Legal operations change management is one of the biggest challenges that professionals face according to a poll at the most recent CLOC conference. This isn’t surprising given that organizational change management is an often analyzed topic with a plethora of opinions about ways to accomplish it. There is no magic bullet to force a change in your legal department, however, growing your influence across legal operations and your organization can certainly help. Here are five steps to grow that influence and get people to modify their behaviors.
Step 1: Get Clear About the Problem & Root Cause
Whether you are tired of hearing about the myriad of issues with your contract lifecycle management or e-billing tool or you have been tasked with centralizing outside counsel selection and management, the first step remains the same. You must get clear in your own mind about what it is that you’re trying to change – both the problem complained about and the root cause of said problem. When starting out you should brainstorm and be liberal with your ideas, jot down anything that comes to mind, both problem and potential causes, and then ask others for their thoughts. Getting various opinions will help you to clarify the issue in your own mind. Once you have a page or two of related ideas, review all the notes and come to a final conclusion about the problem you are trying to solve and its root cause. Write this down in a succinct 1-3 sentence statement.
Step 2: Create Your Hypothesis
This second step also involves brainstorming. Go through the same process as step one by jotting down any ideas to solve your succinct problem statement. Again, you may want to ask a legal operations colleague (or two) for their thoughts. You may also want to observe people completing the task(s) you’re trying to change so that you can come up with some ideas of ways to solve the problem you have identified. For example, if you are targeting changing the matter management tool, you will want to understand the nature of the matters involved, understand what people are using the tool for, and create a hypothesis around the new tool you want to implement. Once you have your list, cull it down to 1-3 potential solutions to test.
Step 3: Test Your Hypothesis
Next, take your 1-3 potential solutions and test them out. The first way to test is to reach out to other legal operations professionals and/or service providers outside your organization to see if the solution has worked for others. Next, if you can, test it out yourself in your organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will implement a sample of a new tool, but that you will demoing the tool and get an understanding of what you would need to implement this solution at your organization.
Step 4: Create and Deliver Your Pitch
Now that you are the expert on the problem and have a well thought out solution, you need to convince others. The best way to do that is to tell a story that includes the following:
- what you saw (the problem);
- how pervasive the problem is (# of people impacted);
- the cost of the problem (time/money);
- the proposed solution;
- the benefit of this solution;
- why this solution over the other 2-3 good solutions; and
- what is needed to implement this solution.
Once you have this together, determine who you will have to convince. Start with your boss, any budget owners, and any leaders whose teams will be directly impacted. Before you share the presentation, make sure that you understand what each of these group’s reactions may be so that you can tailor your verbal commentary to address their comments. If you don’t know the attendees’ potential reactions, you should consider doing some due diligence beforehand. The most effective way I have found to do this is to start with your boss. Share the general ideas of your presentation with them and ask them how others will react. If they are not sure, you can start with a peer in legal or another department or have informal conversations with the attendees before the actual presentation. Investing time in these “pre-pitches” will ensure a successful end result. Make sure you incorporate any feedback from these pre-pitches into the ultimate presentation.
Step 5: Brag About Your Results
After a successful presentation, procurement, and implementation, don’t forget to share the wins of your project. Specifically, share with the same people you pitched at the outset but also share the results with anyone whose behavior you have already or are still trying to change. Sharing any wins will reinforce the new behaviors you are trying to implement. Tie those wins back to the original presentation and the results you were anticipating. This showing of success (and of credibility of your original pitch) will have a positive impact on your reputation and ability to influence future change. You will develop a reputation for getting positive results and people will be excited to try what you have up your sleeve.
I hope these tips will help you succeed within your legal operations, legal department, or company as a whole. If you have other tips that you have picked up from other disciplines, I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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