Leading change (part 1)

Contract automation and change management. Some people believe that implementing and using the Weagree Wizard requires a change of process. Weagree believes that the advantages of the Wizard are so great that its implementation and use are largely self-propelling. The application outperforms any secretary and is foolproof: truly intuitive and very user-friendly.

Still, there is a truth in the statement, as its success may well depend on the quality of your own model contracts. Also, like any undertaken change in the way you work, the implementation does require care and willingness to speed up.

This blog addresses a few aspects identified by John Kotter to be determinative for a successful change of processes.

John Kotter[1], an undisputed authority in the field of change management and modern leadership, identified eight stages of a successful change of process.

1. Establish a sense of urgency. This first stage of any any change of process project essentially triggers or deteriorates all that follows. If people in an organisation are self-confident (i.e. when complacency levels are high), it will be virtually impossible to drive people out of their comfort zones: no urgency to change. In the current economic circumstances, an increasing number of people will realise that a more effective and efficient way of working has become inevitable. Even in organisations with too much past successes, low performance standards or insufficient feedback from external sources, the capabilities of the Weagree Wizard are so evident and complaints about a legal department’s productivity or response time must have been repeated so often that a consciousness that things must change increases. In legal departments, the pressure to change is most likely present. In law firms, competitive pressure might not be that evident (yet).

2. Creating a guiding coalition. Major changes, such as an improvement of model contracts or the introduction of a contract assembly application such as Weagree’s Wizard, demand support from the highest management level. The more convincingly changes are initiated, the more effective they will be. Upgrading model contracts requires strong commitment and conveyance by the general counsel, whereas the introduction of automated contracts by virtue of the Weagree Wizard (also delegating contract creation work to business lines, albeit subject to legal approval) is something that must be applauded by senior management. Support and applause should be sincere and persistent. To create actual support from in-house counsel for using the model contracts, it may be inevitable to establish a best practice group consisting of leaders from amongst the lawyers. I discussed this already in another blog and collected my suggestions in our book (click hereTen steps…).

3. Developing a vision and strategy. The mere introduction of the Weagree Wizard may well prove to be a great step forward. But to leverage on its capabilities, accelerating contract drafting, may require more than that. A general counsel and senior managers should develop their vision and strategy that may appear to be inherent to the use of document assembly software such as the Weagree Wizard. Such vision and strategy link the company’s (or firm’s) current circumstances to the Wizard’s advantages in terms of business facilitation, time gains resulting from a reduced drafting time (increased productivity) and a much shorter response time of the legal department, reduced business transaction cycles, enhanced compliance and great risk management achievements. They might prioritise these advantages first, in order to create more focus and help making decisions (e.g., if two of the advantages contradict each other). The vision and strategy should help everyone in the organisation to make the right choices in any situation. Without a vision, choices would need to be escalated to the general counsel (or senior manager) and important changes can easily dissolve into mixed and confusing signals and overly time-consuming projects.

Of course, introducing the Wizard is largely self-propelling: it is the living evidence that time savings and many other advantages are achieved easily. A condition, however, could be that the model contracts are of good quality. This is why Weagree, other than almost all its competitors, delivers the Wizard with many model clauses.

Steps 4 to 8 will be discussed in subsequent blogs.

[1]     John P. Kotter is Konosuke Matsushita professor at Harvard Business School and author of the bestseller Leading change.