Practices are the fourth and most common level of activities in my schema (See my post of Nov. 19, 2008: priorities; Nov. 19, 2008: programs; and Nov. 19, 2008: practices.).
Practices are people’s accustomed ways of working and working together. They include culture, and everything that ethnographers pay attention to such as dress codes, collegiality and cliques, and interaction in the cafeteria. Practices show up in many other areas such as management by walking around, informal communication patterns, recognition ceremonies, open and closed doors, silence, hierarchy, the dispersal of offices, dual reporting, legal leadership teams, and hiring patterns.
Some corollaries of practices deserve notice.
Practices are generally are unnoticed by members of the department. They breath without awareness of their atmosphere.
Practices usually change very slowly as they are part of organizational DNA, unless an energetic new leader alters the patterns.
Few general counsel undertake deliberately to change practices, such as to ban cell phones and PDAs during meetings.