Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.

Steve Jobs- Rolling Stone Magazine June 94


Allen Fuqua is a long-time friend, former colleague and an extraordinary law firm Chief Marketing Officer. He recently shared with me a tool he developed to help his team establish priorities and work smarter. I found the tool fascinating, and believe it can be valuable to all law firm professionals.

The tool, aptly named The Allen Fuqua Smart-Work Matrix, is based on the principle that in serving others, all work that we do moves along two dimensions:

1. Every project has a degree of potential value to the firm or client for whom the work is being done. While a particular project may have to be done, its potential value ranges from very low to very high.

2. Each initiative, for various reasons, has limitations associated with it that will effect the professional’s ability to influence/impact the project from the standpoint of innovation, creativity, etc.

The tool requires one thing of the professional – to be honestly, objective and dispassionate in assessing where the project falls on these two dimensions.

Once the project is plotted, the professional’s approach to the work is clear.

Work Plotted in Upper Right – High Potential Value/Substantial Ability to Influence

  • Approach the work proactively
  • Partner with someone who shares your vision and passion and can assist by being a champion
  • Inject your most creative and experience-based self into this initiative — it is one of the infrequent opportunities to make a difference, build equity and strengthen your reputation

WorkPlotted in Upper Left – High Potential/Limited Ability to Influence

  • Focus on execution excellence
  • Formalize processes around this type of work
  • Use experience to minimize errors

Work Plotted in Lower Right – Low Potential/High Influence

  • Attempt to influence project’s cancelation or minimization
  • If it must be done, minimize time, cost and distraction
  • If this type of work routinely occurs, work to simplify the process with minimal resources

Work Plotted in Lower Left – Low Potential/Low Ability to Influence

  • Delegate project to least experienced and least costly resource available (outsource if possible and cost effective)
  • Make sure the project has a clear sponsor (the person that is responsible for the investment in something that shouldn’t be done)
  • Get the distraction out of the way as quickly as possible without degrading reputation

The Fuqua Matrix is a great educational tool for those that you manage. Often members of your organization will get caught up in valueless commentary, arguing “why do we waste time on this?” The fact is that in all of our work lives we handle a variety of issues ranging from important to unimportant. Our impact will vary by situation. The key is to accept this reality, and invest the resources at our fingertips as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Can you and your team work smarter?