Three tips to get your PARs up (it’s not golf!)

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Talking to professionals about their PARs (Post Assignment Reviews) used to be a quite fleeting experience….usually because few actually did them.  That’s still largely the case today.  Back in the day, some “just didn’t have the time” or – if we are to be fully truthful – the prospect of analysing what happened during a transaction and talking to the client about it was considered well beyond the pale.  After all, who on earth would be daft enough deliberately to open themselves up to such criticism?!

Funnily enough this is not the perception of most clients – they often rate highly those firms (and individuals) who quickly and efficiently rectify mistakes.  However, they also want the confidence to know that it won’t happen again for the next piece of work – PARs provide a great opportunity to ensure that.

To conduct a PAR properly – and really deliver on the benefits of greater client satisfaction, the development of more opportunities to do business, and better efficiency via service improvements – requires more than just a conversation with the client.  For any significant transaction, an effective PAR process starts with internal review of what happened, so that the subsequent client conversation is properly informed and delivers real value for both parties.   That done, here are three tips on how to help this stage work well…and enhance the usefulness of your firm’s PARs.

Team not type (people not paper) Time being of the essence for many of us, there can be a tendency to run the internal PAR as a tick-box exercise.  This is to be avoided.  Getting team members together for a short meeting – supported by a written pre-briefing – delivers real value in terms of the quality and quantity of data gathered.  The lead partner or manager can really drill down into the issues; and the experience itself promotes better team working, communication and co-operation, particularly across different departments and offices to help overcome the ‘silo’ effect.

Be in the know (how)  All of the logical issues should be encompassed in a PAR – measuring performance against specification, how well the assignment was managed, profitability etc. One of the less obvious issues must also be included, because of its wider impact.  Good PARs include the capturing of improvements in know-how and ways of working – for the firm and client. This know-how might be external opinions or documents that have implications beyond the individual client; changes in methodology may also extend to new working practices. For these innovations the focus is as much on communicating relevant improvement recommendations to the firm and sometimes clients at large, as it is to dealing with the one team/client in question.

Ensure follow-up  Capturing knowledge and expertise enhancement is one thing: the successful implementation of actions is the significant other. Each PAR must have a short written report of its outputs, including a summary of recommended action points for individuals. It is the job of the client management team to ensure then that these recommendations are agreed and that they are actioned (this means follow-up – as persistently as necessary!). We have seen too many excellent improvements disappear into the ether for lack of such follow-up.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.