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June 2, 2014 Blog 1 min read
Common practice for professional services firms is to measure and reward by specific profit centers, but that can lead to unintended consequences. Learn how our unified approach to organizational structure leads to better client service by encouraging collaboration over competition.

 Team unity

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 distractions from our clients and what’s in their best interests. After Plante Moran went through two significant mergers in the late ‘80s, we had a decision to make. Do we structure our firm like most other professional services firms? Or do we structure it as one seamless team? We opted for the latter.

We call this structure the “one-firm firm” (a term borrowed from former Harvard Business School Professor David Maister), which is a unified approach that prioritizes client service over profits. With the elimination of office-level profit centers, we’ve avoided potentially damaging inter-office competition in favor of firm-wide collaboration. As a result, our clients receive the collective power of our firm and the expertise they need—regardless of location.

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 metrics are there to help us 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?