In June 2019, it was such a privilege to be invited to Redmond Washington and the home of Microsoft to attend an all day session on the topics of lean, business design and change management. This type of captive and engaged audience is what makes a lot of the heavy lifting worth it from a delivery perspective. This stuff is hard.
I was asked to attend in order to write a piece of the formidable LegalEvolution site edited by my colleague, friend and industry change leader Bill Henderson. Bill held the editors pen — and cleaned up my original cut. It was a beast to write… and I really appreciated Bill’s hand on the scapel in editing.
But what did the original look like? More of my kinda goofy and informal approach. To see the version which cleans up well for grown ups — See: https://www.legalevolution.org/2019/07/what-is-business-design-thinking-104/
To see what too much caffeine but not enough sleep produces, see below. It is laden with cultural references which show my age and thankfully Bill had the good sense to remove.
There is also a podcast that has just been released on the session (and yes — it really was a remarkable day). Check out http://www.businessoflaw.net/index.php/2019/09/03/business-of-law-podcast-design-thinking/
And now… send in the clowns…
For those of us that follow the legal sector closely, it’s been quite interesting to observe the approach of the larger players in legal operations among corporates. Certain legal departments are going to attract more attention, for good or for ill, as a result of their size, scope and organizational complexity under management. The larger headcount or recognizable brand name legal departments, because of the attention they attract, not necessarily by the outputs they create, will always serve as a bellwether among like-minded travelers.
There is a refreshing community of practice that is starting to unfold as relates to legal operations. The camaraderie among practitioners, whether they be lawyers or some other form of more appropriately skilled allied professional, enjoy a fellowship not found in other parts of the ecosystem. This is in large measure because unlike law firms, and large corporations, legal departments themselves are not in competition with each other. It’s definitely true that a rising tide lifts all boats and we can learn from each other without giving away competitive business advantage.
Trusted Advisor Forum | Rock Star Edition
Some of us are just downright nerdlingers for all of this stuff, and that’s why it was a giddy pleasure for me to attend the most recent Trusted Advisor Forum (TAF) hosted by Microsoft at its copiously coniferous adorned campus in Redmond, Washington. I’ve got a thing for the Pacific Northwest and especially the Seattle area given its grip on my imagination as the center of pop-culture, innovation, and man, the music!
If nothing else, finding an excuse to get to the Museum of Pop Culture required very little persuading. However, before I could take that particular field trip, there was work to do from within the “confines” of the forested Microsoft campus. Truth be told, not being able to make use of the company treehouse was a bit of a bummer.
The TAF is an ambitious initiative which propels the interests of Microsoft forward (both the wider corporation and legal function) by hitching a wagon to its key legal service providers that comprise their Strategic Partner Program (SPP).
Prior iterations of the TAF are well-documented via commentary from past invited guests Bill Henderson and Jae Um, two folks I am pleased to count as colleagues and friends. See Bill’s take Can Microsoft hit “refresh” on client-law firm relations? (068) and Jae’s piece Huge, If True: How Microsoft’s Big Ideas Could Transform Legal Buy (069). Last year’s TAF also implicated Casey Flaherty, another internet famous friend, and Jae’s colleague over at Baker McKenzie. I don’t always feel it, but know that I get smarter after spending time with all of these folks. We all share a deep passion for the operational, strategic and transformation of the business of law. We also each lack for meaningful hobbies. Causation and correlation?
The attendees in prior years included a number of corporate legal department colleagues from the likes of Adobe, Amazon, American Airlines, Fedex, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Intel, Liberty Mutual, Starbucks, T-Mobile and others. To be clear, Microsoft does not wish to be the sole arbiter of how law firm and client relationships rock and roll.
Given the format for this year, Microsoft was able to include a larger representative sample of professionals within the legal department with a very good mix of practicing lawyers and other professionals that support legal teams – both internally and from the firms.
However, there were no other corporates invited to this iteration as the hope was to have a working session imbued with candor among internal Microsoft people and outside counsel. In retrospect, it is likely that other corporates would have benefited, and the candor would have been no less prevalent.
