Mission. Goals. Strategies. Tactics. Part 1: An Introduction.

I’m probably most often thought of as a legal project management guy. Which makes sense since I’ve named my business after my preferred project management toolset.

But for most of the teams I work with, project management turns out to be a relatively small part of the job. Why? Well, for one thing it may not be their primary bottleneck at the moment (although there are solid Lean and Agile techniques to help determine what that bottleneck is and help understand how to fix it).

More often it is because using project management is a Strategy, and specific project management efforts are Tactics, and Strategies and Tactics are of only limited utility unless they are expressed within the context of the team’s Mission and Goals.

I refer to these four areas as “Domains of Activity,” and if you’re going to make any sort of progress with your enterprise (yes, your law practice, but really any human enterprise), you have to understand what they are and how they relate to each other.

I draw them like this:

Domains of Activity_crop

Down the left side of the drawing I’ve put chains. That’s because the Goals have to hang from the Mission, the Strategies have to hang from the Goals, and the Tactics have to hang from the Strategies.

Up the right side I’ve put pillars. That’s because the Tactics have to support the Strategies, the Strategies have to support the Goals, and the Goals have to support the Mission.

When an organization isn’t making progress, or when progress is haphazard, at least 25% of the time it is because the organization itself (and especially its leadership) is unclear about how the things they are doing in one domain relates to the things they are trying to accomplish in the other domains.

The other 75% of the time? It’s because they failing to consider at least one of the domains altogether.

This is especially true at the enterprise level. Your law firm—or the company you work for, or the company you run—ought to have a Mission, needs to have Goals, better have at least one Strategy, and almost certainly is engaged in some Tactics (I don’t have to worry about Tactics—that seems to be where many people are most active).

It works on more granular levels too. Your practice group? Your in-house legal team? The matter you’re working on? If it is going to run well, you need to be considering all of the domains. What’s more, you should also understand how your granular set of answers relates back to the primary domains for your enterprise (or your client).

With this series of posts I’ll examine each of the domains in-turn, I’ll offer some tips for how to craft and express your thinking for each, and I’ll talk about how they relate to each other (and what to do if they don’t).

If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see, or questions you’d like me to answer, please don’t hesitate to reach out while I’m working on the posts themselves.

Or, if you’d like my help getting your domains in order (this is one of those things where an outside perspective can really help crystallize your thinking), please don’t hesitate to start a conversation with me.

Continue on to: MGST Part 2: Articulating your Mission.

Feb 8 Legal Innovation Meetup featuring Tali.

If you’re gonna be in the Portland area on Thursday February 8, I’d love to see you at our Legal Innovation & Technology Meetup. (We’re a division of Legal Hackers, but we have a complicated history with the name 😉 )

We’ll be hearing from at least a couple of the Three Matts behind Tali, a voice-assistant-powered time-tracking tool that integrates with Clio and a growing number of other tools.

Think “Alexa, tell Tali to log .8 hours on the Jones matter.” Bob Ambrogi has a good write-up of the product at his Law Sites Blog, as does Malia Spencer over at the Portland Business Journal.

According to Rick Turoczy at Silicon Florist, Tali just got accepted into the SXSW Accelerator program, so now is a good time to get in on their origin story before they get HUGE!

RSVP over on our Meetup page.

Return to Minimally Viable

Return visitors will notice that this site is substantially stripped down from its previous version. The old version had become something of a Frankenstein’s monster, (or maybe more of a Winchester Mystery House), full of partially implemented features based on incomplete ideas.

Turns out I was violating two of my own maxims:

Instead, I’ve gone back to a Minimum Viable Product approach: What is the most basic thing I can do to accomplish my goals and lay the groundwork for a feedback loop of continuous improvement?

My goals for this site are to:

  • Validate that I exist.
  • Provide a way to contact me.
  • Establish that I know something about the topics I propound.
  • Encourage those lawyers and legal teams who think they might be able to use my help to start a conversation with me.

That’s it. I may add more goals later, and I will likely experiment on new and better ways to accomplish my goals. But I think this simple website satisfies my current goals in at least a minimally viable way.

(And, frankly, I think it does a far better job of it than my old site, for which I paid a fair amount of money and invested a better-than-fair amount of effort. But rather than succumb to the sunk cost fallacy, I’ve decided to scrap it and start fresh. Again. And again.)

Agree? Disagree? Want to know about how to implement a Lean Startup Approach to elements of your own practice? Good. Let’s start that conversation so I can get my feedback loop going.

