This is a live post form the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) 2010 Conference. This is the opening session, Five Secrets to Put Strategic Unity on the Fast Track, with Jason Jennings presenting. For additional information, see Twitter hashtag #ILTA10

Jason Jennings is a popular business speaker and writer. Jennings interviewed 15 ILTA members asking about the person, the firm, and what challenges the person and firm face. The results of the interviews:
– Getting everyone on the same page
– Changing nature of practices
– Relevance – are law firms like newspapers?
– Price pressure (down)
– Faster turn around times
– Embracing change

Jennings wanted to focus on five things that other companies do to gain strategic unity. Jennings has, in past, studied the fastest companies in the world. Speed has to do with fast thinking, fast acting organizations. Also the most productive companies. Then wrote “think big, act small” about companies that organically grew profit and revenue consistently. Then identified CEOs who created most value. From this research, he has distilled elements of strategic unity.

Found that some of the most successful companies are: Ikea, Smucker’s Jam, Staples, Koch Industries (largest privately held company), Nucorp Stell. From studying companies like this, Jennings has found five principles.

SHARE A COMMON NOBLE PURPOSE. It needs to be big and bold. Inclusive. Attitude more important than aptitude. The thrill of competition and winning is more important than making money. Shared noble purpose provides direction, drives momentum, and builds culture. “The right culture is the ultimate competitive advantage.” (RF note: compare to Peter Senge’s, The Learning Organization, who argues that the only competitive advantage is the ability to learn faster.)

LETTING GO. Most organization cannot let go of yesterday’s breadwinners. Gives example of GM failing to let go of Oldsmobile. They also cannot let go of ego. Example is Jack Welch ego getting in way of writing off original $100mil in Montgomery Ward and instead, trying to save with another $2bil over 10 years. Most organizations cannot let go of conventional wisdom. At most, this means you achieve conventional results. When you work hard to let go, you are better able to deal with change, innovation happens.

EVERYONE KNOWS THE STRATEGY. Tells story of companies that share widely, like Smucker, which gives all employees, shareholders, and partners. Contrasts that to companies that want you to sign NDA before they share strategy. Secret strategies don’t work. Workers don’t become emotionally connected to work when strategy is secret. Corners get cut and illegal things happen when strategy is secret.


STEWARDS. Great leaders see themselves as stewards of the organization. Stewardship means service over short-term self interest, abandoning power over others, preserving natural human resources (meaning do right by your employees). Stewards share information, are accessible, keeps their hands dirty (by spending time with clients), stand for something, get rid of superficial distinctions, make it better, are coaches and mentors, and are called to serve.