For this year’s event, all of the SPP firms were invited. The firms that were present included: Davis Wright Tremaine, Perkins Coie, Orrick, Sidley, Reed Smith, Fish & Richardson, Arent Fox, K&L Gates, Covington and Merchant & Gould. A few other players were in the room including Integreon.
No More Alternatives
In the past, an initiative like this would have meant law firms exclusively, but Microsoft has also led with its use of ancillary providers like Integreon which recently celebrated the 10th year of partnership.
Notice that I did not say “alternative” legal supplier when talking about Integreon? There’s a couple of reasons for that.
Firstly, if you’ve been in partnership for 10 years, that’s not alternative. They’ve passed the audition to mainstream and pretty soon will have a greatest hits collection. Most new businesses (and bands) don’t last as long as that.
Also, alternative and Seattle just don’t go together. Never have really. Nothing “alternative” has ever come out of the Seattle area. Only mainstream things like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, the bass player for Guns N Roses who went on to form an investment firm (as one inevitably and invariably does).
You know, none of that is, or ever was, labelled as “alternative”.
Oh. Right. Of course it was.
Until it wasn’t?
Pearl Jam has been a band for decades and sold 85 million records. But they still show up on “alternative” radio? You’re kidding right? Brings to mind old Spinal Tap band names like the Originals who changed their name to the New Originals because of the other band already called the Originals who then changed their name to the Regulars. Alternative legal suppliers doing millions of dollars’ worth of business with marquee clients for at least a decade is not alternative. Someone’s lunch has been decidedly eaten.
Law firms are the Regulars. Everyone else are the New Originals. They can all be on the stage at the same time, but occasionally, one might just upstage the other.
Fans Just Want the Hits
Among the highly visible outputs and aspirations from the Strategic Partner Prograom – a declaration in 2017 to move to 90% AFA’s within two years. That’s a BHAG that stimulates activity!
Last year’s TAF required presentations from invited strategic partners to inform the group about one thing they had done in the prior year to get better; and also one thing they would try to do next year to get better.
Hardly any BHAG points on that one.
And yet, curiously, only some of the invited partners attended and of those that attended only some fulfilled one or both of those requirements. This is notwithstanding a pretty safe space for communication and experimentation. What makes this ever the more baffling, law firms are often saddled with cries of despair from their clients concerning a vague ennui in the form of missing “innovation”. This was a chance for differentiation through specific real-world case studies.
For this event, the premise was more rooted in the “How” rather than the “Why” or “What”. In other words, how do we drive results and change that is meaningful from a business perspective? We can all hum a tune, but it takes some effort to learn the chords. This led to a decision to pursue Business Design Thinking mixed with Lean techniques to provide a great set of tools, models, frameworks and of course, the mindset, for reimagining and driving continuous improvement for operations.
I’m With the Band
Microsoft partnered with my pals and fellow workshop facilitating tour act — Bold Duck Studio — comprised of industry veterans Joshua Kubicki and Kim Craig . The mission was to deliver a full-day workshop including internal legal department and business unit clients plus outside legal service provider partners. Really, though, the purpose of workshops, when done right, is to leave people changed from when they first entered the room. It is possible, especially when the facilitators are masters at engagement. In the best scenarios, attendees leave knowing “You can’t unhear, unknow, unsee, unlearn what you felt, touched, heard and saw. While some of it may dissipate, residuals of those key personal and community interactions should stick permanently.” This happened in Redmond, but it isn’t easy to convey in a blog post. No matter, I am willing to step up to the mic.
I love workshops, and especially putting them on for profit where people feel like they get value from the experience. Making a room full of people see things differently (and feel good about it) is rewarding on multiple levels. For a day or so. What happens when they go back to their desk? The measure of success is to apply knowledge, tools and methods to our work for better outcomes which manifest months down the line.
The approach of Bold Duck is a blend of business design + lean + strategy.
They call it Practice Venturing or sometimes Service Venturing.
Personally, I see it as just good business methodology that has enough of a static framework to be easily understood but provides for pliable adjustments depending on context. These are business skills and modalities and I would note that it’s not called “Legal” Practice Venturing although applied to legal.
