Jason Barnwell podcast banner

Jason Barnwell – Driving Value in the Enterprise

Welcome to our Elevate Debate series. Featuring industry leaders and Elevate Experts supporting and defending an approach, a viewpoint, or a practice.

The Role of the GC

Welcome to our Elevate Debate series. Featuring industry leaders and Elevate Experts supporting and defending an approach, a viewpoint, or a practice.

This episode features Elevate co-founder and Head of Innovation, Pratik Patel, with Jason Barnwell, Microsoft, Assistant General Counsel, and leader of Modern.

Modern is driving the strategy and execution to digitally transform and modernize Microsoft’s legal department practices and ways of working.

  • [01:22] – Topic: If you’re a general counsel and you can’t drive 1% net earnings, you should step aside
  • [02:17] – Let’s make it spicy; 1% is not enough
  • [03:37] – The First point of descent, if I’m a GC, I will probably over-index on long term value
  • [05:50] – Velocity – structure around inputs and outputs
  • [07:10] – Reactive legal depart response
  • [09:03] – IACCM survey suggests 9% of revenue; could be net income leakage during the contracting process
  • [12:12] – There is a need for a mind shift
  • [13:25] – Many see themselves as a risk manager
  • [15:20] – Legal has access to business intelligence that can assist the business and drive value
  • [17:10] – Love the idea of activating entrepreneurism
  • [18:00] – The Socratic question


Subscribe to our podcast, our newsletter, write a review, and send your comments.
Tag us @ElevateServices on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Podcast Transcript

Note: This transcript has been adjusted to improve readability. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcribers. The context and more than 95% of the actual transcript have been preserved.  We strongly encourage our listeners to listen to the audio.


Nicole Giantonio: Hello, this is Nicole Giantonio, the Head of Global Marketing at Elevate. The podcast episode you’re about to hear is the first of our Elevate debate series, featuring industry leaders and Elevate experts supporting and defending an approach, a viewpoint, or a practice. We’re starting strong, featuring Elevate’s co-founder and Head of Innovation, Pratik Patel, with Jason Barnwell, Microsoft Assistant General Counsel and leader of Modern. Modern is driving the strategy and execution to digitally transform and modernise Microsoft’s legal department practices and ways of working. Out of the gate, Pratik introduces our topic, and 28 minutes in, Jason introduces a Socratic question that should be the screen saver on every legal and business person’s device.


Pratik Patel: Hey, Jason, thanks for joining today. This episode is the beginning of a series of podcasts that really challenge different topics. And I know that you’re always going to be genuine in your opinions and thoughts. The topic that I selected today was really one focused on something that I think has been swirling around the market for a while, the general counsel’s role. We’ve been having a lot more conversations with GCs that focused on driving value for the enterprise, and the statement I made to one of my colleagues that I’d like to talk about today is, if you’re a general counsel and you can’t drive 1% earnings, you should step aside. It was a facetious comment, but it drove to the fact that the general counsel should be focused on the business and the enterprise. Helping the enterprise more than just focusing on the practice of law or being kind of pigeonholed into the general counsel’s office and focused only on that element of the business. So I thought to talk about that with you today and pass some ideas back and forth and see where you landed on that.


Jason Barnwell: Getting into the spirit of ‘let’s have different opinions, let’s have strong opinions loosely held,’ the caveat is nothing I offer today should be construed as any type of formal position of my employer. And this is really just a thought exercise between Pratik and myself to figure out what the world might look like and what directions things could go, and with that, I’m ready to mix it up.


PP: Let’s do it. So, what’s your initial thought? Should the general counsel’s role or part of their role be to drive percentages of earnings per share or value to the bottom line?


JB: Yes, and let’s make it spicy. I think 1% is not enough. And then I’ll try to unpack why I think that that’s maybe not ambitious enough. You offered two different formulations, and I think there’s probably one I would focus on. So one approach would be effectively earnings per share, and that’s good, but I would be more focused on long-term value, which isn’t always reflected in quarterly earnings. I think it’s one of the really important things in, let’s just say, a legal function. I will probably offer some thoughts on what an unconventional legal function might look like at some point in the near future. I think you want it to be one of the parts of your business, and it is a part of the business. But I think you want to focus on long-term value.


