Sunday, 14 February 2010

Strategic Thinking

I've been spending the last couple of weeks engaged in the first two of a four session course on strategy with a law firm. It has been really interesting to be able to start at first principles - to think about what strategy actually is, and what the firm wants to be.

It is rare to find any firm - and certainly any law firm - that is willing to admit that it needs a complete re-think so far as its strategy is concerned and so I have really enjoyed debating areas where strategic thinking is going to provide real competitive advantage. We have been discussing frameworks which, of course, means looking at Porter. I went through a short phase when I was at business school where I was scathing of Porter - thinking that it was too restrictive, not dynamic enough, and seemed to refuse to see rivalry as, potentially, a positive force. Now that I've worked with more firms - and am, hopefully, a little wiser as well as just older - I think that it is still a very useful way of examining the strategic environment - perhaps with the addition of an other model as an audit. My clients seem to have accepted the usefulness of the model and talked well as we examined the forces acting on the industry. I think we've already started to add value to the firm.

I've already spent 6 hours or so with partners from the firm and am looking forward to the final two sessions next month - they are engaged and willing to learn. What is more impressive is that they are willing to admit that they may not be expert at every aspect of law firm management - which is sadly not true of many law partners. We discussed Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule. To paraphrase, he suggests that expertise in any field  - whether sport, music or business - requires 10,000 hours of practice. I was pleased that the partners accepted that, while they will have put in their 10,000 hours in the practice of law, they had not had the opportunity to put in the 10,000 needed for effectively managing a business.

So - a good few weeks behind me and the prospect of two more exciting and engaging sessions.

I have been doing these sessions in my capacity as a consultant with Geotrupes. James has done most of the grunt work in putting each session together and in preparing the slides - leaving me to personalise them, and to deliver the training - something that I enjoy doing. I think we've made a good team - I've certainly enjoyed the teamwork!

The consideration of strategy itself would certainly benefit almost any firm. If you'd like to discuss a programme for your firm, please contact either me or James.

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