I see myself as a double guitar dabbler of Josh’s design expertise and Kim’s strengths and experience in lean. I know enough about both in application to be a little bit dangerous. Rock and Roll baby. 🤟🏻😆 🤟🏻
A multi-instrumentalist figuring out how to play the instruments, mostly on my own, I am thrilled when I get the chance to learn with others that I respect, admire and enjoy.
The Set List
The stated purpose and desired outcomes of this year’s TAF include:
- deep dives on the relationship among people, process, technology, and experience and how these create user-oriented solutions;
- application of the Practice Venture (Service) Blueprint – a tool that helps describe current-state and options for new service and solution models; and
- Application of the material to begin designing pilot(s) that redesign on-going work.
These catalyzing sessions are not “nice to have” — they are “must have” to shake off patterns and introduce new ways of tackling our work.
“Our senior leadership wants digital transformation. Most of our legal professionals do not know how to execute on that ask because we have not trained them how. They think it involves acquiring a new technical skill, and for some, it may. But the primary gap is people’s inability to describe the current state of what we do and design an optimized version. We believe that process and design skills are necessary to advance digital transformation because these will give us high ROI investment targets defined by the expert legal professionals who do the work and know what has value.”
– Jason Barnwell, Assistant General Counsel-Legal Business, Operations, and Strategy at Microsoft and LegalEvolution contributor
A Little Less Conversation and A Little More Action
The TAF offered a way for all the requisite players to stop talking past each other and roll up sleeves on an intensive learning experience from dynamic practitioners in the field.
The hallmark of a good workshop is utilizing case studies and fact patterns to make it real, immersive and experiential for the audience. Too often, because the audience is so disparate in interest, even when it’s an internal organization, the case studies are overly hypothetical, or perhaps unduly complex or unnecessarily or impractically simple. It’s really only helpful if you can make concepts relevant to your own everyday work. In the case of this particular workshop, there were three suggested hypotheticals provided to the 70(ish) participants, plus an outlier I discuss further below.
Easy as 1-2-3
Hypothetical number one dealt with the issue of business unit client churn which highlights a very common occurrence in large companies. Perhaps the talent mix of the legal department is relatively static but not the business constituents of the Core Business Units. There is a constant platooning in and out of personalities who make their way through various roles within the company or in some instances leave the company. In other words, the end-user client of legal services in corporate is often not the same person(s) for a sustained period of time. Spinal Tap had 18 drummers (who all died). It is very hard to keep the rhythm going in music, or the corporate legal function, when the driving instrumentalists keeps changing.
This makes integration and engagement as between business unit stakeholders and the servicing legal department a significant challenge. There are structures, rules, processes, workflows, system integrations, platforms, and expected service level agreements to be honored by legal.
The struggle is real my friends.
Hypothetical number two focused on integration of the legal department with outside legal service providers. The hypothetical featured a well treaded real world problem often enunciated by clients.
Our legal service providers simply don’t understand our business and what we care about in terms of risks and outcomes.
This problem stems from lawyers like Michigan’s Ted Nugent Esq. who are not incentivized to actively listen and adapt to their client’s circumstances. They’ve made a great living for a long time through hourly billing which doesn’t drive efficiency and is not a measure of effectiveness. There seems to be significant hearing loss under the traditional law firm model. However, it can pay pretty well.
“The ear’s not too good, especially with background noise, but that’s a small price to pay. Believe me the journey was worth it.” <– actual quote from the Nuge who, despite appearances, did not attend the Legal RnD program at Michigan State University. He invoices guitar solos by the hour, and as a result, can no longer hear his clients ask for help with contract lifecycle management or NDA automation.
Building relationship among internal business clients, corporate counsel and outside counsel, both at individual and team levels, requires an understanding and knowledge regarding core functions, priorities and strategy of the underlying business being serviced. The way that information is gathered, stored, retrieved and exchanged when doing business together is often a mosh pit. The key question is how might we measurably improve engagement and integration with outside law firms?
