“Mission Critical” goals but not critical thinking in the survey

BTI Consulting’s 2004 report on In-House Counsel Management Practices includes a beautiful chart (pg. 11) that depicts the study’s 180 participants’ responses to the question: “What single activity do you consider to be critical to your success over the next 18 months?”

Four of the six slices, 68 percent of the total, say fundamentally the same thing.  No one thought clearly about whether the choices make meaningful differences.

“Leveraging Legal to Achieve Specific Business Objectives” merely rewords “Support Company Goals and Objectives” (what is a company but a collection of business managers?  How are goals different than objectives?) and includes the superfluous “leveraging legal” – since all the mission critical activities rely on that fanciful idea.  “Streamline Business Operations” sounds much like helping business managers succeed, but in fact has to do with the legal function’s own operations; “Good Relationships with Business Units” (which is not even an activity, but a hoped-for outcome) likely results from succeeding at the other three activities.

I leave for another posting my critique of multiple choice questions.  Here, I doubt that BTI did a content analysis of free-form interview comments; rather, the firm gave participants a list of alternatives. 

My complaint is that the superficial specificity of numbers and the fine graphic conceal a muddled overlap of unclear phrases.  All one can take away is that law departments feel it is quite important to help their company make money. 

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