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Preferred management levers redirect behavior, they don’t try to reform culture

The Economist, April 14, 2012 at 76, writes that the current CEO of Honeywell took over in 2002. Rather than try to change values of employees, which are harder to measure, he focused on how to increase the frequency and effectiveness of a dozen important behaviors. General counsel can learn from this veteran’s success.

We talk profusely about “culture” in a law department, but we will make more progress if we pay attention to desired behavior. A culture of stewardship, as one example, translates less well into cost control than actions (behavior) that, for example, obtain and review budgets of outside law firms. A culture of teamwork sounds wonderful to extol, but the actual monthly meetings of Centers of Excellence go farther to promote sharing and collaboration and are easier to direct and evaluate.

How people act manifests itself much more clearly and concretely than what’s in their hearts and minds. The beliefs and values espoused in a law department stay amorphous; actions speak louder than culture and managers can shape them more effectively (See my post of Nov. 20, 2007: culture with 13 references and 3 other posts cited.)

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