Plunkett cooney law firm culture change and pi

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  • 1. Case StudyPlunkett CooneyMichigan, Ohio and IndianaPredictive Index® Helps Tradition-Steeped Culture EmbraceChange, Build Strong Teams and Enhance CommunicationABOUT FIRM:Established in 1913, Plunkett Cooney is one of the largest and most accomplished litigation and trial firms in theMidwest. Today, the practice consists of more than 165 lawyers across a network of eleven offices throughout Michigan,and one each in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana.CHALLENGES: “The Predictive Index is a competitivePlunkett Cooney believes the secret to its decades of success is its people. advantage for us. I believe it differentiatesWith teams of professionals and support staff working side by side us in the market because it has createdand across geographic boundaries, CEO Hank Cooney recognized the a common language and brought peopleimportance of cultivating an environment that empowers employees across closer together to do good work.”job functions to work cohesively in delivering exceptional client service. Denise Boucke, Director of HR,To support this vision, Cooney wanted to gain a deeper understanding of Plunkett Cooneyemployees’ personalities at the individual and team levels.During this time, Plunkett Cooney was also preparing to implement acorporate-wide technology initiative that would introduce new tools and processes into the organization to improve theway information and documents are created, shared and stored. Recognizing this change could potentially challenge theorganization’s productivity and overall culture, Plunkett Cooney now needed to understand the organizational impact ofemployees’ innate behaviors during a time of change. As a result, Plunkett Cooney turned the Predictive Index® (PI®)behavioral assessment tool from PI Worldwide to identify the motivations and drives of their people at the individual,team and organizational levels.PROCESS:Working with PI Worldwide Member firm ADVISA, Plunkett Cooney’s CEO joined the Director of Human ResourcesDenise Boucke, the Chief Financial Administration Officer and four department heads in a Predictive IndexManagement™ Workshop to learn how to expertly interpret individual PI results and employ the companion jobanalytics tool, the PRO, to define the behavioral requirements for various job functions.By looking at a PI and a job PRO, a manager could clearly see the fits and gaps between the individual and the position.Boucke immediately recognized the value this would bring to their recruitment and selection efforts. Moreover, the PIwould allow existing employees to gain greater awareness of themselves and their peers within the same and differentjob functions. Subsequently, Plunkett Cooney invited the entire firm to complete the PI assessment. Boucke encounteredsome initial skepticism from a few of the attorneys but she says, “After [the attorneys] got their PI feedback, everyonewas blown away by the accuracy. They said things like, ‘it’s right on – this is so me’.”Looking at the initial results, Boucke noticed distinctive differences in PIs between attorneys and legal secretaries—the two largest employee populations that worked very closely together. According to Boucke, the PI patterns forattorneys and legal secretaries looked fundamentally opposite from each other. Attorneys showed to have very highlevels of dominance and extraversion, and low levels of patience. Legal secretaries tended to be more team-oriented andcollaborative with lower levels of extraversion but high levels of patience.
  • 2. Next, attorneys met one-on-one with their administrative counterparts to discuss their PIs— the differences, similaritiesand how these behaviors manifest in the workplace. For many, this was an eye-opening exercise. In addition to increasingself-awareness, employees reported that the process helped stimulate important discussions. Boucke adds, “Using thePI, we were able to really breakdown, identify and articulate what behaviors were contributing to discord or potentialpersonality conflicts. In this way, PI helped to guide our strategic personnel initiatives beyond just hiring.”For example, Boucke describes when building attorney-admin teams, Plunkett Cooney paid particular attention to the“patience” drive for each employee, recognizing that having an attorney with low levels of patience teamed with a highlypatient admin yielded the most successful relationship. Boucke explains, “The attorneys are jugglers. They are managingseveral things at the same time and really thrive in that type of environment and pace. So when we are staffing a legalsecretary role, we need that person to operate with structure, stability and patience to help provide that balance.” Bouckeadds that on a few occasions when attorneys and legal secretaries with similar PIs were grouped together, the relationshipwere more difficult.Today, if conflicts do arise, Boucke turns to the Predictive Index, She says, “If an attorney and legal secretary are startingto have communication issues, one of our first questions is, ‘Have you reviewed your PIs? Have you talked abouthow you’re communicating, how the other person is communicating and what they may need?’” Boucke and her teamencourage and abide by the motto: Manage to the needs of the other PI.Managing Change in a Risk-Averse EnvironmentAccording to the PI, the one common behavioral trait of all employees across the organization, regardless of position, wasthe need for structure and rules. “This characteristic is probably what drives people to the legal industry, and certainlyan important trait for all employees to possess in our business given that there is a lot of information, formality andregulation,” Boucke said. Accordingly, management began to apply this information to how they introduced new conceptsand strategic initiatives. Boucke says, “Knowing that most of our population is risk-averse and needs a lot of informationto be comfortable, we had to rethink how we communicate, train and even lead within the organization.” Part of thisinvolved taking a deeper look at the processes these behaviors were driving.Traditionally, people in the legal field rely heavily on paper—hard copy documents, multiple print outs, duplicateversions, etc. This paper-heavy approach was not only bad for the environment, but it was also disrupting productivityas documents were being stored in multiple locations, inboxes were becoming jammed and cabinets were overflowing.Boucke explains, “Attorneys are so paper intensive. They’re used to printing everyone and having it in hard copy. As theywork in teams, they would have three or four copies of that file. By creating an electronic version, employees could haveaccess to the document anywhere, regardless of what office they were in or how many people were working in the file.”As a result, management decided to go “paperlite” by upgrading and integrating systems from email to documentmanagement to time-tracking systems with the goal of making communication and collaboration more seamless. Thetechnology initiative aimed “to limit clicks, further customer service and go paperlite.”As part of this strategic initiative, the program would introduce new tools and processes to upgrade the firm’s data anddocument management systems, making documents easier to find, share and secure while freeing up valuable space, andsupporting the environment. To accomplish this ambitious overhaul, management needed employees to understand theprogram benefits and cooperate with new rules and deadlines—a change that, as the Predictive Index revealed, contrastedwith the natural tendencies of most people in the organization.
