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Legal Practice: The Suggestion Box

For many years Toyota ran with the slogan: “Good Thinking, Good Products”. This programme evolved into the Kaisen principle, which has now been taken up by many other businesses and, indeed, is credited with the success of the GB track cycling team.

I understand that Toyota still maintains a staff suggestion box and that has lead to continued innovation, and kept Toyota ahead of the competition. I appreciate they have had their travails recently, but that would be missing the point.

The suggestion box is something that should be adopted in any forward-thinking, innovative professional practice – anonymous or otherwise. Or a system where comments and suggestions are encouraged, welcomed and acted on. I don’t just mean the nod and acknowledgement approach but acceptance that sometimes management may not have all the answers or solutions to a particular problem.

Without telling tales (not my style), it was made clear when I was in professional practice that if I wanted to progress my career that I needed to keep my ideas in check until I had made partnership. Fair enough but if I was running a business – oh sorry I forgot I am running my own show now – and someone was prepared to show a modicum of interest in my business, I would embrace it with open arms: “Tell me more” would be my immediate reaction. Surely anybody who was that motivated and in my case passionate about the provision of excellence in legal services deserved a hearing?

This wasn’t so much an invective – it could easily have become that – but more a “Please do this and it will make you the best darn law firm in these parts” statement. Trouble was it didn’t fit with the management thinking. “We run the show.”

Now I understand the need to try and maintain a clear line to the top, particularly for those people that are driven on by titles and status but for most people imposing quiescence is just a recipe for disengagement and demotivation.

I never made a comment because I wanted to be rewarded or make myself look better than anyone else. My driver, pure and simple, was to deliver the best client experience that was humanly possible and if something was getting in my way, then I felt it was my duty to unearth the moribund practice and break down the barriers to engagement or whatever the problem was.

Now I know one blog is not going to cut through the level of disengagement that pervades professional practice but I would implore you to give the suggestion box or any other medium that gives the ‘floor’ a voice a whirl. You never know someone might just come up with an idea that makes your practice stand out in a crowded market and makes you different. Blandness rules currently so any colour has to be a good thing.

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