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To set targets is not as effective as to promote behaviors

To translate a piece in the Harv. Bus. Rev., Vol. 86, Dec. 2007 at 101, to law departments, the point is that general counsel can set targets for lawyers to achieve, such as the reduction of outside counsel firms to a certain number, cost savings of a certain percentage, or throughput at a defined level (See my posts of April 6, 2005 and Feb. 23, 2006: SMART goals.).

Alternatively, general counsel can decide on the behavior they wish to foster and then encourage that behavior. For example, a general counsel might urge lawyers to think through the answers to certain guideline questions before they retain a new law firm, or to keep in their mind the value of sharing information.

Target-setting is a deductive process: start with the goal and let people work back from it to figure out how to achieve it. Behavior shaping is an inductive process: guide people how to act and they will reach the proper endpoint.

Of course, the two methods of management – targets or actions – are not and should not be mutually exclusive. The typical mission statement mixes both modes of directing people in a law department.

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