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Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos

Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos

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  • ISBN-13: 9781633691100
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Release Date: Jan 03, 2017
  • Pages: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 0.0 x 0.0 x 0.0 inches


Many professional service firms today face a serious dilemma. Clients are demanding more sophisticated service for complex problems that can only be delivered by interdisciplinary teams of experts. No one consultant or lawyer—or even one functional group—can guide a client through today’s challenges, which often span technological, regulatory, economic, and environmental issues on an increasingly global scale.

The problem is, most firms have narrowly defined practice areas and partners with specialized expertise. These siloed experts are often “stars” who have built their reputations and client rosters independently, not by working with peers. What’s more, most firms have grown so large and so fast that their members can’t even know—let alone trust—their colleagues around the world.

In Smart Collaboration, Heidi Gardner shows that a much more profitable—albeit difficult—path is to push the firm toward cross-partner collaboration. Gardner, a former McKinsey consultant and Harvard Business School professor, now a fellow at Harvard Law School, has spent over a decade conducting an in-depth study of more than a dozen global professional service firms. In a research tour de force, she brings together time sheet records, financial information, and personnel records—literally millions of data points—to uncover the effect of interdisciplinary teamwork in the professional services field. The result: conclusive proof that collaboration pays, both for employees and for their firms.

But Gardner doesn’t stop with analysis. Moving group by group through the ranks of a typical firm, she offers powerful prescriptions for how leaders can foster collaboration, move to higher-end and higher-margin work, increase client satisfaction, attract and retain top-caliber talent, and improve their bottom line.

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