PP: Sure.


JB: In many ways, it is balanced against some of the other parts of your business that can be very fixated on short-term value. I think if you’re a general counsel, you want to be intentional about making sure that you’re considering both measures but trying to steer more of your contribution to long-term value than earnings per share, which shows up quarterly. Because that will impact how your team executes and how you create value for the enterprise, so my first point of dissent would be, [chuckle] if I’m steering the ship as a GC, I’m probably going to over-index on the long-term value because I think that’s likely how my organisation would contribute to the enterprise as a whole.


PP: I both agree and disagree. Meaning, I agree with the fact that I think you’re right. I think enterprise value and long-term value are ultimately the goals. I believe that general counsels are struggling to figure out how to demonstrate that. And the reason I’m thinking about earnings per share or something more concrete, which also is very difficult to demonstrate because the other problem that I think legal departments and general counsel were having is what activities directly correlate to an increase in the bottom line. But I do think at some point what we’re going to run into is a situation where if we can’t connect those dots very clearly and at minimum show whether it be the enablement of revenue, but even better, some net income or earnings per share growth. I really do think that the general counsel will be challenged as to what their true contribution is to the executive suite. I think more and more, we’re finding some of this is driven by the conversations we’ve been having that changed kind of 10, 15 years ago to give me a defensible way of almost demonstrating how I control or manage spend as a corporate citizen.

The conversations have fundamentally changed. I’ll be completely transparent. I think even the earnings per share is a misfire in some cases. In the last three months, we were with a general counsel who thought the valued contribution to the enterprise was earnings per share. We got into the situation where the CEO said, “Look, on a normal day, that would be the case; we’re actually in a cost-cutting mode.” Jason, one of the things that I’m thinking about is, earnings per share is almost a baseline. I think it’s going to end up being a baseline for how we correlate and drive value for the law department. But I think there’s also gonna be some other categories there, such as cost management to the enterprise or speed to revenue that may have different forms of benefit. Still, earnings per share is so concrete and translated so well across the enterprise that I thought maybe that’s at least the bare minimum.


JB: The challenge I see with earnings per share, and you started hinting at something, is really two-fold. One is a little bit more conceptual, but if you’re focused on earnings per share, that’s what you’re going to get, and my concern would be, what kind of moral hazard [chuckle] are you inviting without a more thorough investigation? One way we can juice up earnings per share is not to do some of the things that we should do to protect the long-term [chuckle] shareholder value, right?


PP: That’s right. Yes.


JB: We can take on outsized risk, and so, if there is smart risk, which is there’s a cone of uncertainty, and we think that on a net, discount-adjusted basis, it’s good for the enterprise, then great, you do that. My concern is, when you get overly simplistic about the outcome metrics, you invite people to do things that are a little bit silly. You started pointing at something that is probably the path forward because, ultimately, the enterprise value is the discounted earnings per share over the infinite timeline. On some level, we are trying to get to that. It’s just a question of what horizon we care about, and I think we want to care about a longer horizon.

One of the things you start hitting is that it’s very hard to work back into the other ways you would identify other indicators of creating value for the enterprise. And you started enumerating some that I think are really smart. When you’re saying words like the velocity, that’s when I started to get intrigued as like, Yes. When I start thinking about how I put structure around the inputs and the outputs of the work that we do, which basically form the sub-units of how we deliver services to the enterprise, that starts giving me better targeting on the behaviour. So the processes that fundamentally support how our organisation supports the business and the more information we start having about how we do that on a repeatable basis, the more we can start measuring impact. Honestly, I think the CFO is probably the person who would give us like, “Hey, this is the most balanced, elegant approach to the things we think we care about,” over whatever the appropriate horizon.

