Engaging Fees Clerks in delivering Chambers improvements   Leave a comment

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 18 months preparing to launch a training course specifically written for Barristers Chambers.  During the research, one of the themes that came up often during discussions with Senior Clerks, Finance Managers, Practice Managers and Chambers Directors alike, was the desire for self sufficiency in problem solving.  Sometimes the driver for this was privacy, sometimes it was economy but often if was pure practicality – there’s very little sector specific support around in the field of cash-flow management.

Many of the people I came into contact with expressed a desire to make improvements to their business but they were concerned about alienating their own people.  Very few of us enjoy being told what to do, especially by someone who doesn’t appear to understand our work.  Many had sent staff on courses that bore little relevance to their workplace.  That got me thinking!

Work commenced on devising a programme that would deliver both the technical and soft skills required to enable the existing in-house team to improve the performance of Chambers themselves.  Transforming the real experts, those who do the job everyday and are only too aware of where things need to be improved, into the providers of practical and cost effective solutions was the aim.

First an electronic Toolkit was devised providing access to the technical ‘best practice’ methods of improving cash-flow, with interactive links to template letters, forms, spreadsheets, calculators and checklists that be downloaded for use in the workplace.  It directs learners to useful resources, saving valuable time and speeding up the learning process so that practical steps can be taken quickly.

Secondly, ways to obtain the support of those who could assist the successful delivery of change; the managers’, who’s involvement, would be crucial if changes were to be implemented.  They need to be involved in objective setting, and progress updates, creating a team atmosphere and increase engagement and buy-in.

Finally ways in which we could ensure that our learners felt equipped to, identify areas where results could be improved, propose solutions, influence change, set out action plans and provide reports on progress, were evaluated.  This required soft skills to be included in the course.

The result was our newly launched programme.  Following the first workshop, tools are provided to enable a ‘Gap analysis’ to be undertaken in Chambers.  This is where the practical task of driving improvement begins.

Our testers have been really enthusiastic about the training methods employed during the workshops, ensuring that the technical subject matter, which you could be forgiven for thinking is not the most exciting, is brought to life through activities and the use of case studies and discussion, rather than the lecture based learning most commonly provided in this sector.  This enables the training to be successfully adapted for evening sessions, when keeping the audience awake after a hard day at work is crucial.

The practical element of the programme has been very well received leading to it being described by some testers as an in-house alternative to consultancy.  “It can’t fail to drive change,” said one of our test pilots, “Once you know how to present proposals and you have the tools to calculate the financial benefit without having to bother anyone else, you can’t wait to get started.”  Another commented on how much more valued Fees Clerks will feel when they can see the changes implemented and how proud they will be about delivering improvements that will benefit all in Chambers.

 

Posted October 12, 2011 by Julie in Training

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