November 8, 2022 – For corporate legal departments, the pressure to accelerate solution design and implementation of technology, workflows and process, and data strategies increases constantly. Legal departments are facing new questions about issues such as regulatory monitoring and compliance frameworks, diversity in outside counsel hiring, training and knowledge management in a future where remote work is here to stay, and much more.
In this fast-paced world, while the solution is undoubtedly of great importance, equally critical to your project’s results are four foundational elements: identifying the problem; pinpointing the opportunity to enable; getting buy-in; and measuring success. Impactful change requires each of these to make sure you’re moving a mile a minute in the right direction.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
A customer and a solution designer engage in a conversation:
Customer: I visit the grocery store every day as I like to hand-pick my groceries. I walk three miles to the store. This takes time and effort, and I am exhausted and in pain when the task is complete. I need a solution.
Solution Designer: We can build you a transportation solution!
Fast forward to the future…
Solution Designer: Here you go!
Customer: … A rocket ship?
What is the actual problem you are trying to solve?
When a problem is shared, there is an urge to start designing a potential solution immediately. In these situations, it is prudent to stop and ensure that there is clarity on the actual problem at hand. It is critical, in Clay Christensen’s words in “Competing Against Luck” to “consider the circumstances when you’re understanding the job to be done.” (“Competing Against Luck,” by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan, HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016)
To do so:
• Understand the situation. The customer lives in a place with no grocery stores nearby and has no current access to transportation.
• Articulate the complete details of the problem. The customer prefers to buy groceries by visiting the store physically to have a better selection than online and does not want to pay additional delivery charges. The customer also wants to shop daily. The store is a few miles away. Without personal or public transportation, the customer needs to walk to the store and carry all the groceries back home.
• Evaluate the impact of the problem. Walking a few miles to the grocery store and carrying heavy bags causes stress, exhaustion, and discomfort to the customer and wastes time that could be spent on other more productive and enjoyable activities.
• Assess the problem from the customer’s point of view. Our customer prefers to reach the grocery store daily with minimal physical effort and time and is keen to have their own transportation solution instead of being dependent on public transport. The customer is looking for a solution within the available budget that meets their prior experience in handling vehicles.
What is the opportunity you are trying to enable?
An opportunity creates favorable conditions for a person or a situation, thus improving the chances of accomplishing goals. Simply “fixing the problem” can, but does not necessarily, secure an improvement.
Sixty-five percent of respondents in Thomson Reuters’ latest Legal Department Operations Index indicated that the volume of legal work handled by their team increased in the last year. It is now more important than ever to ensure that focusing on the opportunity will identify the most meaningful outcome:
• Describe the solution needed. The customer needs a mode of transportation to buy groceries.
• Identify the possible solutions. A two-wheeler (bicycle), a four-wheeler (car), a ten-wheeler (public transportation/a bus), or even a no-wheeler (a rocket ship – why not!).
• Consider the budget, resources, and timing. The customer has funds, a valid driver’s license, and the ability, willingness, and effort to manage a vehicle (change management!) within a few days.
• State how the solution resolves the problem or minimizes the impact. It enables the customer to reach the grocery store with minimal effort, in a fraction of the time, providing the customer the satisfaction from buying groceries.
• Narrow to the most effective and efficient solution. By analyzing the problem and enabling an opportunity, we can present an acceptable solution proposal to the customer that removes the problem (exhaustion and wasted time from shopping) but also opens up greater value for the customer, saves times, minimizes the effort and keeps the customer happy — a car!
How do you really (really) ensure you have buy-in?
It has often been reported that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail. (See McKinsey & Company, “Changing Change Management,” July 1, 2015). While the empirical evidence for this statistic continues to be debated, securing buy-in is no easy feat.
You have done the work to identify the problem that needs to be solved and fleshed out the most effective solution, but your job isn’t over. Without support for a solution across all levels of an organization, meaningful change is all but impossible. Using our example from above, if the customer and their family members think a car is a terrible idea, failure is imminent.
So how do you ensure you have buy-in? An approach we’ll call the ‘Three Bs of Buy-in’ is a helpful guide.
• Build belief. The first step is getting people to believe in the idea.
Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ and ‘Golden Circle’ theory is a famous framework to inspire others to not only think about what and how you do something, but why you do it. Always start by articulating this well: Tell a story, refer to another company’s success, and use data. Pick whichever medium works best for you to inspire people and lead them to the vision.
Another useful framework to convey an idea is a “vision statement” that addresses three fundamental questions: Where are we today (i.e., current state)? Where do we want to be (i.e., future state)? How do we get there (i.e., the idea)?
• Bring people along. How invested colleagues feel in an initiative will make or break it, so you want to ensure they are fully committed in its success.
Start by presenting the idea and inviting feedback. Choose a hackathon-style framework for this discussion: Pose “what-if” questions and different scenarios to challenge people to think critically about the idea; Encourage smaller breakout sessions; Use props, Post-its or online collaboration tools. Ask questions like “What did I miss?” or “How can we improve this?” Often the most objective critics are outside your department or office, so invite others to share their perspectives, successes, and failures. This will also help your efforts in ensuring diversity of opinion. And, of course, listen, listen, listen — actively and deeply.
• Build together. Finally, accumulate all the feedback and find ways to incorporate what you can into the initiative. Report on these changes, so people know their feedback was part of the vision.
As you start building and implementing your initiative, engage tools and resources to drive change from the bottom up. A robust approach here is to identify champions and allies who will be “super-users” of your initiative and demonstrate to their peers how the new way has improved their quality of life. Instead of formal and tedious trainings, leverage your champions to show quick and simple examples of how they have adapted to the change. Building and implementing the vision collaboratively will ensure its success.
Success — how do you measure it?
Depending on the situation, success looks very different to different people — from winning a million-dollar deal to generate revenue to automating a simple manual process to increase productivity. For our customer above, finding a solution that gets them to and from the grocery store within a reasonable budget, time, and effort is a success.
It is critical to measure the impact of your solution to determine whether, in fact, it was a success, especially when 42% (Thomson Reuters Legal Department Operations Index) of legal departments report that the pace of advancement in technology and processes is slow.
One, more, or all of the below success measures can be applied to most scenarios:
• Increased revenue;
• Increased customer/stakeholder satisfaction;
• Decreased costs;
• Minimized risk.
Measuring the success for the above metrics requires assessing them for the current situation. However, the data for the current situation may be limited, making it hard to calibrate. In that instance, leverage the stakeholders’ expertise to build the best estimation of the ‘as-is’ position and compare those with future metrics. In our customer’s situation above, soliciting the customer’s perception of the amount of time saved (“hours!”) and reduced bodily discomfort (“my back hasn’t ached in ages”!) allows us to meaningfully quantify our success.
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