lean principles professional servicesWith a stack of files on your desk and 3 urgent calls gone unanswered, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day of managing a professional services firm. But to achieve process improvement that brings systemic change, we need to invest our leadership focus in the people who run our business everyday.


Inspiring Experts

To succeed in professional services, you surround yourself with experts. This can complicate what leadership looks like, and makes their buy-in absolutely essential.

Change Leaders need to articulate their vision clearly to themselves (don’t skip that part), and then to their team. But what about those who are comfortable just the way things are?

If you try to bully your expert team into change, it will taint the process from the beginning. When you encounter the “but we’ve always done it this way” crowd (often referred to as the old guard), you need to erode the resistance with your vision. Here’s how:

change in professional services



If you’re a quiet leader who likes to keep to yourself, that will need to change. Change Leadership is about building people, and that takes advanced communication skills. If you lack these, but want to become that leader, don’t be ashamed of reaching out to a professional coach or other mentor to help you.

When it comes to communication, office-based business have the advantages of being in close proximity where everyone (usually) starts work and has lunch at about the same times. Take advantage of this and get clear about what communication looks like in a change-driven office:

communication in professional services


Visualize It

Process improvement is about constant definition and measurement. People need to see where change is needed, what change is happening, and how successful change has been. And they need to see it in a glance.

Be transparent with your KPIs for file turnaround time, efficiency, etc. Buy a big whiteboard and track the course of each KPI daily. If a deliverable isn’t on target, there’s a reason. Professional teams need concise constructive feedback when they’re off-base, and be motivated to review processes, sniff out waste, and change the course.

Make the whiteboard democratic. Put it in the centre of the office (not in the boardroom) and provide post-it’s for ideas. Make it the hub of your daily stand-ups and keep it simple.


In professional services, everyone in the organization serves a critical purpose to keep the business running smoothly. When everyone in the firm feels valued and empowered to make an impact, they show up with their best ideas and contributions. Make your team feel like they have a stake in the success of the business, and you’ll be amazed at how much more can be accomplished with the same Lean team.


“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”

 John Maxwell