As we start getting smarter about mapping out the processes that do feed into that, then we can start basically using the scientific method to change our approach, right? We can run experiments, and we can come up with hypotheses, change our behaviours, and see how that feeds into the value metrics that we all agree are the best and most balanced proxies for enterprise value. And with that, I’ll say that reconciles half of the opportunity. So, if you think about the way people think of a conventional legal department, I think a lot of what they focus on is very reactive. There’s a dispute, or there’s a deal, or there’s a regulatory inquiry or something happens, and then there’s a chain of events that the legal department will pick up. They’ll provide options, they might remediate some things, but I don’t think that that is the fullness of the role of the CLO or the GC, as you think about the future of how it delivers value to the enterprise. The other thing that a GC can do is become a storyteller that helps the market better receive whatever it is the enterprise will do.

So one of the big challenges that I think we see, especially for enterprises that are effectively innovating out in front of the regulatory environment, because they’re bringing together all these amazing experiences and capabilities, is a world that doesn’t yet know how to reconcile some of the things that are trying to be put into market.


PP: Right.


JB: That’s why I say 1% probably understates the GC’s capacity to contribute to the enterprise, especially if you are in a highly innovative industry. Where effectively, if you can help the market reconcile the goodness that comes from what your company wants to do and the strategy that it’s going against, potentially, you are creating market expansion potential for the enterprise that goes way beyond 1%. One hypothesis is, your business or a huge material portion of it, it will not be allowed to exist, and then the other one, oh, guess what? Your business would be allowed to exist, that can be a massive contribution, but that requires going far beyond the reactive and going into the proactive. So I’m curious about your thoughts on that.


PP: I agree with the fact that 1% may be a fraction of the true value the General Counsel can drive, but I’m going to give you the opposite of a journey and how it ends up. So the IACCM came out with a survey because they were trying to figure out if you improve the entire life cycle of contract management. What’s the actual value the general counsel or the head of sales or head of procurement can say it adds to the enterprise? I could be wrong and don’t quote me on this, but if you look at one of the surveys on the contract management process’s leakage, about 9% of net revenue would be net income. That’s a lot of money, right? And that begs the question of which contracts you can actually touch and improve, and can you partner with sales and procurement? There was a particular general counsel that filtered it down to scope and said, We’re going to drive not 9%, but whatever that percentage was. It equated to about 22 basis points, 0.22% of earnings per share increase.

So guess what happens? That was a conservative number across the enterprise. The enterprise was somewhere between a $6 to $10 billion business. When that number hit the head of sales, it equated to $90 million increase in sales revenue, which should be a good thing. When we start looking at things in that light, what are the particular activities we can do at the law department level that can drive something that can potentially increase revenues, maybe add to bottom line? These numbers become quite large, and the ability for people across the enterprise to feel like they can make those impacts only adds to resistance. Think about this, Jason. We have a hard time in some of the things that we do with the Law Department themselves being able to change for the realm of what they know. Now imagine for a moment, we’re saying, “Okay, Well, look, we’re gonna change those things to drive value, and now other people have to get on board, too.”

The reason I come back to my point of, if you can’t drive 1%, which I think is fairly conservative, that was positioned as a bit of a reality check. We have a couple of layers to get through here to start driving that 1% net income improvement. One of those is changing how the law department actually thinks of their role and their confidence in what they can contribute to the enterprise. We’re not only focused on the law practice; that’s one layer of it. Then the second is, how do we build the confidence to map what we do differently, the big why? So I can change 100 processes of what we do, but why am I doing that? And why am I overworked? And why do I feel like that? And even if I do, what’s that going to matter?

And I think pinning it down to something that we say can simply help the enterprise, as we talked about earlier, is important, but that’s the second layer. Now, do we have confidence that we can do that? The third, Jason, is once we build that confidence and have to partner with the corporate functions, are they okay with us moving and in a good way their cheese in a beneficial fashion? Now we have to bring along all these people for that change. But in a nutshell, this is, in my view, the role of the general counsel. I really do believe that in some of these processes across the enterprise, whether it be an M&A transaction or litigation that comes in looking at the full picture of the spend, I believe you’re right, I think 1% is conservative, but I do feel like we have a massive mind shift and confidence change in knowing that we can drive that kind of change.

