2017 Year-End Review: Lessons from Your Mistakes

Your most unhappy customers are

your greatest source of learning.

—Bill Gates


Mistakes are never fun to experience—and even less fun to revisit. However, the most successful people in law (or in any business) know that we have no greater teacher than our failures. As you continue your evaluation of how your law firm did in 2017, it’s time to drill down a bit further—to review the mistakes you jotted down in the previous exercise to see what lessons they can teach you for 2018.

Try the “5 Whys”

One of the most useful and simple tools I’ve found for getting to the root of a problem is the “5 Whys” technique developed by former Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno.

Start with a blank page of paper, and at the top of the page write down one of the three blunders you identified. Then begin asking a series of “Why” questions to get to the root issue. Do this exercise separately for each of the mistakes you listed. (It may take fewer or more than 5 “whys” to get there, but 5 is the average.) Here’s an example:

MISTAKE: We lost our most lucrative client in 2017.

  1. Why? He was dissatisfied with the service he was receiving.
  2. Why was he dissatisfied? We weren’t returning his phone calls in a timely manner.
  3. Why didn’t we return his phone calls? Our team was inundated with other inbound phone calls from a lead generation campaign (ironically, one of our 3 biggest successes).
  4. Why were we inundated? We didn’t have enough staff to field the calls, and we didn’t allocate our current resources appropriately.
  5. Why didn’t we have enough staff? We didn’t plan ahead for the success of our sales strategy.

If this scenario had been real to your law firm (and perhaps it was), can you see how much you can learn from this exercise? The real problem wasn’t about the failure of losing a client—it was about not being prepared for success.

Plan the Course Correction for 2018

Once you’ve gleaned the lessons from your three mistakes or failures, don’t stop there; finish the exercise by writing down what you will do differently in 2018, so you don’t repeat that mistake.

Do this even if the answer seems obvious; the act of writing it down will turn it into a tangible goal.

In most cases, learning from your mistakes will involve implementing smarter, more effective strategies for your law firm. If you need help identifying and executing these strategies, we’re here to help! Give us a call at (888) 207-2869.

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