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Processes and an emphasis on old-school efficiency or new-age learning

An article in the Harv. Bus. Rev., Vol. 85, July-Aug. 2008 at 60, distinguishes between execution-as-efficiency and execution-as-learning. If law department managers lock into the first set of beliefs –efficient, timely, consistent delivery of legal services, they run the risk that people won’t bring to their attention critical information, won’t take time to learn, and won’t collaborate well.

A law department that embraces execution-as-learning makes it psychologically safe for members to explore and try new practices. Beyond that, managers need to use the best available knowledge – which is NOT a frozen best practice – and encourage lawyers and non-lawyers to collaborate by giving them ample information. Third, they need to gather information and data about processes to learn how the work actually happens. Finally, they need to study this data to find ways to improve execution (See my post of Aug. 22, 2006: the power of kaizen.). If general counsel take these steps, the execution-as-learning will lead to steady improvement.