them, and create a project plan to move forward. You will need to create measures of success, understand what parts of your firm and your environment may need to change, and how they need to change to achieve your desired outcomes. Finally, prioritize your actions: build an overall implementation plan, create action teams and a reporting structure, and move forward toward accomplishing your goals.

It might also be a good time to add some sort of Scenario Planning to your strategy-making process.  While the kinds of "Black Swans" (unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence) represented by the Pandemic may not be entirely foreseeable, you can add enough foresight and contingency planning into your overall strategic planning process to go a long way towards mitigating the worst of their impacts.

One Caveat: the quickest way to fail at creating a Strategic Lessons Learned structure is to over-engineer the program. Time-consuming or complicated processes can defeat the purpose and miss the moment, as well as feed the notion that identifying and using lessons learned require too much effort. The key objective is that the output should be useful to your organization – currently and / or in the future.

The Chinese word Wéixiǎn translates to both danger and opportunity (meeting a changing point). The Covid-19 Pandemic has certainly presented a substantial danger to many law firms of all sizes and sector focus, but with targeted actions, taken at the right time, danger can be turned into opportunity.

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Wolf Management Consultants has a number of programs that can help you and your firm take advantage of the many lessons and significant opportunities inherent in the current Covid-19 environment.  

For more information on these programs, please click on the following links and contact Mike Adams at 858-638-8260 or madams@wolfmotivation.com

Wolf Management Consultants



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