Cowen Cafe: Flexing the change muscle

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, 50+ participants joined another Cowen Cafe call, this one sponsored by NightOwl GlobalIntegreon, and CasePoint. Continuing the previous week’s theme, resilient leadership, this discussion focused on what has shifted since last week.

In a dramatic shift, senior leadership is ready – chaffing – to move forward

While the “ruts of comfort run deep”, attendees said they seeing “a real shift from talking to doing”.

Budget talks are back. Plans have been dusted off, or replaced by new ones. The tone of internal discussions has shifted, as one corporate counsel noted, from comparatively passive (“we have talk about leadership”) to decidedly active (“what do we have to do?”).

A corporate legal operations leader said leadership now is way more open to trying new things. They have been doing a lot of fractional resourcing with some of their partners, and are seeing different partners instead of just the usual suspects.

Another corporate participant cautioned, however, that moving forward is not necessarily going to be the case for all providers with everyone they work with. His industry is undergoing extreme cutbacks, leading to a huge amount of uncertainty and a very different “new normal” than others in the meeting were seeing.

One of the provider attendees added that “we are taking bolder steps now”. Tasks that had been on the back burner now are on the front. Another replied that “all of a sudden it seems like the top is not a bottleneck anymore”.

A law firm participant remarked that just in the past week or two he has seen funding buckets unlocking and approvals of new projects skyrocketing, especially for projections involving external services, products, and capabilities.

Where is this coming from?

The law firm participant continued, “we have been in pause for so long that the executive teams recognized that they needed to move forward.”

“Everyone on the team is developing a change muscle”

Corporate legal compliance and operations manager

A corporate attendee opined that this shift may be a positive unintended consequence of COVID-19. “Everyone on on the team,” she commented, “is developing a change muscle”. Having been forced to re-do so much of how we conduct business, starting with working remotely all the time, we have become accustomed to a degree of change that previously we would have found daunting. And, she thought, we have gone further, embracing the change and expecting to continue it even after we come out of the current crises.

A senior consultant from a law firm added that “so much around us is changing, and that makes us more comfortable with making change ourselves, moving forward, and moving forward in a different way”.

“The 12 steps of corporate COVID recovery”

Provider chief revenue officer

An e-discovery provider participant offered a similar take. He felt we are going through “the 12 steps of corporate COVID recovery”. His team had been grieving, trying to find true north, but now they are marching forward. In the past two weeks, the team itself – not just the leadership – has become the driving force, focusing on developing future procedures and figuring out how to support customers better.

An in-house attorney focused on e-discovery added that “the question has been, when will we go back to the normal we knew, and now we know we won’t go back to that old normal; it’s going to be a new normal”.

Another participant commented that we are seeing, across all types of organizations and roles, a new permission to think outside the box – precisely because the status quo is gone. That has moved us to a stage where strategic thinkers are getting buy-in, and hopefully will move us to the next stage, implementation.

“Trying something different is now the safer move”

Provider participant

A participant from another provider chimed in to say that “trying something different is now the safer move”. Now folks can make suggestions that before they would have held back. We can see bolder ways of doing things, doing the differently but better.

You will be replaced

On a final note, with carrots come sticks. The broad sentiment was that those who do not change will be replaced.

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