Does your in-house team have a Legal Team Plan (LTP)? How do you know if it’s really any good (or whether it totally sucks)? What is best practice in LTP-land? Well, you’re about to find out.
A few years ago, most in-house legal teams that we worked with didn’t have an LTP, or if they did have one, well… they often just weren’t very good. These days most in-house teams do have LTPs, and some of them are great, but many of them are still not really that helpful, some might even say hopeless, or worse, completely de-motivating. We see this even in well-resourced blue chip organisations.
Before we list the top 10 reasons why some LTPs just aren’t adding value, let’s quickly recap – what is an LTP? Like any business plan, the LTP should set out, in writing:
- the team’s purpose (ie, why it exists within the organisational context);
- what the team does, why and for whom;
- what the team doesn’t do (ie, the unimportant stuff);
- “SMART” goals that let the team and the individuals know if they are succeeding; and
- who’s accountable within the team for what parts.
So, why do most LTPs need an overhaul? Here are the big 10:
- They’re too big and complicated. They contain too much information; too many goals, initiatives, and projects that can never be done properly (or at all) amongst business as usual work. They’re overwhelming. TIP: Keep It Simple. The best LTPs are one page with no more than a handful of key initiatives and corresponding goals.
- They’ve got unrealistic goals. Remember to under-promise and over-deliver. They must consider time and resources available to execute. Everything’s finite.
- The team leader or captain isn’t fully committed. They are doing it just for the sake of it and they don’t buy in to why and what the outcomes will be. The leader must be fully committed and understand why a plan, with goals, is critical to success. The alternative is to either just “work hard” or tolerate mediocrity.
- It’s misaligned to the organisation’s and/or the key clients’ strategic plans. The CEO, CFO and other key legal clients should be able to read the plan and love it. They’ll know that legal’s working on the most important things.
- It’s fluffy and rushed. Teams who develop their LTPs in an isolated brainstorm session often fail. The planning process needs to involve a lot of pre-work: info gathering from the team, clients, other stakeholders, and industry benchmarks. It also needs plenty of thinking time, cross-examination and drafts.
- The right people weren’t involved. Those who must execute the plan need to help build it and want to have it.
- Culture and leadership are ignored. Culture and leadership don’t happen on a page. The team must be willing to make the tough decisions to ensure the right individuals are in the right positions and that culture is at the forefront. The right people will advocate for and champion the LTP.
- It’s put on the shelf and no one’s accountable. This is as bad as not writing an LTP at all. If the LTP is going to be an effective, motivating management tool, it must be used and reviewed continually. There must be consequences for not delivering.
- There are no actions. Great looking LTPs on a page are just that, nice to look at. To be effective they need corresponding actions which are tracked regularly in a project plan.
- They ignore reality. Ignoring what actually happens with the team and the clients, and ignoring the reality of the organisation and the market conditions is a big problem. Don’t assume and don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to what the current state is and what the future state probably will be.
By avoiding these pitfalls you can create an effective LTP process and greatly improve the chances for successful implementation of your strategy.
Having a great LTP can help transform the effectiveness and efficiency of an in-house team by providing a concise way to measure performance, assist with keeping the team motivated and working on what’s important. A well-designed LTP can be the difference between a good team and a truly high performing team.
If you’d like help to spruce up your existing LTP, or just don’t know where to start, our legal ops experts can help. Did you know we can also help your in-house team with legal services, legal ops and legal tech? Checkout our website for more details or contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1800 875 735.