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  • Writer's pictureColin McArdle

A life in units (Part 3): Too busy for help = too busy for change – Driving change in services

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

Albert Einstein has been credited with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. In professional services, we often hear complaints about work and capacity issues, the common problems being: ‘workload v working hours available in the day’ and ‘fee estimates v time write off’. In this article we consider why the same old issues arise, month after month and year after year and what can be done to break this cycle.

Many fee earners are involved in setting their own fee estimates and deadlines. Therefore, why are they stretched and why do fee write offs occur? The answer to the question lies in the availability of the correct capacity planning and pricing ‘tools’ to undertake the tasks correctly.

Creating these tools takes time and investment though and hence, this is often where projects stop, with fee earners being “too busy” with their day job to participate in the change process. Alternatively, projects also falter where ‘ground level buy in’ is lacking in the process, with fee earners not believing it’s relevant to them. Without even trying, the cycle of issues then continues for fee earners, effectively stifling opportunities for development and growth.

The question on everyone’s lips being: how can techniques successfully implemented in other industries as far removed from professional services as agriculture, retail or automotive, be relevant to solving their problems?

So, how do you break the cycle, create capacity within the working day and reduce time write off? First and foremost, you need the support of the team. Nothing will improve if fee earners ‘place their heads in the sand’ and resist change.

As we have discussed in previous articles, the time records are only part of the picture and capacity creation cannot be a paperwork exercise. Organisations need to work with their teams to educate and obtain buy-in. From an invested start they can then explore and understand what fee-earners days truly look like and the bandwidth of process times.

Even in professional services, standard activity times can be accurately mapped and planned to provide true resourcing forecasts and on-point pricing structures. In this way, work can be accurately planned within the working day and fee write-offs forgotten – the cycle can be broken!

For the fee earner work life balance can be achieved and their targets can be hit. For the firm, revenue can be improved, capacity can be created, and new work can be taken on. Win = Win. This will only come about though if the team are prepared to support and invest their efforts in the future. After all, if their heads are in the sand, they won’t see the new opportunities on the horizon! Is your organisation ready to embrace the change?


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