Recently, our team met with the General Counsel of a multinational corporation. Her team was among the many legal teams struggling with a surge in workload amidst the COVID pandemic, and she sought creative ways to handle their increased workload whilst maintaining quality and efficiency. Like other GCs, she faced pressure from the company’s CEO and CFO to reduce headcount, which ruled out adding more people.
The GC shared some of the solutions offered to her by (traditional) consultants. When our turn came to speak, we didn’t bombard the GC with “our answer” and instead, we proposed a different approach: start by listening and, if she did not mind, asking clarifying questions to understand better the challenges she and her team faced, their objectives, and what she and her team wanted to achieve.
As the GC began sharing the background and spelling out her challenges, she gave a small but audible sigh of relief. Our team were listening to her and asking questions - demonstrating both our interest and support. Once the challenges and desired outcomes were clearer to our team (and to the GC), it became much easier to help her and her team find the right solution.
Albert Einstein once said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Humans feel an urge to quickly fix what is broken. The uncertainty of an unresolved problem generates discomfort –a pain that needs to be immediately relieved. Too often, we rush straight to resolution before we have a basic understanding of the problem involved. As a result, we often fail to solve the problem. We may fix a problem but not the problem.
One of our core principles at Elevate -- indeed, our first principle – is “We Care.” This means focusing on listening to our customers’ needs and helping them solve their business problems. And solving customers’ business problems is our “Why”. It is not merely what we do; it is who we are. We are dedicated to the principle of Caring.
“We must become better at asking and do less telling in a culture that overvalues telling” – Edgar H. Schein
Elevate is the Law Company. This differentiates us from companies that seek to spend time “Consulting” and trying to cram customers’ problems into ready-made templates or pre-defined buckets. We have no interest in telling customers that they need to do X because it is what we have done before with other customers, and therefore we know better than the customer. We reject this approach because it fails to help customers truly surmount their challenges. We believe in a more human approach to helping our customers with their problems. We believe in humble solutioning with our customers.
What is “Humble Solutioning”?
When a law department or a law firm approaches us with a challenge they face, we don’t meet with them to show any ‘ready-made answers’.” Instead, we come with an open mind and an open heart. We approach the customer with a curious mindset. We listen, empathize, and ask clarifying questions to understand first and foremost, What is the “Job to Be Done”? What is the customer trying to do, what are they trying to achieve, and – crucially – why?
Across the span of our careers, we have too often seen legal providers and consultants approach a problem with “ready-made” answers from earlier projects. This approach constricts how they frame the problem. Of course, it’s much easier to approach a problem with the proverbial hammer looking for the nail – because we used a hammer last time, this must be yet another nail, and – voila! – we just happen to have a hammer at hand. This approach might help you sell hammers, but it doesn’t help a customer who needs to screw in a screw or smooth out a sharp corner or do something other than hammer in a nail. When we fall in love with our solutions – the tools at hand – we’re likely to miss the real problem our customer is facing, what we call the “Job to be Done.”
Elevate rejects jumping to assumptions or thinking that we know what our customers want without talking to them. Our experience has demonstrated that when we approach customers with humility, curiosity, and empathy, things become clear. By listening carefully and asking clarifying questions, not only do the customer and we better understand the challenges the customer faces, but we together discover the issues, goals, and priorities that the customer hasn’t realized are at the crux of these challenges.
A Case in Point: Contract Lifecycle Management
As an example, looking at CLM solutions, the popular view is that the goal of CLM is to manage contractual documents. However, after spending some time listening to our customers, we have learned that the need is far broader. Organizations are really looking to manage relationships with their employees, their suppliers, and – of course - their customers in an effective and efficient manner. By understanding the ultimate objective for which an organization would like to implement a CLM solution, we and our customer can together select and design the right system and processes. For the customer, this will help streamline implementation, increase adoption across the organization, and allow the customer to extract the most value from the solution (many CLM implementations fail because organizations do not fully grasp that it is not a legal tool but an enterprise tool used across the entire organization). Having a “Job to Done” mindset allows us to obtain the right “solution/problem fit” for the customer.
The Solutioning Process
Only once we have a clear idea of the problem and the customer’s desired outcome do we then, together with the customer, look at Elevate’s toolkit, bring in a multidisciplinary team of experts, and begin designing the right solution with the customer.
Our solutioning process is collaborative and iterative. We don’t design a solution on our own; we work alongside the customer to craft the right solution. While we do so, we continually listen to the customer and modify the proposed solution to ensure it truly solves the customer’s problem. Our experience is that no two solutions are exactly alike; this is no surprise because no two of our customers’ problems are identical.
Elevate’s approach stands in stark contrast to those whose business model consists of selling consulting hours and reselling existing solutions. At Elevate, we are motivated by building relationships and enabling our customers to operate on a higher level. Indeed, that’s why we named the company Elevate. And that’s why we approach problems with “humble solutioning” – so that we design solutions that help customers get to where they want to go as quickly and efficiently as possible. We want to be part of our customers’ journey and help them Get Shi*t Done. That’s our mission.
Elevate's experience has demonstrated that when we approach customers with humility, curiosity, and empathy, things become clear. By listening carefully and asking clarifying questions, not only do the customer and we better understand the challenges the customer faces, but we together discover the issues, goals, and priorities that the customer hasn’t realized are at the crux of these challenges.