Showing people the material and tangible things that can be done that are actually sitting right in front of them. I’ll leave you with one last example. I think this whole issue we’ve had in the market recently about the CEO coming over to the GC and asking a lot of questions about the business, and the COVID example is a very clear one of, how many contracts do we have that look like this or like that? For some of us, we’ve seen that materialize in hundreds of different forms based on different triggering events. And I just find it incredible that whether you own the contract or not as the general counsel, if you can materially change that business strategy because you could provide information on those contracts, that to me is a huge opportunity. And I say that because I have too many general counsels today that I think are now realizing that that’s what they could have actually answered in quick form.

Because answering that question very quickly in a rapid form in this particular environment would have had a material difference in how those businesses moved. In the 30-day time frame, or a 60-day time frame that I think has a material impact on probably even more than 1% of their net earnings in that radical period that I hope we never see again.


JB: You offered a couple of things there that are interesting. To get to the outcome requires people to see their role in the enterprise differently. I’m in vehement agreement with that. I think a lot of our colleagues, they very much see themselves as a risk manager who is trying to effectively slow things down and stop things because that is how they deliver value. And if we’re honest, the incentive structures for doing legal work, they rarely lend themselves to being smartly enabling, unless you’re really thoughtful about it. Unfortunately, many of the incentives that shape behavior, people are like, I don’t want to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing. And how often do we go to people and say, Hey, good job going fast on that? You took one try, and it didn’t go well, but it turns out your process, your approach enabled nine other tries, and we had three or four great outcomes, and then we had some other middling outcomes, and that’s how business works.

This leads to something that I have a loose hypothesis: What does the future enterprise actually look like? Going back to some of the things you’ve observed in these times, especially right now, as we’re dealing with the pandemic and there’s just other things swirling, durable strategy (good luck) because with so much volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, it’s getting really hard to come up with like, here’s what our five or 10-year plan is going to be, so, what can you do? I hypothesize that what you can do is invest in culture and capabilities and all kinds of other systems and structures to turn your enterprise and your legal department into the most adaptable organization possible. You start being thoughtful about data, you start running experiments, and it means that you start finding ways to transit insights across your organization as fast as possible.

Think about what business ultimately is. It is effectively going on the hunt for opportunities to create value for others, that they will basically exchange something of value with you for doing that, right? That’s what most forms of business really boil down to, and it is an exploration, right? It’s constantly going out and looking around corners and seeing like, is there an opportunity there? And the thing that businesses are going to have to do, I think increasingly, they’re going to have to try things they’ve never tried before and see how that works and do that in ways that cost the least amount of resources to get good intelligence, right? So, historically, I think if you look at the way that many businesses operate, they basically like to operate and known safe zones, and that’s where they did the bulk of their operation going forward, even if you keep doing the stuff that you’ve done for years because the firmament is changing underneath us. I don’t know that you have that security anymore.

I hypothesize that what you can do is invest in culture and capabilities and all kinds of other systems and structures to turn your enterprise and your legal department into the most adaptable organization possible.

Jason Barnwell

You start being thoughtful about data, you start running experiments, and it means that you start finding ways to transit insights across your organization as fast as possible.

Jason Barnwell

PP: I agree.


JB: So what we need to do is effectively start creating organizational intelligence, which means that if we’re running experiments, the whole enterprise benefits from that intellect, from that knowledge, from whatever is learned. What happens right now is that I think we do a lot of those experiments and repeat them. That means that everything that could have happened faster following that learning gets slowed down. And so, if I’m designing an organization for the future, I’m probably less focused on strategy, at least for the near term, and I think this feeds into your point. I’m more focused on how I start giving the people in my legal organization the capability to run experiments and be more data-driven and ultimately flow more of that information back into the business.

Because to your point, one of the privileges that legal has, because of what we’re allowed to do is, we often have a horizontal view across the business. And what we do doesn’t just have intrinsic value because we’re helping to manage risk, and we’re making things go faster, and we’re doing all those good things. Still, we have access to business intelligence that can help the enterprise be smarter and make better decisions, both on an individual basis and on a macro basis. But going back to your point, you have to get people thinking about the work that we’re doing and the information and insights that can spin off that as having the capacity to contribute to that. And I don’t know that we’re all in that headspace yet. I think we’re going to have to get there. Alright, that was quite a rant.


