A Framework for Improving Your Law Firm’s Library & Research Function

In this blog post, we share key elements of the rigorous analytical framework we use to help leaders of Library and Research (L&R) functions support their firm’s business priorities:

  • Providing the highest quality professional service and value to clients
  • Identifying business growth opportunities and strengthening specific offices
  • Helping attorneys build/maintain a knowledge edge
  • Increasing the understanding of a client's' business and industry and proactively anticipating risks to clients
  • Reducing the time attorneys spend looking for information and expertise

In these types of engagements, we identify the highest-priority improvements to capabilities -- people, process, technology and data -- that will enable the L&R function to increase the value it provides to the firm.

The effort to systematically improve the L&R function centers on analyzing the health of key processes and activities such as:

  • Providing research and current awareness monitoring support
  • Strategic and operational management of the library function,
  • Subscription resources management
  • Training new attorneys and staff 

First, we gather information about the roles involved in the process, the customer beneficiaries, the outcomes and outputs provided, the IT systems and content sources used, key metrics, specific improvements needed in the next 90 days, prerequisites to making the improvement, who can lead them, how long it will take, and the status of existing process documentation.

We don’t shy away from asking how other functions in the firm are impeding or supporting each activity and whether talent mismatches or capacity shortages are impacting results. And for each L&R activity and process, we ask specific questions, such as:

  • When attorneys and staff submit questions and research requests, does the L&R function respond quickly, accurately, and with depth, providing suggestions that go beyond basic database query results?
  • How easily can attorneys locate experts and obtain comprehensive information about their past performance and relationship with the firm?  
  • How easily can L&R leadership track and analyze data points about the firm’s utilization of paid subscription information products and services?  

Collecting and analyzing this data provides L&R leadership with the basis for a strategic improvement plan. The next step is to determine the criteria to use to prioritize improvements and to weight them. Then, all the improvement opportunities can be given a weighted score, and compared using a weighted ranking matrix, a tool popularized in “The Thinker's Toolkit” by ex-CIA analyst Morgan Jones. In this way, L&R leaders can make smart strategic decisions about where to invest their time and resources in improving the performance of their function and the value it provides to their law firm.

In the next blog post, we’ll discuss profiling companies during new client onboarding.

How to Develop a Successful KM Strategy (Part 3)

How to Develop a Successful KM Strategy (Part 3)

Keys to Successful KM Strategy Implementation

In Part 1 of the Mind-Alliance blog post series on KM strategy we dealt with diagnosing the “as-is” state of KM and uncovering issues that impede productivity. In Part 2, we presented a process for developing a KM strategy. In Part 3, we discuss pillars of successful KM strategy implementation.

A lot is at stake with KM strategy implementation because if projects fail to yield the expected results, executives, managers, and workers may lose faith in the entire KM enterprise. With that in mind, here are some of the pillars of successful KM strategy implementation:

1. Build effective collaboration and accountability between stakeholders

The design, development, beta testing, rollout, and performance management of each KM solution project demands both effective collaboration and accountability among the corporate KM program office, business unit KM managers, senior managers of corporate functions (e.g., marketing, HR, learning, IT), and managers and employees from line businesses.

These stakeholders must all act in concert if KM strategy is to be executed successfully. This then is where significant risk sets in, because the major factor in getting things done and translating a KM strategy into results is the degree to which commitments across functions and business units can be relied upon.

According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review -- “Why Strategy Execution Unravels — and What to Do about It” -- 84% of managers say they can...

How to Develop a Successful KM Strategy (Part 2)

How to Develop a Successful KM Strategy (Part 2)

This Second Part of the post outlines a process for developing a KM and Collaboration Strategy, a Portfolio of Solution Approaches, and an Implementation Plan. 

The first step is to define a vision and set of strategic objectives, informed by the findings from the Phase 1 study of the “as-is” state of KM. This vision often is about why the organization wants to harness the power of better information sharing and collaboration, knowledge management, learning, and innovation. Each organization has a unique perspective about how this will enable it to deliver greater impact through enhanced decision making and organizational performance.

