There’s no question that technology has changed the way lawyers practice law. And, while the ever-expanding universe of apps and software can certainly make the job easier, staying current with the latest technology can feel like an uphill battle – that app you just learned today is already about to become obsolete and you’ll soon have to learn a new one. The short lifespans of today’s technological advancements require firms to adopt new approaches to how they pursue and develop their technology solutions.
Technology exists to make life easier, but struggling to stay up to date can make it feel more like a burden than a blessing. After all, humans are creatures of habit, and having to undergo constant change and learn new technologies can become exhausting. People like what they’re used to, and change is a very personal thing. Therefore, it’s important that firms have proper change management in place in order to control those technology changes and keep employees happy, rather than frustrated.
The Proper Steps for Modern Change Management
The structured process of change management has typically followed Kurt Lewin’s three-phase model, which involved: 1) unfreezing old behaviors; 2) changing those behaviors by introducing new standards; and 3) refreezing behaviors that incorporate the new changes. While these pioneering principles still play a large role in change management today, the wide range of technical changes needed today, the speed at which they need to be implemented, and the wide-ranging effects they can have on the whole organization have left firms in a near-constant state of change and have called for a more modernized approach to change management. Successful change management in the modern era more often follows an adapted approach to John Paul Kotter’s eight-phase modern management agenda.
- Urgency. Keeping up with competitors is a strong driving force for adopting change. The trend toward innovation in the legal industry is such that you need to keep up or risk being left behind.
- Interdisciplinary coalition. You need a diverse and experienced leadership team driving and forcefully implementing change.
- Favor vision over target. As often as technology changes, so will your target. Develop strategies and visions that can be flexible as your target constantly moves.
- Nurture change skills. Fostering openness to new ideas and cultivating the ability to change will help your staff more easily adopt new technologies.
- Trust your staff to change. Change can only successfully happen if you trust your employees enough to transfer the new skills to them and allow them to become effective.
- Celebrate both large and small successes. While major change is certainly important, don’t forget to praise your staff for the short-term successes they achieve along the way.
- Constantly review priorities. Projects that start successfully can still fail at the very end. It’s important to monitor your change even through the late stages.
- Create a culture of change. Because technology is always changing, your corporate culture needs to be one that is prepared to embrace change at all times.
Achieving sustainable change management in the modern era is no small feat. Beyond the traditional unfreeze-change-freeze process, successful change management requires a focused approach that communicates the details and the approach to the change, which is then carefully implemented and monitored. With a systematic agenda, real change management will become a sustainable part of your business over time, even as technology continues to constantly evolve.