Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Web Conversations November

One of my periodic reports on topics, conversations and sites of interest.

David Maister's blog led me to PS Village, an on line magazine for the IT professional services community that I had not seen before. I spent some time browsing articles and discussion threads (the magazine has a strong interactive element) and have added it to my watch list.

In passing, I noticed a very interesting discussion on performance metrics (here) at firm level that I hope to come back to at a later point.

While at David's blog I noticed that he had posed this question to his visitors: So, over to you? Why do YOU think some people are continually motivated to improve and keep trying while others are not? And can a manager influence that or is it inherent in individuals?

Anybody who reads this blog will know that I am almost obsessive about the need to improve people management in professional services. The world is not made up just of high flyers, but of ordinary people doing the best they can to balance work and life. My experience has been that most people want to do a good job. The job of the manager is to help them do that.

Here I thought that Chris Marston had a rather good post, Are Corporate Firms Dizzy From Chasing Their Tails?, about the treadmill created by top law firms in recruiting and then managing their new associates.

Innovation is very much the flavour of the month just at present. Here I noted a quote from Professor Kanter on Martin Hofmann's blog:

"Innovation seems to be rediscovered in each managerial generation (about every six years) as a fundamental way to enable new growth. But each generation seems to have forgotten or never learned the mistakes of the past, so we see classic traps repeated over and over again. Some of these repeat offenders include burying innovation teams under too much bureaucracy, treating the innovators as more valued corporate citizens than those who work in the current business, and hiring leaders who don’t have the relationship and communications skills necessary to foster innovation.”

Kind of says it all.

On a linked topic, I see that Noric Dilanchian and his colleagues have continued to add all sorts of interesting material on commercialisation to the Dilanchian site including their Lightbulb blog. I recommend the site to anyone with an interest in innovation and commercialisation and as an example of what can be done by a small law firm to create a powerful on-line presence.

Bruce MacEwen's Adam Smith Esq continues on my must read list. There was an interesting interview with Bruce in the Canadian Law Times. Like Bruce, I believe that law firms and others within professional services still operating on partneship models need to move towards a more corporate style management approach.

As an aside, I read Bruce's story on law firm advertising in New York (The 18th Century Is Alive & Well in New York) with a degree of amazement. David Anderson (I mentioned David's Small Business USA blog in a previous post) were chatting in another context about the differences in the Australian and US approaches to regulation. The sheer complexity of the US scene is quite remarkable.

Dennis McDonald's blog on living and working with technology continues to carry interesting material of value to anyone interested in the impact of on-line developments on life and work. I think that it is especially useful for those like me who are interested and simply want a heads-up.

Those who read my personal blog will know that I am very interested in patterns of social, cultural and political change. On this blog I have discussed, for example, the likely impact of demographic change on future management of professional services firms, suggesting that competition for people is likely to be the single most important strategic issue for most firms over the next decade. I have also discussed changing gender balances in the professions.

One aspect of these change processes is the need to move towards more flexible working arrangements. I was therefore pleased to see a post by Janet Hayes on the Juris more partner income blog arguing the flexible hours case.

This post has become quite long. I will continue my review in a later post.

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