A guest post by Sverre Tyrhaug
Background: Sverre Tyrhaug is the Managing Partner of Thommessen, the largest law firm in Norway. He is also one of five individuals from the firm who are currently completing our Certified Legal Project Manager Program®. This is the first of three blog posts based on his answers to essay questions from the program.
A personal plan to improve time management
What I do well now:
- Clear picture/vision on what I want to achieve.
- Using to-do lists (with brain map tool, giving good overview of all tasks)
- Prioritizing and doing one thing at a time
- Spending time to plan the week ahead
- Maintaining “stop doing lists”
- I often ask myself the questions:
- What is the most productive thing I can do right now?
- What is the best use of my time right now?
- Trying to run efficient meetings with clear agendas
- Keeping a clean desk and papers and documents in organized fashion
- Keeping track of time spent, categorized in 15 categories and evaluating it on a monthly basis.
What I could improve:
- Limit unnecessary internal meetings
- Establish routines and business process improvements on repetitive tasks including yearly budgeting, partner performance meetings, strategic review, and salary/bonus assessment
- Limit interruptions (emails, drop-in visitors)
- Block out time in calendar for my own project work
- Ask questions and challenge the way I work:
- What is the value added from this task?
- Is there an easier way to do this?
- What three to five things can I accomplish today/this week/this month that will make a big difference to the bottom line?
- Delegate better and more
- Learn to say no.
Thirteen ways to improve team performance
- Communicate: inform and listen
- Allocate enough time to team building.
- Involve the team early. Present them with the scoping of the matter and the draft work breakdown structure for brainstorming, buy in, commitment, assignment of tasks, and assignment of individuals responsible for each task. Communicate clearly on client goals and scope.
- Communicate “ground rules” for the team early in the process, including respect for each other, productive use of time in meetings, active listening, focus on solutions, and being prepared for meetings.
- Have regular efficient team meetings with clear objectives, an agenda in advance, the right people attending (small to get things done, large to build relationships or brainstorm). Provide minutes with decisions reached and follow up actions.
- Update the work breakdown structure and the planned schedule.
- Watch out for scope creep. Remind the team about the project scope and goals.
- Find out what motivates the team (deadline, challenge/difficulties, bonus)?
- Motivate team members, along the way and at the end. Make each member of the team aware of the importance of their contribution to the team.
- Act as a good example. Be positive and provide feedback. Be available to discuss problems.
- Let people be responsible. Hold them responsible for the result, but do not micro-manage. Be demanding in terms of performance, but provide clear goals and be supportive. Treat the team members as “winners” and part of our unique firm.
- Involve the team members in decisions. Listen to their views, show that you appreciate their input.
- Evaluate, gather feedback and take actions based on the feedback.
How to improve delegation
Delegation is an important part of the business model for a successful law firm. We need to delegate to manage profitability, we need to delegate to train our associates, we need to delegate to keep our associates happy in terms of understanding that they are valued and involved, and we need to delegate to free up time to do business development and other firm building work.
To improve delegation:
- Delegate early in the project. Think delegation immediately. Do not wait!
- Think carefully, from the client’s perspective, on what tasks should be delegated. Delegation is not always efficient, but all or most of our projects have activities that should be delegated.
- Discuss with the client why parts of the project are delegated, and explain why it is in the client’s interest.
- Be a good coach when delegating. Be clear on expectations (e.g. deadlines and feedback) and priorities vs. other projects. Be available to help. Put the activity that is delegated in context. Why is the task important for the project (and what is the project?). Upon a new assignment, provide clear goals and objectives (WHAT). Spend little time on HOW, but ask for their input on how they propose to perform the task (do not dictate how to perform the work in detail), and spend time on WHY (give the task meaning).
- Learn from your experience when delegating. If you are not happy with the result or get a lot of questions from the associate on how to perform the work, think about whether you could be clearer on expectations etc. when delegating.
- Try to delegate entire projects or work-activities as that generally helps the associates’ motivation, commitment and sense of responsibility for the end result.
- If you lack confidence or delegate to new associates, start with delegating smaller tasks and provide structure and guidance.
- Think carefully about the skills required and who to delegate to. Also think about the workload of the people and avoid delegating to someone who is already busy if there are other resources available.
- Evaluate completed assignments and provide feedback. This is an extremely important point, as it is an investment in the associate that will provide the associate the tools and learning to perform even better on the next task delegated.