I spoke about project management and how it can be used in business development at the LMA SE Mini-Conference in New Orleans last Friday. After having a glass of Pinot Noir with Allen Fuqua last week, I decided I had to include more about his Smart-Work Matrix in my presentation. In my last blog post, the LA LMA TED summary, I promised that I would write about it here, but after sitting down with him, I insisted he go into more detail.
Allen’s material was quickly embraced by the SE LMA crowd, too. And I hope it helps you rethink your work-day/work-week, too.
In my next post, I’ll share ideas for lawyers to improve project management processes – and use them as a law firm differentiator in beauty contests and proposals.
Guest Post by Allen Fuqua, CMO, Winstead
Every organization has a long and varied list of projects,processes, programs and coverage areas that require team members to coordinate and support. We often see team members becoming frustrated with various projects based on any number of experiences:
- The unwillingness of attorneys or leaders to listen to us and/or cooperate with us.
- Being treated badly by an attorney or leader.
- We do not know how to move a project forward and we feel vulnerable.
- We feel that the project is wasteful of their time.
- We believe a project should be done differently, but can’t get buy-in from attorneys.
- We believe that the project is being led badly or incompetently by an attorney leader and we don’t know what to do.
And the list goes on and on.
However, the reality, more often than not, is that many coordinators, managers and directors use the same orientation and execution process for everything they do. This inability to adjust output and commitment to the nature of the different projects, and to know what a winning orientation for each project is likely to be, produces levels of stress and frustration that can lead to failure and professional anxiety.
If we can evaluate these projects, jobs and programs on an individual basis and come to a simple understanding of the make-up of each and what a winning plan would look like, I think we can increase our performance, satisfaction, and make our results more consistent and minimize our angst.
So here’s my suggestion:
Use the matrix below and fill in your projects and tasks where you think they should go. Use this as your measuring stick:
Potential Value – consider the assignment based on its ability to contribute revenue to the firm and/or build important relationship(s).
Your ability (that is, will you be allowed) to drive (a/k/a/ control) the project or provide innovation to the project
- . If you are new to the firm, you may not know this — a lot depends on culture, how lawyers and staff collaborate on things, etc.
- Once you plot your projects, use the matrix to identify the following three areas associated with any task, project or program in the associated quadrant:
1. What should your orientation for that project be?
2. What defines your process for execution?
3. What is the central success factor for the project?
As you put your various projects on the matrix, consider the recommended approach we use. Let me review each quadrant’s framework:
The Northwest Quadrant
The projects, tasks and activities in this quadrant are characterized by the potential for better than average ability to generate either new revenue or build relationships, while having a very limited ability for the marketing team to drive/control them or provide any innovation to them.
The appropriate orientation for these is:
1. Your entire focus should be on execution; not adding value, not forcing it in a direction. Most likely, the attorneys and leadership just want it done and aren’t looking for anything other than the project getting done.
2. Your execution process will center around a formal performance plan. For our team, we have execution plans based on a planning model that we use to set up projects. Once those are in place, all the associated work flows out of that plan. We don’t deviate from it and we spend no time trying to add to it. That would be a waste of time.
3. The success and quality of these projects in the NE quadrant is a function of your experience. If you’ve done many of these, you know the game, you’ve seen it before and understand how it will go. If you don’t have the experience, then recruit a team member who has. Ask them to meet with you on a regular basis (weekly at first) to review how the project is going and what execution steps you should take. Your more experienced colleague will help you stay
The Northeast Quadrant
These projects are often what every marketing person dreams about. It has great potential value and you have a sense that you will be a valuable part of the project. However, you need to be quite sober around that second expectation. The orientation below should help you with it.
1. Your orientation should be aggressive and you should be trying to think one step ahead so that you can add value along the way – so you can lead.
2. Your execution process revolves around the attorney champion of the project. Whatever he/she says (or you convince them of) is how you move. You suggest a process and plan, then wait for them to consider, edit and/or approve.
3. The quality and success of this project is dependent on the trust and partnership you have with the attorney champion. Ask questions that will reveal the lawyer’s viewpoints, objectives, concerns for the project and then provide solutions around each of those. Note: your ideas should be based on the words/orientations of the attorney champion. Do not start with your opinions and experiences; always start with Q/A of the lawyers and then offer responses, feedback and opinions that are relevant to the discussion.
The Southwest Quadrant
Here the tasks offer minimal hope for significant value for the shareholders. Additionally, no one is looking for you to do anything but make it happen or make it go away. So then:
1. Your orientation should be first to see if you can delegate this project to a more appropriate person or department. If you can outsource, do. If it’s a survey, see if HR or some other admin group has the majority of the data and send it to them. Additionally, be passive in your efforts here. Only act when you are asked to act or when timing dictates that you act. As you know, all projects are subject to change from the attorneys, so minimize the amount of opportunities for those changes, since there is little chance for them to turn a low value project into a high value project. Don’t let any of these tasks be a time or energy drain.
2. Your execution process is to get attorney input and then do it. Don’t interpret, embellish or take it to the next level (save that for the Northeast Quadrant).
3. The success of these tasks will be based on your ability to get attorney input at the appropriate time and no sooner. If you don’t know what they want and you need to act, ask and do whatever they say.
The Southeast Quadrant
These are your worst nightmares. Nobody cares about those and has any idea what they want. They expect you to figure everything out, and when/if it gets done they won’t care that it got done.
1. Your initial orientation should be to ask a leader if in fact these task/project justifies using firm resources. See if they will nix it. If the project has to go forward then,
2. Your execution orientation should be to get it done with a minimal amount of effort and resources. Do not waste your extra efforts / creativity on these (save yourself for anything in the Northern quadrants).
3. The project success will be dependent on an execution which is simple and speedy. If you are challenged to figure this out, seek help from your supervisor or a senior member of your team.
Here is a sample of how we break things down at Winstead. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about this.