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Think of law departments in terms of “learning organizations”

In its list of the top 10 business concepts of the past decade, Strategy + Business, Fall 2005, Issue 41, at 37, the second most important concept is the “learning organization.” A “learning law department” would strive for more than just having its members share knowledge and skills – let’s call that “knowledge management” – because it would design itself to encourage everyone to “keep thinking, innovating, collaborating, talking candidly, [and] improving their capabilities.”

A grand notion, Panglossian, but perhaps a useful platform idea, one on which we can build.

A learning law department would look for ways that software can extend its lawyers’ effectiveness, that simpler processes can improve productivity, that better delegation can increase efficiency at lower cost, that standardized documents and guidelines can improve quality – all the management initiatives and personal correlatives (CLE, reflecting on what has been learned, rotations, coaching) that propel a department farther along the road to delivering the most.

By the way, “execution” led the list (See my post of Dec. 16, 2005.) Other mega-concepts of relevance to law departments include corporate values (No. 3), leadership development (No. 6), organizational DNA (No. 7), complexity theory (9) and lean thinking (10).

Five other ideas, of the 35 that did not make the top ten, have some relevance to law departments: corporate governance reform, intangible assets, game theory, social network analysis, and software as a decision-making tool.