(a) Find the bright spots (avoid focusing on problems)
Focus on ‘what works?’. People have a tendency, especially in a change situation, to focus on the negative. An abundance of research supports this negative focus. A tendency of the driver to waste time doing things that achieve nothing; to look at the problems rather than bright spots. Lawyers are very good at that. It leads a driver to ‘analysis paralysis’. Analysing and trying to solve problems is abstract and lacks all direction. When you think of possible problems, you are not usually also thinking about how to solve each of all possible problems (problem-geared thinking is not like a chess-player thinking twenty steps forward). You would better start with your solution for the first problem. To accelerate a change, you need to find the triggers to direct the driver. The question is therefore: what is working? and how can we do more of that?
Ask your ‘successful people’. Look for where things are already working and multiply it. Ask those who do work with contract automation (and find out why). It may well result in the analysis of what needs to be done differently and makes a change easier.
Gerry Sternin was requested to help malnourished children in Vietnam. When he arrived there, poverty was universal, sanitation poor and drinking water not readily available; this may be true but is useless information. Gerry started looking for families that did not have malnourished children and discovered they did a few things differently: their kids were fed more than the usual twice-a-day. They added shrimp and crab to the rice, which most families thought was bad for children, and they were being fed sweet potato greens, which was considered a low-class food. After just copying what those bright-spot families were doing, in six months 65 percent of the children in the village were better nourished than before.
Ask one favour. SWITCH advises to do the first small sign that would have happened if the miracle had occurred (and all your people had changed their way of contract creation). Consider organising a team meeting or sitting with every team member, and go through a Weagree template questionnaire together. Listen to all the feedback and act upon suggestions.
AkzoNobel reversed their release steps. Because contract automation seems such a huge, years-spanning project, lawyers tend to postpone the release of a model contract for automation. As one Director Legal at AkzoNobel realised: “if we continue to work on the perfect Weagree-template, we will never collect the feedback from the business who will use the template ultimately”. Also, such feedback may turn around our ideas about what is perfect. Also, postponing the release of the Weagree-template until ‘perfection’ (with the ‘perfect’ questionnaire), means everyone continues to use the suboptimal contract templates until perfection. So AkzoNobel decided to kick off ‘suboptimal’ and make their Weagree template perfect as they go. What happened? The desired perfecting feedback came in the first days. The business managers of AkzoNobel appear to be concerned about the deliverables of ‘Legal’ in their processes, and gave their feedback to improve. And then? Then the number of signed contracts increased; the quality of each of those contracts was higher than all of the previously ones; the business improved their productivity tremendously; time-to-signature had been reduced structurally; the response time of Legal reduced to zero.
Royal IHC made their lawyers owner-participants. Your team members may postpone their personal start with the Weagree Wizard, because a Weagree template – in their perception – is not yet optimal. But who decides on this? The head of legal of Royal IHC (a major Dutch shipbuilding company) decided to grant two of their senior legal counsel supervision on the whole process, and everyone in the legal department was appointed as the ‘owner’ of a template (including paralegals for certain corporate housekeeping templates). Weagree sent their template insertion lawyer to IHC’s premises for two days and was scheduled to meet with each ‘owner’ to process one or more questionnaires, to assess desired Q&A-options, to optimise Q&A-formulations, and to finalise the Weagree-templates that day. Large part of inconveniences (‘it still does not feel 100 percent sure what comes out of an automated questionnaire’ or ‘there are always tweaks needed’) could be addressed easily: remind every user that the Weagree Wizard has a WYSIWYG editor, allowing to tweak the contract language while answering a Q&A, or converting a fixed test part into the default answer of a text-field-Q&A-question.
Make sure your bright spot is about you. Many legal departments and law firms try change themselves by benchmarking others and borrowing their procedures or practices. The irony of benchmarking is that we are essentially telling organisations to be more like Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance or Linklaters, or to be more like your competitors in the field. People resist when others say “be more like your sister”. The principle of bright spots is that you should not try to be more like a Magic Circle law firm; you should try to be more like yourself at your best moments.
Ask yourself where you are succeeding, or where did you succeed previously? You may exemplify a success of your business as well. By pinpointing those successes, you avoid a ‘not-invented-here’ reaction. A not-invented-here reaction is geared towards justifying why contract automation would not be effective for the person concerned (“it may apply to her, but not to me”).
How to find your bright spots? Note that a bright spot does not have to be a shining success story. Just look for cases where contract automation is working better than others:
- Gather data on your use of contract automation.
- Study the data to find the bright spots (the unusually positive performers).
- Make sure you understand the ‘normal way’ contracts are created (in all detail).
- Next, study the bright spots to see what is happening differently.
- Falsify that what’s happening is not ‘exceptional’ in some way.
- Find a way to reproduce the practices of the bright spots among other people (for example, let your colleagues establish informal working groups).
Don’t look for ‘perfect’, because you may not find it. Look for ‘the best of what’s available’.