We recently moved from the city to the country. Living in the country is a pleasure now, but the process of moving out after a lifetime in the city required extensive management and resolve. Not everyone wanted to contribute to the effort of sorting and disposing of their stuff, and not everyone was pleased that their parents were no longer living in the same city.
We agreed at the beginning on the benefits of moving permanently to the country, and even this process took some time. We started off hesitantly because we regarded ourselves as city folk. Once the decision was finally made, we had numerous activities to manage; selecting an agent, house repairs, new carpet, painting, and property staging. We listened to the stakeholders and overcame pockets of resistance, the stakeholders being the now grown-up family members who felt sentimental about the end of an era. Eventually, he happy culmination was the arrival of the removalists after five arduous months of visits to the thrift shop and the dump.
However, we did fall into the common trap, electing to pay $235 per month for a storage unit to house many ‘invaluable’ items of furniture, clothing, and books. Those comfy chairs, childhood paintings, and divine, tiny baby clothes… it’s so hard to let go. Over the succeeding months, these items became a burden rather than invaluable and we’re slowly, sadly culling them. A big bang would have been sensible, but we too are sentimental, so we eke the process out and continue the monthly fees.
Similarly, if you want to deploy a new legal operations software system, not everyone will share your ambition. Some team members resist spending time learning new ways of working. Active and intensive change management is key if you want your major project to succeed.
A new matter management platform means a new way of working and that means significant differences for everyone. People have to be led through the change, or else they won’t change.
Just like our children, everyone has a natural tendency for inertia, but particularly so in the case of lawyers. The legal profession is founded on precedent, and lawyers more than most professionals tend to do things the way they always have.
Leaders must formally recognize the need to manage the change and then execute it rigorously, creating a measurable business case, communicating expectations effectively with all stakeholders, overcoming resistance, setting KPIs and business rules for the use of the system, and fine-tuning iteratively as required.
Active change management is important because organizational change is generally dictated by external forces, and the organizations that adapt quickly create their own competitive advantage. Good, or bad, change management has a strong impact on the result.
Finally, for your sanity, finish the change process. Don’t be sentimental about processes that don’t serve you well, and whatever you do, don’t pay useless storage fees to hang onto relics of the past, like me.