A call for bold action to address A2J

I’ve been honored to serve as Chair of the Innovations Committee of the Oregon Bar’s Futures Task Force for the past several months. Convened in two parts, a Regulatory Committee and an Innovation Committee, the Bar’s Board of Governors commissioned the Task Force to “Examine how the Oregon State Bar can best protect the public and support lawyers’ professional development in the face of the rapid evolution of the manner in which legal services are obtained and delivered.”

After much work and careful deliberation, the Task Force’s findings and recommendations are in. They call for the Bar to take bold action, both through regulatory reform and improved business practices, to embrace and leverage innovation to address the (growing) access to justice gap as well as to build new and sustainable models for modern legal practice.

I’ll address many of these findings and recommendations in detail in future posts, but a few highlights:Continue reading

An Easy Way to Detect Law Firm BS

Back in my software industry days, our company president (the wonderful Sally Von Bargen) was ahead of her time when it came to a relentless focus on customer experience. Her term: Outrageous Customer Service. She was also fond of pithy management one-liners that, despite their folksy wisdom (or maybe because of it), were highly effective in driving the right kinds of behaviors among her teams.

One that pops into my head quite a bit lately (given my recent experiences with BigLaw) is an elegant little rhyme: Measure what you Treasure. Continue reading

A fresh start to your practice and mine

I know things have been quiet on this site for awhile, and I have a simple explanation—I took a job. And not just any job: in early 2016 I was asked to head up the legal project management and process improvement function for an AmLaw 150 law firm. For a guy who bills himself as an expert in LPM and process improvement, this would probably seem like too good an opportunity to pass up. And it was, although I wasn’t without reservations when I finally said yes.

You see, I have intentionally avoided BigLaw for as long as I’ve been a lawyer. Continue reading

My response to an r/lawyers question about working with staff

I occasionally browse r/lawyers on Reddit for various Legal Ops questions, and the other day I answered this one:

For the past few years, I’ve been an associate at a small 4-attorney firm, my first out of law school. No support staff beyond a receptionist and a bookkeeper, and so I’m very used to doing my own everything.

I’ll be starting at a new firm in a couple weeks, that does actually have support staff–paralegals, an office manager, I’ll actually have a legal assistant to share. The responses in that other thread have made it very clear to me that an enormous amount of the work that I’ve been doing is work typically done by support staff, and so I’m going to have to get into the habit of letting them actually do their jobs in order to do mine. I know a big part of that will be how the new firm uses their support staff, and what the staff’s strengths and weaknesses are, but if anyone’s got any tips on learning how to make this kind of transition, I’d love to hear them.

My response is below.Continue reading

Pitfalls of Lawyer Problem Solving and Eminence-Driven Decision Making

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I see as one of the great shortcomings of the way we lawyers approach problem solving,  i.e. our proud tradition of following the Case Method and tenets like stare decisis and adherence to precedent. These tools all have their benefits, especially in the context of maintaining a consistent set of legal rules for society to govern itself. But for finding solutions outside the context of the courtroom—the kinds of problems we face every day in running a business or developing a practice—the traditional lawyer’s tools are deeply flawed.Continue reading

Did lawyers (unintentionally) sway the election?


The following is a post I made on Facebook shortly after the November 2016 election. It is something of a quick-take, but I think the ideas below—especially:

  1. The correlation between the Access to Justice/Access to Legal Services gap and the general sense that the country is on the wrong track, and
  2. The idea that Access to Justice is an Accessibility Problem, and Accessibility is a Design Problem—

are worth setting forth. I welcome any and all comments and criticisms to these thoughts, and you can see what others have said at the original Facebook link (which I’ve made public). I also hit on some of these topics at the October PDX Legal Hackers Meetup, which you can watch on YouTube.

November 10, 2016

I don’t often mix the professional with the personal on FB, but since so many people are inspired to action this week I’m going to make an exception. Lawyer friends, this is especially for you.Continue reading

Thoughts on Agile for the kCura blog

I did an interview last month for the Relativity Blog from the folks at eDiscovery software provider kCura. If you’ve been following this blog you probably won’t find much that’s new, but it is still nice to see Agile gaining more mainstream traction. And, if you’re a Relativity user, you might be interested in this cool little app from NSerio, a software development agency that helps law firms customize their Relativity instances. It allows you to build a custom Kanban interface to manage your eDiscovery efforts within the tool.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icyXjaMsI0s]