Arrogance: Check your Culture

The recent publication by the Law Society of the summary of multiple failings that contributed to the demise of the Veyo project as reported in Legal Futures is commendable. Whilst the full report has not been released due to commercial sensitivity, the fact that an external review was undertaken as well as the publication of some information is a positive sign of good leadership by the Law Society.

However, despite the multiple failings listed as reported in Legal Futures, I was still curious as to whether these were the primary reasons or perhaps the symptoms of a deeper problem. It is unusual to have that many failings without a corresponding overriding primary driver of those issues.

In the absence of the full report, I am left to deduce or perhaps more accurately to guess by reading between the lines as to the likely primary cause of the failings and my assessment of the multiple failings listed leads me to guess that a culture of arrogance could be a possible factor.

I accept that this appears to be a wild guess but the multiple failings listed seem to infer a lack of competence which in part may be right but surely not the whole picture. My experience of engaging with the Law Society to date indicates that access to wonderful talent has not been a key weakness and where talent was lacking internally there were external providers that were eager to share their expertise with the Law Society on key projects if requested. So, I struggle to accept that the lack of competence was the primary key driver for the failure of Veyo. Hence, my suggestion that a culture of arrogance could have played a part.

In an organisation with a culture of arrogance, it is likely that the following signs may be evident:

  • Rationalising failure during the lifetime of a project or execution of strategic objectives;
  • Ignoring the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ within the organisation that may have better insights about the feasibility, suitability and acceptability of the project;
  • Unwillingness to recognise organisational shortcomings and weaknesses;
  • Tendency to overstate organisational capabilities to deliver intended objectives;
  • Failure to deliver project objectives is usually largely attributed to people that are no longer in the organisation;
  • Understating or failing to recognise the role of the organisational culture in the failure of strategic projects;
  • Blaming the people within the organisation rather than accept responsibility for the possible toxic culture;
  • A mindset that the organisation’s knowledge and ideas are superior (we know better) to others which invariably makes consultation or engagement with ‘inferior’ stakeholders seem redundant or unnecessary;
  • The likelihood and prospects of success is grossly overestimated and interim tale tell signs that things are not going accordingly to plan tend to get ignored;
  • Openness to learning is not considered a critical success factor to ensure achievement of strategic objectives;
  • Overestimating a firm’s ability to diversify successfully into unrelated areas;
  • Inability to distinguish relevant warning signs from unconstructive negative feedback from those who might be resistant to the proposed change;
  • Reluctance to listen to relevant negative feedback from some stakeholders;
  • Jumping to conclusions based on weak assumptions.

I sincerely hope that my hypothesis that a culture of arrogance may have contributed to the unfortunate demise of Veyo is incorrect. Nevertheless, if any of the signs highlighted above are recognisable in your firm. Perhaps it would be prudent to take steps to address the culture before it leads to failure of strategic projects unless the signs are dismissed as not being relevant to your firm.

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