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Bjarne Tellman's Toolkit for GCs - Ireland Trailblazers

1. Stop Think, Plan

Before you do anything, give yourself some time to think. A general never enters into battle without a plan. Nor should you. Do not underestimate how hard it is to find time to really think things through. As general counsel, you are continually confronted with a daunting number of priorities that require your urgent attention and pull you in different directions. And yet, to succeed, you must separate the daily grind of crises and urgent triage from your longer-term, strategic challenges.

2. Thinking Space

Take time out regularly to focus on the big challenges. Whether ten minutes a day or an hour a week.

3. Identify and Build the Foundation

Analyse and audit your organisation, its risks and risk appetite to identify its core legal and compliance needs and issues. Use this to be the foundation of how you build or re-organise your team.

4. Technology is key but process comes first

In order to make intelligent technology decisions, you must first be clear about what problem you are trying to solve. Too many GCs think about technology before analysing and evaluating the problem.

  1. Before proceeding with an add-on, always ask yourself why you are looking at adding a particular configuration. What is the purpose?
  2. Think long and hard about data you intend to collect or the functionality you are seeking and ask yourself whether it is worth the turbulence and cost. Run a cost-benefit analysis before you proceed.
  3. Simply put, if you do not currently need particular types of customised reports or data, having access to it may not be worth the cost.

5. Culture is fundamental but can be changed or hacked

“Culture hacking” is another way to think of how this constant process of culture improvement works. In the IT context, a “hacker” is someone who is constantly probing software systems, looking for vulnerabilities and a way in to the system. Sometimes the hacker will be iterative, employing frequent but small efforts to identify opportunities. At other times, he may apply a more concentrated burst of organized effort. Similarly, as GC you can borrow this concept to “hack” your legal department culture.

Some simple steps to “hack” your culture:

  1. Form a culture hacking team. A diverse group of no more than 5.
  2. Identify core assumptions in your existing culture. Assess if they are ripe for disruption.
  3. Tease out assumptions through creative thinking: For example, describe the legal team to an non-expert like a small child, what do they do and why etc. What would the team look like if it were halved or doubled? If the CEO shut it down why would that be and who would do the work?

6. The GC and their key hires need to be leaders- its more than just technical skills.

  1. They are constant learners
  2. They are future literate
  3. They have a keen desire and ability to import and export good ideas.
  4. They focus on why.

7. Change is the natural state for an organisation

Change is a constant state and something you need to embrace. But to effect successful change you need to bring people with you. This is not just a rational process but involves emotion. The notion of ‘why’ is critical here.

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