PP: But I think what you’re saying now brings us back to something that we do fundamentally wholeheartedly agree on. Tell me whether you agree that the whole idea of us saying to a general counsel or a CEO what the role of the general counsel is quite simplistic. We’re here to drive value for the business, whether it be in the form of a 1% earnings per share increase, but we both agree, look, we can’t just be managing risk for the business; we’re driving value. And how we do that shouldn’t differ fundamentally from the rest of the business. And I think these fabrics, and I don’t know what the right word is, but the fabric for what we wake up and do every day for the business shouldn’t differ from anyone else in the business. All of my peers at the C-suite level shouldn’t differ; how we do it and what we focus on based on what area I sit in may differ slightly. But I like this idea, Jason, that what if there were a kind of a fabric or a template that included three things, right? One is, how do we look at our spend? Focuses on risk, like we talked about, assets and M&A and running the business. That fabric fundamentally is no different than any other fabric across the enterprise.

They deal with the same issues, and our job is to make sure that that mix of whatever we spend our time and money on matches what the business wants to focus on. That’s maybe one element of the GC office that we need to say, “Okay, why does that differ from the enterprise, frankly?” The other fabric that I think we focus on is how we do our work. Why are we doing anything different from the enterprise in helping the top line grow and flattening the cost curve? For the benefit of our well-being, I don’t want to keep adding people and hours and everything else just to match growing demand. At some point from a business perspective, we’re going to have to keep those two lines separate for the purpose of the business and our well-being. And I think that goes to your point about things like, how can we do things differently, how can we scale, how can we use anything from technology or process or whatever it may be, to disaggregate those two lines, not fully, but to an extent?

And then the third thing is how we practice law in the way we do to benefit the business. And I think that third piece is special. I hope that all general counsel aren’t in the business of creating the best in-house law firm, but I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice by eliminating the fact that this is a specialized area of support for the enterprise. No different, but it requires its own art in and of itself for what the company wants to do. Where do we want to spend our money? How do we want to do our work? How do we want to practice law? Within that, there’s all kinds of things like teaming and diversity and things that weave into everything. But those things all have to drive towards a very simple outcome, and to me, it is about, can I prove that I’ve driven value to at least the top line, but at best the bottom? Let’s say we agree on the fact that we can drive this 1% earnings per share increase, or we can probably even go beyond that. What do you think is going to keep us from doing it? What do we have to solve?


JB: The challenge is, I think for businesses, it’s going to be really hard to generate super normal returns. The challenge I see is one of culture and capabilities that is coming, as much as if you are a person who was excited about going to law school because you know what, I want something that’s steady. Then you went into the training environment and was like, “Hey, let’s look at what happened hundreds of years ago, and let’s focus on that”. And then you went into a work environment, it was like, “Hey, if you can find the least risky way to do this, you’re gonna keep getting promoted.” That’s great. So on some level, I think one of our biggest challenges is both a combination of culture and capabilities, and as much as we have systematically created a group of people who, by and large, they’re very intellectually capable, but they’re not often built to go seek out the new, the different, the weird, and that is where we have them operating at the top of their ticket.

Really smart capable people going out and seeing the new, weird and different stuff, and then analyzing that and figuring out, so what is the path through this? That’s where we as an enterprise get the most value; when we put those people on effectively being the operators for known processes and tasks, that is not getting the most out of this amazing capacity that we have. The challenge I perceive is that there’s still a skills gap.


PP: Yes.


JB: There are a lot of people who were trained to basically run the trains on tracks, even though the trains are being more and more automated, so getting them to figure out how to build a new track is hard. But the harder thing is getting them excited to go build new track. If you built much of your identity and who you are and where you get value as being like, “I’m somebody who runs trains,” and somebody comes along to you and says, “How would you like to build some new railroad tracks?” You might be like, “I don’t know how I feel about that.” That is my biggest concern, and I think, ultimately, for me, it feels like the biggest sticking point on the how, because as long as the gravity is pulling people in a different direction, it takes a lot of effort to get them to go to the edge of town. If there’s comfort in the center of town, and there was like, No, I’m good, I’m like, Oh, it’s happy there. Figuring out how we get them to get excited about the new and the different is the thing we need to figure out to get them to really unleash their capability to bring more value to the enterprise.

