The esteemed panel of Murray Coffey (Haynes and Boone), Doreen Fiorelli (Becker & Poliakoff), Ashraf Lakhani (Porter Hedges), David McClune (Hogan Lovells) and Michael Mellor (Pryor Cashman) hosted by Deborah Farone shared both failures and successes of launching a new practice group.

A common theme was the importance of building and managing the culture of the new practice within the firm. As David McClune reminded us culture eats strategy for breakfast and therefore the people element is vital.  If you do plan to launch your practice group, David and Ashraf Lakahani agreed that KPIs are vital to measure success which also aligns with Michael Mellor's comment that everyone needs to understand the why

Combining these thoughts it would make sense to look to deploy a commitment culture. The commitment culture was highlighted in a Stanford study by Baron & Hannan and it looks ro build an emotional tie between organisation and employee. Out of the 5 cultures they found it is least likely to fail and interestingly retention is at its highest in these organisations too. 

It struck me that a number of the comments by the audience and panel aligned with the 5 key areas of focus to achieve a commitment culture and could be considered when launching a new practice group:

  • Big Picture - your team needs to have a really clear sense of why they do what they do
  • Arc of Change - list the benefits of the change you’re looking to implement, brainstorm all of the potential problems you’re likely to face, list all the ways the team can manage those potential problems.
  • Recurring Systems - provide evidence-based, relevant and ongoing feedback
  • Cultural Architects - as people follow what people do it is important that the leaders portray and demonstrate alignment with the cultural behaviours
  • Authentic Leadership - leaders only have about 10% influence on performance and it is crucial this is maximised 

There was some discussion around the warning of lateral hires during the discussion and I think that taking some advice from Warren Buffet on recruiting  will help "look for integrity, energy and intelligence, but never recruit anyone with just the last two; they’ll kill [your culture]. A leader without integrity is not a leader."