The Seminar

These strategic objectives can be discussed and formulated at a seminar with key stakeholders. Be sure to prepare for such a seminar and to inform the design and implementation of solution approaches by benchmarking and drawing on best practices based on data and a cumulative body of knowledge on what works, under what conditions, why, and how.

A key output from this seminar should be a high-level prioritized portfolio of projects (policies, processes, technology, and training) and solution approaches for addressing the Phase 1 issues and objectives.

Design Delivery, Governance, Accountability and Incentive Structures

The next step is to design delivery, governance, accountability, and incentive structures for projects and approaches. We recommend that each project group involve at least one of the individuals who expressed the issue that the approach is supposed to address. To assist in the planning of each project, we have developed Project Implementation Templates to be used by the approach teams. Each section of the template has specific questions that should be answered about the project regarding goals, issues addressed, assumptions and risks, stakeholders, budget/resources, impact on existing processes/workflow, IT needed, performance metrics, training/learning, change management, dependencies with other projects, and others.

How to Develop a Successful KM Strategy (Part 1)

How to Develop a Successful KM Strategy (Part 1)

NOTE: This is the first post in a three part series, “How to Develop a Successful Knowledge Management Strategy”

Enterprises are increasingly looking for ways to improve information sharing, collaboration, and knowledge management (KM). While the specific reasons vary from industry to industry, common goals include:

  • To enhance the efficiency of strategy development, planning, and operational work processes
  • To streamline the flow of information within the organization and enhance collaboration with external partners
  • To support decision making with better intelligence
  • To focus knowledge resources on addressing planning and execution priorities
  • To retain and reuse institutional knowledge
  • To create a more adaptable workforce and agile organization

Whatever the reasons for a KM and collaboration initiative, we see too many KM teams/functions “rushing in” without first clarifying their strategic objectives, targets, capabilities and needs for support. Furthermore, they do not spend time building a shared understanding of the KM value proposition among the relevant stakeholders.

Leveraging Process Mapping for Emergency Operations Centers

Leveraging Process Mapping for Emergency Operations Centers

Realizing that technology alone can’t solve situational awareness, Common Operating Picture (COP), and operational coordination problems, some Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) are starting initiatives to build their process management maturity. This is a welcome development. Many Emergency Operations Centers have documented processes, but few have a comprehensive process map and an integrated big-picture understanding of how processes fit together across organizations and between partners.

Why define EOC processes?

Agencies have various goals for creating process maps and narratives that explain what they do and how they do it. Common goals include:

  • To understand processes with a greater degree of fidelity so organizations can change or adjust workflows
  • To provide executive crisis decision makers with increased operational and situational awareness
  • To gain access to more/better information to support their own operational decision making
  • To enable an Operations section to generate new written SOC policies and procedures, as well as to validate those already in existence
  • To enhance understanding of how support functions interact and coordinate within the EOC and with their home agencies as they respond to EOC and local requirements
  • To enhance and simplify the emergency management software used to enable smooth process management
  • To improve response and performance in crisis to include better service to local jurisdictions
  • To improve training and performance review, and strengthen accountability for effective information sharing and collaboration
  • To improve knowledge retention and reduce the impact of knowledge loss upon employee turnover

What’s your Knowledge Diffusion Strategy?

What’s your Knowledge Diffusion Strategy?

Many international organizations seeking to contribute solutions to global challenges and policy problems are struggling to disseminate their reports and other “knowledge products.” A recent article in the Washington Post (“The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads”) highlights a situation common to the World Bank. Simply put, it seems like relatively few people are downloading the Bank’s reports.

However, the Washington Post missed an important point: It isn't just external organizations that are missing out on reading World Bank publications. Nearly all large and medium organizations are struggling to find a way to make it easy for their own employees to find and incorporate institutional knowledge into their decision making. This is not for lack of effort.

Organizations like the World Bank take proactive steps to disseminate their knowledge. They publish knowledge products (e.g., project reports, lessons learned, good practices, and learning materials) on search-enabled websites and online communities, mention them in email newsletters to opt-in subscriber lists, announce them on social media sites, and talk about them in webinars and conferences.

Despite these steps, employees still spend hours each day searching for and requesting data, information, expertise, and institutional knowledge that would inform their business decisions and work processes.