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Three thought-provoking conclusions from recent McKinsey research on management practices

McKinsey research, published in the McKinsey Quarterly, 2006, No. 3 at 65, reaches three main conclusions. The first is that “executives should eschew simplistic organizational solutions: when applied in isolation by the companies in our database, popular techniques such as management incentives and key performance indicators (KPIs) were strikingly ineffective.” For law departments, that means it is unproductive to graft on a single, new buzz-trend.

Second, the McKinsey research found that “high-performing companies must have a basic proficiency in all of the available practices; a conspicuous weakness in any of them drags down the overall result.” Translated to law department management this suggests that being good in the building blocks of management — all of them — counts for more than excelling in a few areas but lagging in the rest.

The most important finding of the study is that managers should “concentrate most of their energy and a small number of practices that, introduced together, typically produces the best results.” The key ones are accountability (“clear roles within a structure matched to the needs of the business”), clear direction (“a compelling vision of the future”), and a strong culture (one that “encourages openness, trust, and challenge”). Law departments could adopt this trio wholesale and focus on individual responsibilities, a shared objective and set of values, and a team-oriented style.

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