That’s like half of it, but then there’s also another part of this: getting them to think differently about collaboration. So if you look historically at how people have created value in the legal game, it has been predicated on information scarcity, and that’s not where we are now. We’re now in this information-rich environment where it’s everywhere and it’s super plentiful. So getting people to embrace that, you will create more value in the future, not by being a gatekeeper, not by being the person who sits on like, “Oh, there’s a hidden path to the market,” but really being somebody who synthesizes things that often show up in different domains, getting people to re-imagine that their contribution is the synthesizer of information and a place where we share and have access to everything is again, antithetic to how the instruction and the culture works for allowed what we do. So those are some of the big kind of sticking points I see to getting to where we need to go.


PP: I think that’s right, and I know this was meant to be a debate, but I can’t say that I disagree with those points. I think there’s two other things that I’ll add that I’ve seen. One is who the customer is; some people view the customer as their internal customer. I think the ones who will truly add value to the enterprise will be the ones who drive their departments to see the customer as the end customer because then you can work backwards through everyone’s roles into how that customer experience materializes. And it may be that the law department isn’t doing anything differently, but something upstream is happening. But at that point, when you put your lens in and say, “Look, my job as a lawyer or a legal ops professional, more than a level that it is right now is to think about what the end customer’s experience is based on what and how I interact in that process,” is gonna be key, and that’s a hard thing to do.

And I think Jason, that’s come from just where the legal department general counsel’s office has been positioned in the past, and I think we’ve made a huge amount of progress in flattening that peer curve. Making the general counsel report directly to the CEO or making them be a part of that group, that doesn’t mean even though the org design has changed, that the law departments have come along with the journey of saying, While I may support Jason in XYZ sales function, or I may support Nicole in XYZ procurement function, my end customer is actually the customer. That’s one mindset shift we have to really work on. The other is the – and I don’t know what’s the right description of this – but it’s the entrepreneurialism and the ability that lawyers have actually to change the outcome. By nature, lawyers are trained to follow precedent, study the book of law, and some have a knack for deal-making and driving value or business.

We talk about this a lot, and I don’t know that it’s a new concept, but I’m increasingly learning that even the concept of how we call T-shaped lawyering and these kinds of horizontal and vertical axes may not be enough to actually drive the enterprise value. Now, I’m not saying that that makes our job impossible. That goes back to saying, “What are the bears around the corner, what are the snakes that may bite us?” And one of the snakes that I think may bite us is realistically, to drive enterprise value, you have to have a flavour of entrepreneurialism built into your training or your passion that allow you to see and move things that don’t necessarily sit in your constrained box. If I’m in a role, if I’m an in-house lawyer and you say my role is to manage a commercial transactions function, I may say, “Okay, that’s great. But guess what, Jason sitting over there. And therefore, I can’t touch with Jason does.”

No, I think the answer is, I can absolutely touch what Jason does, but through partnership and entrepreneurial deal-making and let’s actually do that together. I think that mindset, it’s almost who we look for in certain in-house functions such that they know their boundaries go beyond the law department itself, and that’s completely okay. Obviously, it works better in smaller organizations, but I think more and more as we look at digital transformation and all the things we hear in the market, that stuff doesn’t just sit within the four walls of the law department. It’s gonna actually require much more enterprise cross-collaboration, and that’s why I say whether it’s entrepreneurialism or some other quality that I’m not describing well, I think it just is some facet or characteristic of not letting the walls or the boundaries be the definition of where you can play. Well, it seems like we have a lot of work to do.


