Summary of When Professionals Have to Lead

A New Model for High Performance

Harvard Business Review Press, more...

When Professionals Have to Lead
An insightful guide to managing professional-service firms through changing times.

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8 Applicability

8 Innovation

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Harvard professors Thomas J. DeLong and John J. Gabarro and professional services consultant Robert J. Lees offer a straightforward exposition of the threats professional services firms face today. They detail the steps companies should take to meet current marketplace demands. In this thorough examination, the authors first focus on the transitions occurring in the professional services industry. Some firms have become publicly traded corporations with responsibilities to shareholders. Others struggle to find and retain talent or to maintain harmonious relationships among partners. The Internet and inroads from larger product-oriented corporations erode personal client relationships. Some smaller firms look to corporate models for guidance on reorganization, though services firm leaders often handle a great deal more direct client contact. These firms need a new model, so DeLong, Gabarro and Lees sketch its outlines. Their approach focuses on setting strategy – a task services firms often neglect – and aligning associates and new hires with a long-term vision. Leaders should be accountable and should exemplify the firm’s best practices.
Previously, firms developing a strategy worked with three defined areas of segmentation: efficiency, experience and expertise. The authors offer viable new ways for firms to define themselves in an increasingly commoditized industry. Service sector professionals are high achievers; they need feedback and mentoring to stay motivated and on track. Too often firms focus only on their highest and lowest performers without helping middle-tier talent advance. In an industry once driven by family firms and local loyalties, the responsibilities of service managers changed as the market shifted. Although managers at large corporate services firms are probably already familiar with this strategy-focused approach, getAbstract strongly recommends it to all service industry professionals, even those without leadership responsibility.


Professional-Service Firms: What Is Distinctive?
The professional-service business is in transition, and traditional ways of managing professional-service firms are becoming obsolete. The close, familial relationships professionals in these firms traditionally have shared are becoming ...
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About the Authors

Thomas J. DeLong is the Philip J. Stomberg Professor of Management Practice in organizational behavior at the Harvard Business School, where John J. Gabarro is the Baker Foundation Professor. Robert J. Lees is a consultant to leaders of professional-service firms.

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