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Running a different race

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford

Consensus among professionals can be difficult to achieve but on two issues there is widespread unanimity – the business world in which we operate has fundamentally changed and the pace of change will continue to accelerate as a world emerging slowly from recession intersects with increasingly deregulated professions, new entrants and fierce inter-firm competition.

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Getting over the gain line!

“Other things being equal, the higher your speed the better.” Jim Greenwood, ‘Think Rugby’

The British & Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa brings home the importance of ‘getting over the gain line’ – that imaginary line on the field which marks the point at which the ball is closer to the opposition try line than it was at the start of the move!

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Points of Inflexion

Students of differential calculus would define a point of inflexion as the place at which the tangent crosses the curve itself. Those of us in the commercial world (and less mathematically gifted!) might say that it is a turning point at which a major shift occurs in the business environment. This can have either positive or negative outcomes depending on one’s market position and ability to respond to opportunities and threats. As Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, said it is “an event that changes the way we think and act”.

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Rabbits in headlights?

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself… which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  Franklin D Roosevelt

The words of Franklin D Roosevelt in his inaugural address to Depression-era Americans should resonate with the leaders of 21st century professional services firms as we enter unchartered economic waters. However, the work of social psychologists tells us that what really paralyses people is not simply fear but rather the presence of fear without any action plan to reduce it. The “rabbits in headlights” syndrome!

What are the implications for business leaders and how should they respond to ensure that their firms and their people are fit for whatever the future might bring? This is a time for leadership, clarity of direction and tenacity of purpose. There should be an increased emphasis on the four core areas of analysis, decision making, communication and action rather than the beating of a hasty retreat behind the closed doors of the boardroom. Aspects of each of these central competencies are the focus of this issue of HedsUP! which I hope you will find interesting.

The Themes for 2008

At this time of year I’m often asked for my views on the key themes that will affect firms over the next twelve months. Change will continue at an ever quickening pace with structural reforms and the consolidation of clients, firms and panels adding to the pressures on the leadership team. Also high on the agenda will be the need to build an aligned external / internal brand and the changing nature of the psychological contract between the firm and the Generation Y professional.

The need for clear direction, strong leadership, coherent strategy and a focus on excellent execution has never been greater. These are the key dimensions that will mark out the winners and losers in 2008.

Welcome to Hed2Head, the blog from Hedley Consulting, providing regular, succinct opinion and insight into the fast-changing world of legal services.

For more detail on our work and thinking visit Hedley Consulting’s website.