“Change isn’t hard. It’s the implementation that’s difficult. Fortunately, I thrive on being a change enabler and creating order from chaos. You can, too.”
BY Tracie Crook, Chief Operating Officer, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
In many organizations where I’ve worked, I am the face of change. Of course, that’s not a face everyone wants to see when they look up from their desks. We all grow accustomed to doing our work in a certain way, and it’s human to resist change, even when it’s for the better. But change and innovation are both inevitable and essential for success.
I think of myself as a ‘Change Enabler,’ a professional who spurs redesign. I create happier, healthier cultures and I build efficient and financially fit organizations. While I thrive on chaos, I’m also a quiet leader: I accomplish change without resorting to stereotypical ‘bull in the boardroom’ behaviour. This leadership style calls for transparency and collaboration—two traits I’ve found are integral in garnering trust and respect from the beginning.
Facing the future head on
When organizations call me, it’s usually because they are looking for a major transformation; they need something radical. That’s what McCarthy Tétrault CEO Marc-André Blanchard wanted, and now after four years of strategic and collaborative work, we’re at the top of our game—leading in best practices; using technology shrewdly; working more efficiently; and delivering value to our clients through innovation.
By operating as transparently as possible, and rewarding early successes, the firm has saved millions of dollars. I am still amazed at the number of times my phone rings with inquiries from other law firms across North America, who want to know how we achieved these massive changes when they haven’t been able to.
My ‘Blueprint for Change’ is a phased and multi-faceted approach
When I begin a new change project, I follow a critical path to ensure success through due diligence, teamwork, communication, and by sticking to the mission. My blueprint for change, put simply, includes:
- Assess the organization’s current state
- Establish a clear vision for the desired state
- Build a strong team to drive change and manage the business on a daily basis
- Create a communications plan that promotes the benefits of change and showcases opportunities to get involved
- Define accountability and hold people responsible
- Accept that perfection will not always occur
- Celebrate successes along the way
Nearly all of the elements in my blueprint require teamwork to succeed, so as a change enabler I build a strong, engaged team and give them the resources and confidence to help bring the change vision to life.
Here are some tips to help you create a culture for change in your own organization:
- Listen. At McCarthy Tétrault I listen to everyone, from the management team to the recent law school graduate or newest assistant. I listen for the sound of co-operation, optimism, and creativity. I track down the grassroots leaders across an organization who will drive change at my side. Just like negativity, positive attitudes go viral, so you need to immediately rally pro-change colleagues to help you spread the word.
- Give opportunities to the right people. I’ve hired people who no one else would because they were willing to learn. I’ve promoted the less experienced over the office veteran, who says, “It cannot be done!” Also, when I go into an organization, I find two or three ‘golden nuggets’—people who have the right vision but haven’t always had the ability to shine, for whatever reason. I work with them to understand pain points, vet ideas, and leverage their expertise.
- Support goes both ways. To earn support in the workplace, you have to give support, too. I go out of my way to improve my team’s experience at work—be it better technology, clear accountability so everyone knows what’s expected of them, and even new chairs, if needed.
Was it easy? Not always.
Implementing change can be complicated, even more so with law firms, which are steeped in tradition. By listening to—and really hearing—how people did their jobs and why, I was able to preserve the quality inherent in McCarthy Tétrault’s legal practice. At the same time, I was able to show our lawyers and staff new ways to use technology, streamline workflow, and develop new best practices to build the law firm of the future.