When People Are The System,
The System Is In Trouble

We’ve all experienced situations where organizations become overly dependent on individuals for getting key things done. We may even have experienced being one of those individuals.

Of course, if one of those individuals suddenly decides to leave, then the organization has to scramble to replace them and find ways of solving the problems that will shortly have no owner.

This may be the typical manifestation of a system that is dependent on people rather than processes, but it is by no means the only one. Let’s look at some of the more common issues, along with approaches to address them.

People Problem: Lack of available talent


In an ideal world, you would staff your trusts and estates practice with only the absolute best talent. But we don’t live in an ideal world — we live in the real one. In a competitive field like law, many factors, ranging from your firm’s location to a top prospect’s salary demands to plain old timing, can limit your staffing options.

Solution: Implement a system that is not talent-dependent


By appropriately systematizing the work you want done, you vastly improve the odds of finding people who can do it. Like a pro sports franchise that builds a winning team with draft picks and a solid development program instead of high-priced free agents, a systematic approach to organizing work can enable less experienced team members to discover their inner rock star while also providing you more hiring flexibility as you grow.

People Problem: The right hand doesn’t know – or care – what the left hand is doing


Two people inadvertently working against each other, like pushing a door from opposite sides, can create an amusing visual. But it’s not so funny if you’re living that reality at your practice. A “system” where each team member develops their own method for getting things done is bad enough — but it’s far worse when one person undoes a colleague’s work simply because it was not done their way. That’s damaging not only to productivity but also to morale.

Solution: Clearly mapped processes


Standardization is the key. Staff members need to understand (and respect) that there is no such thing as their way — there’s only the right way. That’s not to say team members shouldn’t be allowed to have input. In fact, everyone should have the means to suggest improvements and be encouraged to do so. Effective systems and processes capture best practices for everyone to use, while still enabling initiative and innovation to shine.

People Problem: You have cliques, not teams


A “go-to” paralegal or admin can seem like a godsend at a small practice, with just one or two attorneys. But at a larger practice with multiple attorneys, workflow slows and tension rises if every attorney relies on the same “go-to” assistant while others are overlooked or ignored.

Solution: Mix-and-match resource support


Lack of fungible human resources is a significant impediment to efficiency at a trusts and estates practices, as well as a major management headache. The solution takes a delicate touch, requiring a judicious mixing of individuals across their usual team lines as you try to isolate best practices independent of personality. It’s doable if you have the right workflow systems in place. It’s impossible if you don’t.

Are You Sensing a Pattern?


The common thread in addressing all of the challenges outlined above — as well as many others, including managing across multiple offices and time zones — is to systematize your practice so that your people can run the system rather than be the system.

If you would like to discuss how EstateWorks can help you make that life-changing transition, please contact us. It’s what we do.


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