Both of the above hypotheticals are excellent because they highlight and demonstrate universal yet unsolved problems, just like all great power ballads. Microsoft would not be an exception to these challenges. These little ditties were penned by Bold Duck back at their woodshed studio.
However, it was the third hypothetical that captured the most attention and focus. It was also authored by Microsoft itself – house music! The “How Might We…” question that one typically sees in design contexts was “how might we significantly improve how we share and access information and engage with each other more effectively?”
The fact pattern was a simple articulation of a perennial problem related to the optimization of knowledge capture and retention in a manner that is effective and efficient. The complicating factors for larger departments include geographically dispersed colleagues and increasingly, disparate skill sets and backgrounds representing a mix of technical, business, finance, operations, program and project management in addition to legal professionals.
In supporting business units, it’s little wonder that teams don’t always feel connected or have access to information relevant to their work or points of contact for escalation or subject matter expertise. Even with an abundance of tools, there aren’t always processes for how to apply to work in a way that scales.
There is a decided lack of feeling connected with consistent, coherent experiences that support collaboration and common understanding. This affects the ability to manage for risk across the business, onboard and train new employees and teams, manage outside counsel, and effectively and efficiently respond through frequent reorganizations.
The challenge of addressing “knowledge management” (i.e. the information capture and access) and the “experience management” (i.e. who knows the most about a topic) can be hard for a department of any size and scope, but perhaps more so among the larger departments. The Righteous Brothers have the same problem. It comes down to losing that loving feeling.
Oh, it’s accurate all right, but trying to boil the ocean of such a BHAG in a one day workshop setting would give me stage freight. It certainly calls out for Business Design and perhaps even productized and systematized ways of communicating — but meaningfully addressing this problem in a workshop setting?
At a moment where Josh had briefly left the room (to sign autographs), the groups voted on which hypothetical they were going to tackle at their respective tables.
Most of the room chose hypothetical number three. They obviously understood and actually live with the daily challenge but I was the one with the empathy (for the facilitators). In less capable hands, this had the potential for Design Theatre of Pain.
Real World | Real Challenges | Real Human Consequences
An additional “case study” didn’t need a hypothetical. The immigration group at Microsoft faces some real-world workflow challenges that have material consequences calling out for Business Design Thinking and heaping helpings of (genuine) empathy and human centeredness.
They receive hundreds of thousands of emails per year in respect of the thousands of foreign nationals that work on behalf of the company, all seeking to follow up on their status in relation to work permits, visas and other important processes and documents that ensure that the workers and their families are in compliance.
For reasons that should be obvious, there is a higher than normal anxiety around immigration issues, even in the technology sector, and an enormous amount is riding on this for the humans involved.
That anxiety drives a lot of questions, rational and otherwise, in relation to each respective case. Nobody can be faulted if they continue to chase and navigate around a fear of internal systems of bureaucracy, lost in ‘black hole sun’ emails, digital portals and self help tools. We would all like to look in the eyes of an actual person when seeking responses to questions that greatly matter. The truth is however, you cannot have an in-person meeting for every touchpoint when there are thousands of others to consider. Yet, an exclusively digital approach is not acceptable either.
How to Solve All Wicked Problems
Post-It Notes, Sharpies and Whiteboards
Do you hear that screaming? That’s the rise of Design Thinking evangelists shouting from rooftops and the countervailing forces of Design Skeptics. Seriously, what’s so hard about this? Pick some nice colours for the buttons on the app with snazzy fonts. Design Thinking! Most punk bands don’t know how to play instruments either, but they love to bring the look! At some point though, a little more harmony would be nice.
The history of design is in itself a fascinating topic. Of course, for most of us, it’s the ascendance of Apple and in particular the iPod followed by the iPhone and iPad that brings to mind what it is to have elegant and useful experiences from objects and workflows that we handle each and every day.
When it comes to the legal industry and transformation, is it getting better all the time? Or perhaps it couldn’t get much worse? Are the times a changin’? Is it possible to put any more music references into a single post? Take a chance on me.
From social media bellows of #bringbackboring to #dolesslaw, everyone is a guerrilla marketer these days, each with their own set of raving fanatics and snarkalicious trolls.
