Each time you impose a new management task, should you stop one?

Much of me wants to encourage general counsel to try out something new, something that requires training and oversight, change, some amount of effort – and every operational adjustment does. But law departments can get encrusted, overloaded, cluttered, burdened with management initiatives (See my post of May 30, 2005: Shell Malaysia and law-department initiative overload; April 15, 2006: how many initiatives a department can absorb; April 1, 2007: sunset some management requirements — five fingered; and Feb. 26, 2008: stop doing wasteful management practices.).

General counsel should ponder several techniques that attempt to constrain governments from piling on legislative requirements: (1) permit new spending only if there are corresponding new taxes; (2) include sunset provisions in enabling legislation; (3) reduce labor imposed such as with paperwork reduction acts; and (4) calculate, publish and be mindful of compliance times. Analogous disciplines in legal groups guard against the unthinking piling on of obligations. If your legal department has sufficient management initiatives now, then before you add one think about whether to subtract one (See my post of Aug. 4, 2005: the ROI of initiatives; Sept. 10, 2005: an index of management initiatives; May 31, 2006: the sigmoid curve of initiatives; March 6, 2007: an initiative pyramid as a way to think about operational improvements; April 23, 2007: a four-level spectrum; May 26, 2007: a topological map of in-house initiatives; Dec. 11, 2008: appoint someone to be in charge of an initiative; March 11, 2009: depict initiatives on two axes; Jan. 7, 2010:”one initiative for every other direct report”; and Jan. 28, 2010: 16 initiatives to save costs on external counsel ranked by effectiveness.).

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