“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” – W. Edwards Deming
Many successful law firms pride themselves on custom-tailoring solutions for their clients, and I get it: You want to be adaptable and flexible. After all, who doesn’t? And you probably like doing some problem solving and making the experience for your clients feel homey and personal.
However, there’s a limit to how ad hoc you want to be. Fail to systemize, and guess what follows? Serious costs, tedious busywork, the same horrible problems arising again and again.
Think about your firm works. Do handoffs fall through the cracks, or do they go smoothly? When a team member leaves for vacation, can someone else step in and know what to do? Or is it all improvising and putting out fires? Do you hit deadlines right on the mark… or do you finish too early or too soon, creating panic and/or wasting resources? Let’s dial back here and look at the big picture. First off…
What Is “Systemization”?
Let’s talk about what it’s not to introduce the concept. It’s not about doing things in unthinking, cookie-cutter fashion. You are not taking agency away from your employees, abandoning creativity or turning your practice into a conveyor belt. Here’s what it IS about:
- Developing ways to handle tasks that your firm does repeatedly – easy to follow recipes
- Finding the smoothest ways to accomplish these tasks
- Capturing and documenting these processes
Your goal is to make routine tasks easier to execute and more efficient, thus freeing up valuable time for you and your staff.
Five Motivators for Systemization
Why should you embrace systemization?
- You want a more efficient team. Following a streamlined process will take less energy and time than dealing with ambiguity and friction.
- You want happy clients. A smoother client experience means more recommendations – and more repeat business.
- You can’t increase the budget or grow the team. When teams follow pre-defined processes and procedures, they can improve their outcomes with no increase in skill.
- You want to make room for creativity. By reducing your time wasted on repetitive tasks, you liberate more time for the creative efforts your firm needs to thrive.
- You want to create quality improvement triggers that are built into your firm. Once you document a procedure, your team will optimize it, and the improvements will continue.
This way of doing business leads to non-intuitive benefits:
- More structure leads to more creativity and flexibility.
- Constraining your staff releases their creativity.
- Thinking about how tedious minutiae gets done frees you from the burdens of that tedious minutiae.