Nothing else matters 🤟🏻unless you are the actual decision maker that opens up the wallet and releases precious resources to allow change. Unless leaders with resources lay it on the line, you might not be hitting the right notes and playing them louder does not improve the sound.
We are increasingly over-regulated, over-lawyered, over-processed, over-politicized, and above all, overwrought. While perhaps not ready to fully embrace minimalism, essentialism or monasticism, legal is ready and starting to show willingness to be transformed. Business Design Thinking is the way forward.
Josh gave a brief overview of design and the cradle of that civilization referencing back to Bauhaus.
To my mind, all of these elements are best exemplified through the granddaddy of functional design, Dieter Rams, whose legendary 10 design principles drive towards #lessbutbetter. A fascinating documentary on vimeo demonstrates his profound influence through iconic product designs whilst at Braun. There could be no Jony Ive or Apple magic without having built on the shoulder of this giant who, among other things, gave us the inspiration for the original rotating wheel on the iPhone from a radio developed years earlier. In fact, Braun and Rams influenced a lot of Apple and therefore design writ large and even into Business Design.
Braun T3 pocket radio vs. the iPod
From Bauhaus –> Braun (Dieter Rams) -> Apple (Jony Ive)
The Ipod Wheel was influenced by the Braun
“Legal” Design Thinking Is Not A Thing
In parts of the market, the term “Legal” Design Thinking has slipped into the parlance in a big way. This is such a disservice on so many levels. We don’t need “Legal” Design Thinking as a label any more than you would put the words common sense subsequent to the word “legal”. Wait. Would you really do that?
There is no such thing and frankly no authority to put “legal” in front of any concept which has significantly serviced other parts of the commercial, social, and public sectors for a considerable amount of time with proven results. I’m sorry I can’t help myself, I’ve been handed the mic. It is a label of marketing or heuristic convenience just as “Lean for Legal” or “Legal” Project Management are nonsense in the way that “alternative” is a nonsense way to describe Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
Regrettably, there is very little in the way of bona fides credentialization of “Legal” Design Thinkers.
Self-declaring as a low or no barrier to entry “Legal Designer” is a bit like becoming a “Life Coach” or “Property Stager” or “Punk Rocker” or (self-proclaimed) “Story Teller” or “Thought Leader”. Exciting, fun, possibly beneficial, but without sufficient quality assurance and too many shrill appeals and squeals of normative platitudes rather than empirical results from actions driving outputs that are enthusiastically embraced by those being served.
You really do have to make a difference that is understood by others in order to credibly make the proven claim that life is now better as a result. Screaming about “Creativity!” in overly exuberant digital click funnel drip campaigns is not #lessbutbetter. It’s actually #morebutworse.
Bridge to Chorus | Path To Business Design
Maybe what we really mean is Human Centred Design. That’s got anti-jargon seeping out of its jam jar. If you are a human, good news! You’ve got a shot at understanding this stuff.
If you are going to demand more formal definitions – let’s start with that.
Human-centred Design (HCD) is an approach to developing solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. This holistic approach to solving for humans involves understanding, creating, testing and proposing a new offer to other humans – which is essentially a designed innovation process.
Is that helpful?
Business Design is a way of thinking and working that applies HCD to improving or transforming business activities (aka business innovation). It involves developing an adaptive mindset and designers’ skillset to find, frame and solve business problems. It is learned and practiced through modes of thinking and action, critical to navigating and managing business innovation’s uncertain pathways.
Too many words?
I mean, this is long form content dude. I thought you would be into it. Would it help to fire off some Jae Umismistic emoji’s and a few pictures?
“Legal” Design Thinking = 🐮 💩
Human Centred Design
+ Strategic Design
= Business Design = 🙌🏻
click on images for full view
The idea of Business Design Thinking owes its existence to a collaboration between corporate America and academia. Personally, I’ve loved my interactions and the happy accident of living in Toronto which until recently is where Roger Martin, the Godfather of Business Design, was based via the Rotman School of Business.
Examples of Business Design outcomes in the public domain are plentiful and you can see interesting case studies here.
