A PSL friend of mine says she most enjoys the practical posts that I write, so here is a practical 3-step guide to improving the knowledge sharing in your firm (without breaking the bank).
Does this sound familiar?
You want to encourage your lawyers to share their knowledge, but it is difficult. They let you down over promised training events and newsletter articles. They fail to share useful knowledge with the wider firm unless you nag. You come at the bottom of their “to-do” list. You understand. They are busy with chargeable work.
What can you do to turn things around?
My MBA research into knowledge-sharing antecedents (downloads at the end) showed that the majority of lawyers were intrinsically motivated to share their knowledge with others, but found that the barriers placed in their way (mostly related to fundamental business structures) were difficult to overcome.
They enjoyed knowledge sharing, but business structures inhibited them.
You probably don’t have enough influence to change the whole structure of your firm, so what can you do?
This isn’t a magic wand, but hopefully this very simple 3-step plan will help you nurture the existing knowledge sharing which is already happening in your firm.
Despite the barriers that exist in all law firms, I bet some of your lawyers still manage to contribute something towards your KM efforts.
Despite these barriers, I bet some lawyers enjoy some aspects of their work so much that they “make time” for additional tasks and fit them in somehow.
If so, then you can build on this. You can show that you understand how they’ve swum against the tide and done more than the average fee earner, that you truly appreciate their efforts and that you’d really like them to continue.
So, a 3 step plan for you:
- Identify who in your team/department/firm, has done any knowledge-sharing (and define this quite widely).
- Given a talk/organised some internal training
- Written an article for your blog or newsletter
- Mentored or taken time to help a junior member of staff
- Given you some material for a database/project
- Given you some helpful feedback about a project you are working on
- Given up some of their time to help you with a project
- Supported your knowledge sharing efforts in some way
I know knowledge sharing should be “just what we do around here” but it usually isn’t, so draw your net widely.
2. Choose one person from the list and think about the kind of person that individual is. Tailor a small token of appreciation to suit them.
A name will probably stand out when you look at that list, for quantity/quality of help.
What do you know about their likes and dislikes? Are they gregarious or quiet? Do they love food or art? Do they like being the centre of many people’s attention or the focus of one person’s attention?
Think of a small token of appreciation that will work for them and give it to them in the way you think will be best for them. You could quietly drop off a chocolate coin/beautiful postcard at their desk. You could name them as an “expert” in your next team meeting or internal news-round. You could recommend them for a particular role or training day.
3. Talk to them about what they enjoyed about those pieces of knowledge-sharing work (and what they don’t like doing and why). Then see if you can push similar work in their direction and limit the rest.
It may be that they have ended up with a particular area of expertise, but enjoy working in a different field. It may be that they have to do a lot of public speaking for their job, but secretly loathe it and love writing articles instead. It may be that they’d make a great informal mentor, but haven’t had the opportunity yet. They may struggle with coming up with a topic for a talk/article/piece for your database, but once tasked with someone else’s topic or half-written article, they’ll enjoy researching it brilliantly or polishing it to a shine. Try to understand them and work with their preferences.
Then return to step 2 and repeat. Try to do this at least once a month, more often if you can. Don’t make it a formal “thing”. Make it authentic.
This plan isn’t about finding the weakest link and giving them all the work, but about finding out what work is a joy rather than a burden to your lawyers/fee earners and trying to ensure that the right work goes to the right people.
Let me know how you get on!
A bit more reading:
- My articles first published in Managing Partner about my research into knowledge sharing antecedents. Part 1 Part 2
- Rewarding your Team from Mindtools – lots of great tips on matching the team member to the token of appreciation
- 5 ideas to… 5 ways to thank contributors to your KM system
Do you want me to come to talk to your KMers or lawyers about my research into knowledge sharing antecedents and how you can improve rates of knowledge sharing? Download my training programme here