JB: Yeah, I’m wanting to disagree. Again, I’m having a hard time. The one thing I would add on to what you just offered is it’s a mindset thing that I observed. By the way, I love the idea of really activating entrepreneurialism, that is the thing that if you can do, a lot of stuff gets solved. If people feel like they have the agency to make an impact, if they feel invested, they drive change. Where I see people getting stuck, they behave like craftspeople who are responsible for one thing. They’re these amazing critical thinkers who are really good at saying like, Oh, this is why this is broken, this is why this is different, this is why this does not apply, so forth and so on, what they really struggle with is systems thinking, and so they have a really hard time. They can, but it is not their native delight to do what you were talking about, which is reach upstream like, “Okay, so where did this come from? And why did it matter there? And what’s gonna happen after this? And how could I change what I do to make that better?”

What I observe is there’s a lot of people who really love the craft of the thing that they’re doing, and so what they do is they put their heads down, and they do that craft, and then they look up 30 years later, and you know, they’re like, “Oh, hey, I guess I manufactured 10,000 contracts,” what have you, and I’m not exactly sure if it’s T-shaped or if it’s a skills thing, ultimately, it may be, to your point, how do you attract people who solve and see the problem space differently and who solve problems differently? And there is a small, and I shouldn’t say this, there’s a tiny experiment that I run on occasion when I talk to people. And it seems innocuous, but it is a diagnostic that I use, and it sounds something like this, “Hey, Pratik, what are you doing? Yeah, what are you doing over there? You look like you’re working on something.”


PP: Hanging out with Jason.


JB: “Okay, I’m just curious, how does that connect to the thing that we were trying to do here?” It is not like, “Please stop doing it,” it’s literally just if you apply that lens to the effort that you apply when you’re doing your work, then it tends to re-orient you towards the top line stuff that matters. And if you have to basically say like, So let’s do this exercise on me right now, so I am talking with Pratik, we’re supposed to be disagreeing about stuff, we’re doing a terrible job, but what I’m doing right now is I am thinking about what is the future that we would need to build that would enable us to really empower Microsoft business, I have gained access to one of the preeminent experts in the world who thinks about this, and I’m basically getting free advice and consultation from one of the world’s experts.

And so I’m going to go back to my work, and now I’m going to be able to do that more effectively. Similarly, because we’re having this conversation and you’re gonna share it out, we can effectively condition the market to receive our theory of value as something that is valid, and that will hopefully accelerate some of the systemic changes that we want to see, so that we as a direct employer, but also as a buyer of services, will have greater access to what we think we need to be successful in the future. And so I don’t know that you have to do that for every single task you do in the day. Still, as a general matter, I’m always wanting to tell a good story that explains why the efforts that I am going after on behalf of my employer are aligned with the mission. And my concern is that I’m not sure that everybody has access to that, and I don’t even know if they ever even think about it.

Microsoft is actually really good at this because we go through these periodic processes of asking, “What are we doing?” But I’ve had many conversations with colleagues at other shops, and it sounds like their departments are basically on zombie behaviour as much as at some point in the past, somebody said we should do this and nobody ever asked why, and when you go ask somebody like, “So why do you do that?” They’re like, “Oh, ’cause we’ve always done it like that.” I’m like, “What? That is not an explanation.”


PP: It goes back to the purpose, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do here. The purpose of why are we working so hard? Why are we doing things inefficiently, why are we spending our nights and weekends working? Whether it be that we’re trying to drive that 1% that we talked about or something else, I think it’s incredibly important at some point for this market to identify its purpose. And then one thing I’ll leave you with, Jason, maybe for a different time is what if you’re that person that says, “Well, I’m not in a transactional practice. Velocity, that’s not something that I can impact. Guess what; I’m the person who actually sits there and takes on the litigation.” Now we go into the realm of, “Hey, if you’re there, do you have the ability to generate and drive that 1%?” I would say yes. I don’t know what you think, Jason, but maybe we’ll leave that for a different time and a different topic. I know that it’s been enjoyable. So thank you, Jason, for debating, sharing ideas and topics, and joining us today.


JB: I think I’ve done a terrible job of debating you. I don’t think I honored the mission at all, but I appreciate that you gave me the opportunity to learn from you. And I have absolutely some thoughts on how litigation intersects with what we’re talking about, and I look forward to picking that up at a future time.


PP: I know you do. Thanks, Jason. I appreciate it.

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.