Posted by: johnocunningham | April 2, 2013

Best Blogs of March: Does Your Firm Have a Purpose?

This is my 7th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blogroll.” The concept is simple – each month I peruse my own blogroll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

For the month of March, I have chosen to highlight a post at InFocus, a blog of the Rainmaking Oasis. The post by Susan Saltonstall Duncan is entitled, “What Is Your Firm’s Core Purpose, and Is It Time to Revisit It?”

The author hits on a point that should be of concern to every law firm and really every business or organization – the need for a clearly articulated mission and sense of values and purpose.

I know that some law firm leaders and even some business principals will scoff at the notion of needing a “sense of purpose” and will dismiss it as some kind of “soft stuff” born out of Woodstock. They will envision a room full of people chanting mantras instead of doing work, and contemplating their navels while calls from clients go unanswered.

But they would be wise not only to consider Susan Saltonstall Duncan’s post, but the works of Stanford Business School Professor James Collins, who has made a life of studying both successful and failed organizations.

Collins discovered that the single most important foundational element in a successful and lasting business is a clearly articulated mission and purpose supported by core values. He also clearly documented the basis for his findings in three books:

  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t;
  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies; and
  • Turning Goals Into Results.

If each and every employee does not know the central mission and purpose of the organization, then the organizational ship is adrift. It can not be powered and steered by a handful of captains, especially if those captains themselves have not agreed on the mission, the strategy and the direction of the ship.

Yet this is precisely how many law firms operate. They have multiple captains, each of whom thinks they are in charge, each barking out orders to be followed, sometimes disseminating conflicting and confusing messages among the ship’s crew.

But on a tightly run ship, there IS a mission, a course and a plan, and every single ship’s mate knows what that is. They buy in before they ever sign on for the voyage, and they work toward the accomplishment of the mission, understanding that all hands are critical to success. If the ship goes off course, or if there is a disagreement over what course to take, then everyone on board can refer back to the mission and ultimate destination to resolve disagreements in favor of what will best accomplish the goal. Personal missions must be set aside and take a back seat to the organizational mission every time.

Law firms have a great opportunity to surpass their competition and to win the battle for the best talent to crew their ships. If they can develop a mission and sense of values and purpose that glues them together, they will recruit better, perform better, and win more long-term, loyal clients who are on for the ride.

For examples of those rare firms that have taken the time to agree upon and articulate their mission, vision and/or values, see:

Disclosure: I have performed work for three of the firms named above.






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