Saturday, May 26, 2007

End Week Reflections - 26 May 07

Photo: Sydney Morining Herald. Australia in attack against Wales in the Rugby. Australia snatched an undeserved win (29-32) against an understrength Welsh side with a death knell try.

The end of another week. One of the problems with being so busy, apart from all the things that I have yet to do, is that things tend to blur.

In an earlier post this week I said that I was going to do a series of short posts, but then put up one. Just a case of domestics swamping everything else. So I will pick up those items in this post.

Technorati still sucks . However, I have given up on the idea of attacking them on a daily basis until someone in the firm picks the references up simply because time is so short. This blog survives without them, and no doubt will continue to do so.

Great excitement at the end of the week. I actually received my first payment from Google. Only $A131, an average of a bit over $2 per week for every week since I started blogging so I am hardly getting rich, but exciting never the less. I wonder how I should spend it!

On the professional front, one of the most interesting things this week was the stock exchange listing of the Melbourne law firm Slater and Gordon. Legal Eagle had an interesting post on this written from the perspective of the lawyer.

I put up a short post more as a holding device while I prepared a longer post only to lose the longer post in a crash. I had been so busy writing that I failed to save or realise that the auto save facility was not working. Very frustrating.

I have been writing on the progressive corporatisation process in professional services for two decades, about the process in law since 2000.

I still find it very odd that so many senior people in the legal profession cannot see the commercial reasons driving the process. Why odd? Two reasons.

First, the process has been going on for a long time. We have seen it previously in other areas including telecommunications, medicine, education and accounting. It may seem hard to believe now, but back last century in the mid 1980s there were many who struggled to see how telecommunications services might become a traded commodity.

A key feature in all these cases has been the presence of regulatory frameworks that have essentially frozen industry structures and cultures, creating new business opportunities as those frameworks change.

Second, the commercial reasons for the process are really quite simple, not difficult to understand.

In the case of law, for example, complaints about the way partners and partnerships operate are common. Bluntly, they are often not very efficient in business terms. Even the famed effectiveness of some firms in squeezing the last billable hour out of junior staff is not necessarily sensible in looking at the longer term profitability of the firm as a business.

It is true that some of the most common inefficiencies have been squeezed out of the system, so that it is no longer as easy as a consultant to go into a firm and get some quick positive results through process improvement. The inefficiencies that remain are more cultural and structural and therefore harder to fix. But they remain very significant.

There is a linkage between all this and some of my other common preoccupations.

A little later

Just back from the Saturday hockey run. The other team was very good, but our girls held them only to see a break away at the end. It's not easy being goalie. Clare saved far more than she let in, but its always the final score that counts. Back to the main theme.

I have always been interested in change and have done a fair bit as a change agent. I have also done a lot as a futurist and social commentator. In both roles I look for patterns and trends, because this is essential if you are going to either interpret or change things.

Here I face an increasing problem. On my blogs I can write as I like. The only real constraint is time. When writing or advising professionally I have to present what I do in a cultural context set by the intended audience.

My personal approach is reflective. I am interested in ideas. I also advise within a frame set by my experience as well as my previous research. My problem is that there is a growing gap between my approach and on-ground realities with their ad hoc, short term, simplified and atomistic focus. This reduces the real value of my advice.

The problem is partly one of language. Language - both words used and the meaning attached to words - shifts all the time and also varies in usage from area to area. I may hate some current usages - outcomes is one example, key performance indicators a second - but if the organisation uses them, then I often have too as well.

A more complicated problem arises where the intellectual constructs underpinning my advice diverge from those in use in the organisation. I had actually written an example here, but then deleted it because I think the issue deserves more thought before discussing it in public.

Much Later - in fact Sunday Morning 27 May

Last night I had the mixed pleasure of watching the Australia play Wales in the Rugby. After a very disappointing Super 14 for the Australian teams, the wobbly Wallabies are really going to have to improve enormously if we are to have any chance in the World Cup.

Enough. I am going to finish this post here.

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