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June 02, 2014 Blog 1 min read
Modern business literature emphasizes the importance of measurements and accountability in business. That’s all well and good—I’d never argue against measuring the right things—but it’s important to be cautious about what we measure. The wrong metrics can drive undesired behaviors just as the right ones can effect positive change. This is often referred to as the law of unintended consequences.

Oftentimes, professional services firms tend to be measured and rewarded by specific profit centers (offices, practices, etc.) versus the firm as a whole. This can create barriers to doing the right thing and focusing on clients/what’s in their best interests.

After we had our first two significant mergers in the late ‘80s, we had a decision to make. Structure the firm like most other firms, or structure our firm as one seamless team. We opted for the latter. We call this idea the “one-firm firm” (borrowed from former Harvard Business School Professor David Maister), and it’s been a significant differentiator for us ever since. This structure not only ensures that our clients are paired with the best expert to suit their needs every time, regardless of geography, but it also promotes innovation and working together. What’s good for the individual is good for the team and the firm as a whole, but most importantly, it’s what’s best for our clients.

We, of course, have our firmwide measurements—bottom-line revenue, top-line growth, realization, etc.—but those allow us to set goals that we can rally around as a firm. They drive the right behaviors—those that result in top-notch client service and deliberate staff development—and for us that’s made all the difference.

How about you? What things does your organization measure? What’s your key differentiator?