Bureaucracy. Who knows more about that than the French?
Much like a woman’s rouge makeup, the French invented red tape.
Not one step in France is taken without first seeking approval from the appropriate committee, paying a few fees, and standing in a long line of très chic but also très surly Frenchmen.
Before even a new word can be formally admitted into the French language, the French language Academy (L’Academie Francaise) must convene and deliberate. Years after its innovation and cultural integration, hashtag has thus become le mot-dièse, although few French youths would recognize any other word than le hashtag (#truestory).
On a grander scale, the French are committed to their bureaucratic ways not just because the word comes from old French, but also because it is ingrained in their national vision.
“There is a difference between the French vision of liberté (as in their revolutionary égalité and fraternité) and our freedom,” explains A. A. Gill in his scathing op-ed in Vanity Fair.
“It’s the liberty to be, and the freedom to do. Freedom you are born with—it comes from the bottom up—but you are given your liberty. It is handed from the top down. So the French system, with its huge state—its committees, academies, and conventions of wise men—is prescriptive for your own good, to protect all the things it deems most important.”
Gill for Vanity Fair doesn’t see much of a solution in the way of changing French attitudes.
“Culture doesn’t arise out of nothing,” Gill writes.
“It is the symptom, the consequence, of all national life. The French political system—and the fatly satisfied ruling class—has stifled and penalized every sort of innovation. Employing anyone is an agony, unemploying them a trauma. The state taxes and flings out streamers of red tape, and a political orthodoxy has driven the wealth and opportunity creators abroad.”
The moral of this story? French entrepreneurs are not in France. They’re in London, New York, or Berlin. Again, the word entrepreneur may originate from France, but its future activities lay abroad. French government has lamented this fact but remains obstinately opposed to changing its business policies to attract start-ups. When it comes to great new talent, culture plays a large role in attracting it.
Culture. It’s crucial to nations and to companies.
It’s something that is created by an environment and people that motivates them to be productive and professionally satisfied. And there are detrimental effects when a culture turns negative.
Leadership. It’s a lifeline. France’s President Hollande knows better than anybody what happens when trust in your leader is lost (after news broke he was having a extra-marital affair, his approval ratings hit rock bottom). A bad reputation overshadows any other important domestic changes you might be trying to make.
Bureaucracy. It’s a double-edged sword. Of course productivity relies on a strict set of systems: hierarchy that inspires professional promotion, incentives, and proper training and oversight create an efficient workplace.
But, when that bureaucracy is what is holding you back, preventing innovation, and stalling growth, it’s time to reevaluate your systems.
Law firms have strong cultures, partnerships, tradition, and bureaucracies. Tradition and history is a source of pride for firms not unlike France’s proud society. Yet, there is something to be said for calling into question the old boy’s club, for giving opportunities to young associates, abandoning outdated internal policies, and adopting new ways of thinking about hiring employees or fees for clients.
As management partners, don’t destroy your firm’s panache. Look into ways your can modernize your business development today, #beforeitstoolate.
Want to find out how to gain that savoir-faire? Take The Center for Competitive Management’s audio course, “Increasing Revenue Per Lawyer: Creating a Healthy Culture of Business Development.”
This webinar will present best practices used by today’s most profitable firms for creating a vibrant culture of business development, including:
- Steps to build client loyalty, manage expectations and generate client referrals
- Identifying and maximize cross-selling opportunities
- How to match your marketing strategy to seniority level
- Making business development a sustainable, ongoing part of your culture