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Get Buy-In Before You Buy In: Build Consensus for Internal Change

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Whether attempting to break in new software, instituting a new protocol or changing an existing office arrangement, you’re almost guaranteed to find that not everyone is immediately on the same page.

A familiar chorus may repeat itself, in internal discussions:

“Well, Phyllis has done it this way forever, and she’s been our office manager for forever, and we can’t really get her to change.”

Bob’s been with us for over twenty years, he still bills a ton of hours, and he just doesn’t like technology. We won’t be able to get him to come around.”

The problem is symptomatic of attorney management generally: there is an avoidance of potential confrontation, before the point is even addressed, for fear of what might occur; there is very little in the way of proactive consensus building, or effort made towards that end, in the application of an important change. If a plan settled on is adopted, it is often done without consultation of the majority of effected parties, such that, rather than providing an opportunity for discussion and intelligent amalgamation, an email broadcast is the first, and often only, shot across the bow, producing the result that everyone is now even more entrenched in their views than ever before. Those unsympathetic then become only more unsympathetic, and those inclined to be sympathetic will now begin to doubt your motives, stemming from your methods.

It has been a shared point of common human knowledge for the better part of several thousand years that others are more likely to show you respect when you show them respect. So, when you have determined to institute a new product, service or method, be certain to share with your co-workers and colleagues, not just the decision, but the decisionmaking process.

In order for your new system to become the efficient improvement you hope it will be, you will need investment from others, as well as from yourself. Multiple systems for multiple persons is per se inefficient; and, you’re much more likely to achieve full participation, i.e.–full buy-in, if you have previously empowered your staffpersons and co-workers by introducing them into the embrace of your formerly private decisionmaking process. It might even happen that your initial idea was not the best method, but that meetings involving your co-workers led you in a more fruitful direction.

Of course, you may never be able to achieve full and complete buy-in from your employees and co-workers; but, by meaningfully involving them in the decisionmaking process, you have done all that you can do; and, for the implementation of a particular program or process, you have the final trump card: you’re the boss. Such that, in the end, your staff serves at your pleasure, and must, eventually, conform to the practices of your firm, or risk the penalties of intransigence. An employee flatly refusing and absolutely unwilling to comport with a final decision has the opportunity of seeking work elsewhere, or may be told to do so.

CATEGORIES: Law Firm Management | Law Practice Startup | Lawyer's Quality of Life | Productivity | Risk Management

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