Legal Technology and Organizational Change (Interesting McKinsey Quarterly Article)

Many law firms and law departments are interested in applying technology to improve law practice. Sometimes, new technology is merely a matter of a bit of back-end technical work and user training. Such changes do not require organizational or behavioral changes. An example of this is switching word processors or document comparison software.

Sometimes, however, gaining the benefit of new technology requires significant change. Firms and department can run into problems when they expect to reap rewards but do not understand this. For example, some firms and departments start a knowledge management initiative expecting that they will be able to capture and re-use valuable expertise and documents without changing lawyers’ behavior. Often, that does not work.

A McKinsey Quarterly article, The Psychology of Change Management (2003, Number 2), provides useful insights into the steps required to change organizational behaviors. Firms that deploy technology that requires behavioral change should consider the lessons presented here. The article points out that is not enough to ask for change. Rather, organizations must take four steps:
(1) persuade people that the change is desirable,
(2) align the reward and recognition systems,
(3) create compelling role models, and
(4) train people in new skills.
For anyone trying to engineer change, this article is worth reading (free registration required).

Separately, an article in Optimize magazine (July 2003) covers some similar ground. The IT Productivity Gap argues that IT pay-offs are only “realized when the IT investment is coupled with new strategies and business and organizational processes.”