Business Design Thinking has been ardently embraced and utilized by leading companies including Proctor & Gamble, SAP, GE, AirBnB and others for at least 15 to 20 years. There are also a number of world class innovation and design firms, which are agnostic to specific industry and include IDEO, SyPartners, MAYA Design and Ziba Design.
In legal – we are starting to see a few niche studios pop up, but I think it is wholly unnecessary to be a legal specific designer. At best, it is helpful if you understand the current state of lawyer mindset, but that’s about it in terms of advantage of “Legal” Business Design.
Let’s dispel some of the misconceptions with a hat tip to Capstera for this articulation.
Business Design is NOT:
- purely about UXD (User Experience Design) even though UXD may be an essential component of the overall business design.
- purely about Business Architecture, even though components of business architecture may form the structural basis for the former.
- purely about Strategy, even as strategy is an integral element of business design.
- only about Design Thinking, even though it is a vital toolkit.
So if you want to become a business designer, it actually has a path, but not a straight line necessarily. There is data. There are numbers. There are spreadsheets. An understanding of finance is actually more useful than mere design thinking.
A Business Designer would typically aim to:
- Design a profitable new product, brand, service, or consumer experience
- Develop a new business model or venture
- Identify and develop innovation roadmaps for existing brands
- Create organizational structures, strategic assets, and operating models to help the company drive its own innovation
- Design, lead, and measure experiments to gather feedback to inspire and improve new concepts
Front Stage, Back Stage + Behind the Music
Process Map + Customer Journey Map = Service Blueprint
Lean Into Process Maps
Kim provided some grounding in the fundamentals of lean. To my surprise, the majority of the audience was already literate with most of the concepts. That is indeed the benefit of a larger corporation given the prevalence of lean in the commercial world for several decades. I find I still walk into law firms where these concepts are completely novel which is on one hand a good thing, people are going to learn. On the other hand, they are quite behind and these are cultural changes that take years to become successfully imbued in the cultural DNA.
No one would know this better than Kim who deserves the title of pioneer rock star in legal for the yeoman’s work she did at Seyfarth prior to joining Josh at Bold Duck.
The lean content, as it often does, led to a very lively process mapping session at each of the tables. With most of the room tackling the third hypothetical, I sat in with the outlier group going after the processes related to the immigration process challenge. Given the sensitive nature of the process, it’s not for me to relay their “as is” or “to be” states, but I can comment on the observable benefits of going through the exercise in the workshop.
- The group included the specific team members from various levels in the organization that actually live this day in and day out. It also included a few outside providers, some that are involved and some that are not.
- Overwhelm sets in pretty quickly when you start to consider all of the iterations of “if/then” decision points and of course, waste reveals itself pretty quickly when there are multiple handoffs rather than carriage by singular individuals or small teams for the duration of a lifecycle.
- All of the benefits of process mapping became readily apparent, very quickly and this is the foundation to the broader build of a blueprint for the “future state”.
What service provider would want to miss an opportunity to be part of this exercise which gives a chance for business learning on problems and solutions where you could add value? That’s how you get sticky with your client.
This group built a useable artifact that they’ll be able to leverage for bold change followed by continuous improvement. That goes beyond the workshop and could be the biggest gain. Better than a concert T-Shirt – they’ve go the foundations to make their own music.
The tables then proceeded to review the process maps identifying wastes, but unlike most lean exercises, the inefficiency impacting cycle or process times or completeness is not the only priority. A visual representation often makes the waste jump from the page and this is always an illuminating exercise.
Don’t Stop Believing | Journey Maps
Is the dream really a flow and throughput, with nary a gristle of friction on the machination of the process? Sounds great if you are an engineer. Optimized for perfect Sigma. Automatic and For the People.
But is that really the goal?
It’s actually not because there is the customer to consider and the EXPERIENCE is what pervades as priority.
Think of Starbucks which is a wonder from the process and customer experience perspective whether that is front stage or back stage.
