Yesterday I sat through a brilliant talk at the LMA conference in New Orleans. It was a panel discussion involving Kim Perret (Chief Marketing Officer, Jones Walker), Clinton Gary (Chief Strategy & Business Development Officer, Burr Forman), Mike White (Principal, Edge International) and moderated by Kent Zimmermann, (Principal,Zeughauser Group). The title of the session was "Don't just ride the bus... drive the strategic process." It was enough to peel me away from our stand and to see if I could learn something for Passle and to better understand the legal market.

It was useful to kick off the proceedings with a definition of strategy from Clinton Gary: The strategy is the programme (with a set number of goals, regular benchmarks etc.) to achieve your business vision or desired end state, or how to get from A to B in the best and most effective way possible. 

Of course, 'strategy' is a bit of a buzzword and with Clinton noting that there are over 100,000 search results on Amazon for books with the word 'strategy' in the title, there are clearly thousands of different interpretations of the best way to achieve your business goals. 

What the panel did really well was to highlight the potential pitfalls for the attendees when devising and implementing a strategy, delving into the big problems which crop up time & time: implementation issues, lack of common understanding, time, correct resources allocation etc.

However, the one which really resonated with everyone was problems around communication.  

From the base level of writing down the strategy, distributing it to everyone and, importantly, not having a common vocabulary (so that everyone speaks the same language), there are a huge range of communication issues which can affect any successful strategy implementation.

Kim P. highlighted that these all start with the leadership team and it made me reflect on the role of your senior leaders in being not only the faces of the brand, the rainmakers etc. but to also implement change and lead through their words, as well as actions.

Kim and Kent were keen to emphasise that these should be short & sweet. Nobody wants to read long, elaborate communiqués from their bosses each and every week. Kim said why not communicate the vision in a one page document!

However, because plans change and we all get distracted by the external environment, there is a clear need for leaders to subtly and overtly communicate their views (both of the business environment) and their vision for the firm, so that there is a barometer to guide the behaviours, attitudes and work comportment of the wider organisation. One international firm and leader which lives this to the full is Richard Branson, as my colleague Adam noted a little earlier this year. Another example is Elon Musk who constantly communicates his world vision via Twitter, which guides his employees and gives them a nice reference point for all future activity.

It will be interesting to see how the legal industry takes up this challenge, as they are still relatively new to the world of marketing, but I think the top firms will grab the bull by the horns and leverage bite-size communications (through blogs, videos and tweets) to influence and guide their teams through turbulent times. Watch this space!