We often talk to firms who start out strong using Academy systems and their sequential steps, but over time they unknowingly eliminate important steps in those systems. Here at the Academy, we call this the “drift” effect.
For us, drift means a gradual change in position or a gradual deviation from an original course, model, method, or intention.
If your systems feel like they have drifted a bit, you’re not alone. It’s a very common occurrence. Tenured firms suffer from drift more frequently because those shifts and changes tend to happen over longer stretches of time. Many firms we work with start out by following our steps to the “T” – oh they are great role models! However, over time with staff turnover and lack of training documentation, those intentional systems and steps slowly have a way of being forgotten or eliminated by the well-meaning users of those steps.
What compounds this problem even more is it is sometimes difficult to tell when drifting begins or how long the system has been adrift. Many firms don’t realize it until they are in a serious state of frustration, usually when a marketing effort stops working or a workflow system that ran smoothly before develops inconsistencies and balls begin dropping.
Drifting and missing a step in a system can jeopardize the entire effort. This is because each step in the process, and the accuracy of each step, is intentional and significant. And sometimes sequentially significant.
For example, let’s say you have a 6-step process for sending an offer letter to your in-house mailing list. Step 4 has always been a follow-up call to each letter recipient one week after the mailing. However, someone three or four years back decided to eliminate this step because it saved them an hour’s worth of time. As sensible as that minor decision seemed, eliminating that step can actually have a major impact on the bottom line. That little eliminated step has the potential of actually improving the response rate by 10% – 40% depending on the mailing type.
So before eliminating any steps in a system, it is important to make sure everyone on the team knows and understands why each step is there and the impact each can have. Unfortunately, “minor” modifications and short-cuts are commonplace and many decisions are done without the owner even knowing.
We also do not want to underestimate the importance of planned touchpoints with clients and prospective clients. If key touchpoints are eliminated arbitrarily, you decrease opportunities to reconnect and cultivate those important relationships. It can also impact future business such as referrals, positive online reviews, connections to centers of influence, or private speaking engagements.
As you have probably surmised, we tend to geek out over systems and processes. So much so, we even built in workflow and marketing steps into our law firm management program to help take the guess work out of which steps to do and when. Now, steps can no longer be forgotten or eliminated. We love it!
So take a step back and look at the steps in your systems. How would you rate your systems on a scale of 1 to 10? Are you a 1 – a law firm that drifts along and sometimes follows the same steps each time? Or are you a 10 – where you consistently and predictably follow your steps with every case you work on?
If you feel like your systems are adrift, let us know. We have several law firm audits to help our Member firms identify where drift is happening in key areas of their practices. The audits are a quick and easy way to evaluate each year how well systems are being followed and if any steps have been eliminated or forgotten over time.
Practice Building Consultant
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128