Think about the line-up for coffee and the cavalcade of processing getting the coffee into the hands of the clients, ostensibly as efficiently as possible. The supply chain itself boggles the mind. But Starbucks is also modelled on client experience after the European coffee culture. The standard of writing a person’s name on the cup (often delightfully misspelled) can and sometimes is streamlined to simply be a printout on a label. You would likely find that clients prefer to have the handwritten version, even though it makes for longer wait times. They like to see their name printed, sometimes with little hearts and Jason spelled “Jaissen”.
Starbucks does not want to sell you a cup of coffee to drink. They want you to experience a cup of coffee. Accordingly, they’ve had a focus on Atmosphere, Quality Coffee, Customer Service, and Partner (employee) Satisfaction.
Bold Duck took the workshop through the concept of a Journey Map. If you are looking for a more detailed primer, I recommend this excellent read.
A Journey Map captures primary experiences from the customer point of view which takes place at the front stage of the service experience. In creating a Journey Map, you use customer narratives and data to plot experience over a time period. A proper map will capture what the client does, thinks and feels and the touchpoints and artefacts of their ‘journey’.
In the real world, it takes time and effort and is completed via interviews and mining for insights, patterns and trends. Other data related to the customer experience also informs the map.
Beyond capturing the current experience, journey mapping also helps with design of the future state of the experience.
Typically, a Journey Map is an amalgamated representation of experiences in the aggregate, compiled from customer research and the knowledge of subject-matter experts in the organization.
Journey mapping builds empathy and gives direction regarding areas of the experience to improve or further investigate. Like all maps, it is not the actual territory and is just a representation that guides.
There is nothing “Legal” or “Alternative” about any of this and it can all be applied in a commercial environment as well as others.
Typically you would see a Journey Map tackle the front and back-stage elements, but for the purposes of this workshop, leveraging the process maps is a suitable proxy to evidence the reality of “as is” current state.
Of course, building a proper Journey Map takes more time than can be contained in a few hours at a workshop, but a nice quick hack is to take the process maps and apply emoji’s (sigh—forever in Jae’s sparkly shadow) to those critical moments that are most important to the customer of the process. That is the exact exercise that was applied during the TAF.
In the immigration scenario, it’s those instances where clients can get a clear communication of the status of their case, what is further required to move forward and with a best educated guess, when the process will be completed with the desired result. That may require a dialogue in some instances rather than an electronic exchange inherent with lags and asynchronous communication. It’s a fundamental pillar for the business which impacts talent retention and of course — accessing that talent in the first place.
Taken in that context, while there was a mixed bag of problems being tackled, the exercises were applied the same throughout with similar insights. In most instances, work is likely to continue and projects will be launched.
B Sides and Rarities
A few other exercises of note took place, some as individual tasks with selected read outs to the broader group. Prizes were provided to elicit volunteers. Free software! Just kidding. Cool nerdlinger books. The energy in the room was pretty high, so it wasn’t hard to have people come forward.
As I continue to be permitted to carry my laminated backstage pass, I’ve found that Microsoft is very serious about the concept of psychological safety — meaning people are encouraged to bring ideas forward and speak their minds.
Each participant was asked to complete a worksheet highlighting integration experiences that stand out from the last 3-5 years, either positively or negatively. For example, how were you onboarded into your most recent organization, role or team?
Thinking five years ahead, participants were then asked to predict what would be the one or two new concepts or models regarding integration of new people, teams, or businesses? Will this topic even be a focus, or will it be overlooked?
Fair to say, this will always be a topic of importance, especially as work teams become even more dispersed geographically.
A final question from the perspective of individual participants was to consider the legal industry and suggest the biggest barriers to developing an effective integration experience and suggested approaches to create higher value earlier in the process.
Participants were then asked to consider influences from outside the legal industry which is particularly important considering the lag in relation to other sectors such as financial services and technology companies.
Finally, participants were asked to consider a company that has done a great job of integrating new people into their teams or businesses. Personally, I thought of Netflix and the widespread use of their iconic culture deck which kicked off a major trend. There are now numerous examples. Given that all of these decks are already in the public domain, it serves as an excellent way to level set on expectations for prospective employees, provided the organization is indeed living up to the values set out in the deck.
