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Across-the-board measures should go by the boards

One-size-fits-all solutions to management challenges offend me. To demand that each practice group leader reduce the group’s budget by five percent, or that everyone increase their contributions to the knowledge management system by 10 percent, or that every law firm accede to a six percent haircut, may sound equitable and clear. Mandates for everyone to do the same thing are certainly easy to mandate and to understand and perhaps are easier to monitor than individualize requirements.

But Procrustean fiats usually aren’t equitable. Not every group can or should give the same amount of blood. All circumstances are not the same. A crude “everyone do the same thing” means that the manager who promulgated it has abdicated some of her responsibility. It takes more time and attention, but better managers adjust their requests to different groups who are tasked to achieve similar goals. For instance, even with the same ratio of paralegals to lawyers, the litigation group might be asked to take out fewer of them in a reduction in force than the corporate group.

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