Over the past few months I have picked my way through Maureen Broderick's new book The Art of Managing Professional Services. A very good book, written by a woman of substance. I love seeing work that is thoughtful, thorough and pertinent. Any PSF leader will find wonderful points and meaty examples in its pages.
Here are two points I found particularly worthy of discussion:
PSFs perpetuate silos. Broderick's Chapter 3 (and one of the book's stated best practices) focuses on People (recruiting, training and evaluating). Great points throughout this section. But like DeLong's book When Professionals Have to Lead, Maister & McKenna's book First Among Equals, and Lorsch & Tierney's book Aligning the Stars, The Art of Managing Professional Services mainly focuses on client-facing practitioners. (The p. 50 example of Booz Allen Hamilton does specifically say "for all staff" — hurray).
But the sad truth is that most PSFs largely invest in recruiting, training and evaluating for only a segment of their people! By definition, in my opinion, these firms are not as well run as they could be. Non client-facing staff in marketing, business development, HR, IT, Finance, and more, are left mostly on their own to become better integrated into the business. And the turn-over figures published by observers like SpencerStuart support this fact.
My just-published research certainly supports my point that too many PSFs have yet to think critically about some of their other critical resources. PSFs actually perpetuate their own silos! The sooner PSFs grasp the competitive advantages of professionally developing — and integrating — their administrative talent, the more competitively effective they will truly be.
Organizational Infrastructure should be much higher on the PSF management agenda. The book's Chapter 10 recounts the relative lack of importance PSF leaders assign to their governance and management decision-making. This issue is huge. I could write a book (and maybe I will!) on the bifurcated decision-making that exists in most PSFs. Broderick rightly points out that "using professional nonbillable support teams" (p. 241) — including adding them onto the firm's executive management committees – is essential for successful governance.
But the traditional partnership model (where equity ownership is offered only to practitioners of the profession) still prevails at most privately held firms. As such, decision-making is too often conducted without the sage advice of those "support" professionals who actually have the expertise and experience to help a PSF grow more effectively.
Thank you Maureen Broderick, for your substantive book!