Progress Comes After It Starts Hurting
Recently I had ankle surgery, and I was dreading the pain I know physical therapy will bring - but then that familiar phrase 'No Pain, No Gain' popped into my head.
I remember the first time I really understood what that phrase meant- 8 years old, at the end of a grueling gymnastics class and holding my legs above the ground for a seemingly interminable amount of time as my dance teacher seemed to march around the room enjoying our pain. Then she said something that stuck - she said that if you only do something until you get tired, or it hurts a bit, then you never really make any progress. It's the work you put in after the weariness sets in where you get the forward-progress. No pain, no gain. Got it (granted, I still don't like it).
Good Law Firm BPM Hurts Too - But It Gets Better
All this reminiscing collided with my current world - in which I spend a lot of time helping our customers get through the dreaded pain of introducing the sometimes fundamental changes that go along with good business process transformation. I empathize with operational teams who struggle to hold the line on the now-codified, no longer 'skirtable' policies that are embedded into the natural flow of work in whatever process they have just transformed (e.g., New Business Intake; Lateral Hire; New Employee Onboarding; etc.). And when the pain gets really bad, very often the natural reaction is to 'undo' the implemented requirements that they diligently detailed and we diligently implemented.
The benefit I have is that we have done this over and over again - and, also, that the screaming isn't directly in my ear - to be fair. But consistent experience shows that there are 45-60 days of organizational 'angst' that occurs when you introduce a sizable process transformation into the firm. And if this is the first one your firm has experienced, then it's a bit tougher than every subsequent one you will do. So almost all of the changes to requirements that get brought up during the 45-60 days of 'angst' are reactionary in nature - usually the result of the vocal disclaimers of literally a handful of individuals in a sea of hundreds.
No Different than Amending the Constitution...
My rule is this (since we are talking about law firms anyway) - the requirements that you detailed and were implemented are like the Constitution. They were thought through and reviewed over and over and with great diligence and keen focus. And just like the Constitution - they can be modified. But those 'Amendments' should go through equal, or greater, diligence and thought as the original Constitution. Otherwise, you might end up implementing a bunch of Prohibition-like Amendments and experience a 'backwards slide' that could have been avoided.
So to all of you courageous process transformation teams who are working hard to help your firm move forward boldly into the world of the new legal industry - hold steadfast and ask yourselves this...is the need for that back-out change you're considering going to naturally disappear after 45-60 days when the organization 'settles into' the new way of operating, or is the change really going to benefit the firm? 95% of the time, if you can just hold on, you won't need to change a thing.
No pain, no gain. Boy I hate that phrase - especially because it's so often true - and it certainly is true for good process transformation.