The participants also went through a “Forcefield” exercise which involves reviewing a number of trigger questions and assigning a numerical score on proposed business problems or ideas which can be seen either as advantages or challenges.
This is akin to an “effort to impact matrix “with the added emphasis on delineating specifically what forces will work in favor of the proposal versus those that will work against. The typical elements that influence this type of analysis include resource availability, time and tools. Equally important are the intangible elements such as culture, current business practices, attitudes and behaviors.
Completing this type of exercise allows for determination as to whether a stated problem has enough support to move forward to solution building, requires refinement, or abandonment. This is also an invitation to develop the strategies required to reduce the impact of the challenges and to strengthen the advantages of moving forward.
Microsoft as Leader of the Pack ?
Just as Bill referenced the Cravath Model of law firms which has stubbornly persisted for decades, with such transparency, one might suggest that perhaps Microsoft is looking to build the Microsoft model of corporate legal function management. But of course, there is always a predecessor as the blues gave us rock and rap and whatever the kids listen to today. I assume its whatever it is that my wife sings in the car.
The DuPont Model has had a tremendous impact on the trajectory of legal operations previously and Microsoft is leaning on .
Microsoft is not at all interested in having their model be the model. This is clearly the case as I found when chatting with Jason Barnwell and Rebecca Benavides.
We are tiny fraction of the legal market. We seek to influence peers and partners to adopt our approaches because we believe it will be better for them, and also better for us because it becomes easier . — Rebecca
Much of what we are doing is built upon the ideas and work of others. And we do know that there are other very large operators who use similar approaches, but do not talk about them. We want to give away our playbook because it is not a competitive advantage for us to hold it close. It has more value when we open source it. – Jason
Rebecca – I would also add that we continue to learn from others and incorporate their approaches into our work. I don’t know that our goal is to influence others so much as it is to develop a community that is engaged in the high-level goals (value, diversity, innovation, tech adoption, etc.), is dedicated to sharing best practices and experiences (good and bad), and is invested in building and experimenting to build better programs, processes, and practices.
Other organizations should probably focus more on adopting the aspirational cultural underpinnings that support our work. Specifically, Growth Mindset, inclusion, and psychological safety. We are still trying to build these for ourselves, but if you get your people and your partners on-board, then the right things will happen because your organization will adapt to challenges and opportunities much, much faster. Our strategy may not work for many organizations because their business needs and resourcing models are different. But the supporting culture should work for any organization that created value for knowledge work.
Our specific law firm engagement strategy builds upon the DuPont model. Their thought leaders were specifically consulted and inform our strategy. I am hesitant to say that there is a “Microsoft” model because we build upon the work of so many others. We employ a hybrid derived from what we learn from academics and practitioners.
To work our company mission statement into this – to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more – this is the empowering part.
That’s a mission worth shooting for, and one to be measured in years to come. Best that its done by (business) design rather than default.
Lights Up, Curtains Down: Take a Bow
In my experience, it’s not easy to keep the crowd bumpin’ at these types of events, but Bold Duck hit the mark. You also want folks to leave with more than a black metal t-shirt and trucker cap.
In terms of next steps for the individual and collective participants of this particular workshop, there’s plenty to work on back at the “desk”. Of course, for the immigration group, they’ve got a tremendous amount of work ahead and a few more tools, frameworks and perspectives to tackle a meaningful challenge which goes right to the heart of the strategic direction of the company. Many of the other groups will also have carry forward items which they can continue to drive.
In respect of the TAF at large, this is clearly something that is worth continuing not just for Microsoft but also for its partners that have been given an extraordinary opportunity to get under the hood of a valued client such that avenues of co-creation abound.
Final word goes to Rebecca…
“It was a fabulous day. I could not have asked for a better session. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that level of engagement here. I feel like people in that room felt like they were part of something beyond the one day training.”
Well done one and all — and thank you you Kim, Josh, Jason and Rebecca for inviting me and Bill for letting me karaoke on his platform. Thanks also to the dear readers for tolerating my Lester Bangs / Hunter S. Thompson style of writing. There is no fear or loathing involved. The TAF is a great engagement approach and important and transformational work is taking place.