  • 3. To introduce, prepare and transition employees effectively during this time, Plunkett Cooney used the PI to learnhow employees comprehend information during times of change. Boucke explains, “This program was really aboutunderstanding how people work, changing some behaviors to better address client service issues and operate as theinnovative firm that we really are.” Plunkett Cooney and ADVISA had employees participate in “change” scenarios todetermine if their responses (i.e. the way they process information) were socially-motivated or task-driven. Identifyingthese distinct audiences through the use of the PI reinforced for Boucke and the senior team that a “one size fits all”approach would not work. Instead, the firm established two groups:1. “Social-Focused” group: Employees who learn by engaging with others in discussions, like to feel a part of the change and are more focused on the impact the change has on the people and relationships than on processes.2. “Task-Focused” group: Employees who want all the information up front so they can sort through it at their own pace. They tend to be more focused on the bigger picture impact of a change.Boucke explains that this brought the firm’s use of the PI to the next level in terms of helping employees better understandhow they interact with each other amidst change and how they can work together even if their approaches are different.She says, “If you’re a social-focused person and you’re interacting with someone who is task-oriented during a time whenwe’ve introduced change, you may feel like you are operating outside of your comfort zone. The PI helped our employeesunderstand themselves and each other so they could work better together to get things done.”Next, the firm held a meeting to share the project calendar and important dates, being sure to provide as much informationup front as possible. They introduced a survey to gauge individual insight and asked for volunteers to try out some of thetechnical projects for a hands-on experience. This was a significant request given that many of these activities would beoutside employee comfort zones. Boucke recalls, “When we asked for volunteers, the response was far greater than wehad imagined. It made us more confident that the employee community was on board with this.”Plunkett Cooney created small work groups based on common PIs and mixed positions to “pilot” the various technologyinitiatives before a firm-wide roll out. Some of these groups were broken down further by practice as the PI revealed thatbehaviors could vary significantly within the attorney population based on their area of legal expertise. For instance, agroup of litigation attorneys and a group of banking attorneys both piloted the new initiative for tracking work hours.Boucke notes, “It was fascinating that from a PI perspective, the litigator profile is different than the transactional bankingprofile. This realization has been a highlight for us because when you put all the litigators together and they talk abouthow they work, it’s a completely different dynamic compared to putting a group of banking people together.” Bouckedescribes how litigators tend to evaluate a situation in real-time and after identifying the shortcomings they dive right into the task at hand. Banking professionals on the other hand, would have reviewed all available material in advance of themeeting and entered the situation with a set plan to follow closely.RESULTS:Since implementing the Predictive Index System to support their strategic initiatives, Plunkett Cooney has continued withthe working group concept, shifting the focus of the groups to be on sharing ideas to improve workplace practices evenfurther. Boucke says, “PI has changed how we work. We’d like to continue the working group concept and a lot of thethings that we rolled out now, into the future.”
  • 4. The firm has also instituted a “Great Place to Work” program to continue boosting employee engagement. Bouckeexplains, “The program has brought the focus back on our people and the idea that it is the employees who makethe organization a great place to work. Bringing the Predictive Index into this program has really demonstrated to theemployees that the agenda is theirs to drive, not that of management. As a result, they feel they have a stake in theactivities and want to drive the process.”Plunkett Cooney has also been publicly recognized for their people practices through local awards including the Best andBrightest Companies to Work for in Metro Detroit Area for the sixth year in a row, and as a Top Workplace by The DetroitFree Press based on an anonymous employee survey. Compared to past years employees have overwhelmingly agreedwith the following statements about Plunkett Cooney: • “I feel well informed about important decisions at this organization.” • “At this organization, we do things efficiently and well” • “I get the formal training I want for my career” • “I have many opportunities to learn and grow at this organization“Boucke adds, “We have improved in all of these areas as a result of our Predictive Index training firm wide and ourfocus on specific initiatives like providing more information and communication.” She adds, “The Predictive Index is acompetitive advantage for us. I believe it differentiates us in the market because it has created a common language andbrought people closer together to do good work.”Plunkett Cooney achieved all their technology goals in a timely manner, improving workflow and enhancing thecollaborative nature that is at the core of the firm’s values. Boucke and her team attribute much of this success to the factthat the PI helped them establish a process in line with the innate needs and behaviors of their people.Having set a strong foundation for future success using behavioral science, Plunkett Cooney plans to continue leveragingthe Predictive Index to support many more initiatives like leadership and professional development trainings, deeperdives into practice group behaviors and even identifying internal leaders to drive business development. Date 06/2012, CS227PI Worldwide® is a global management consulting organization that helps companies be more successful by focusing on their most important asset-their people.Praendex Incorporated, the parent company of PI Worldwide, is publisher of the Predictive Index®, the Selling Skills Assessment Tool™ and Customer-FocusedSelling™. © 1998, Praendex Inc., doing business as PI Worldwide. All rights reserved.