A recent week-long version of a Harvard MBA programme for professional services firms has changed the mind-set of Moore Stephens Markhams managing director Dan Druzianic.
Alongside 50 Moore Stephens accountants/advisers from around the world he said Harvard took him to a new level of thinking "tearing problems apart" with analysis.
He said the interactive Socratic-style lectures encouraged deep analysis of problems, with lecturers sharing insights on their own experiences. Many of the academics had worked at the highest level in the corporate world.
"It was clear that several of the professors continue to have the ears of political and business world leaders, lending significant credibility to the lessons learned," he said.
Among his many learnings was the importance of collaborative leadership and institutional knowledge.
"Twenty years ago people chose advisers based on relationships - e.g. sports club or community organisation - but now to win work your firm has to know something.
"This knowledge needs to be managed centrally for effective access and quality control. It may typically be organised by industry sector/technical service/tools and databases/firm initiatives etc. Contributions to this knowledge base will be your personal legacy to the firm beyond your time there."
He said consultancy business McKinsey employed more than 700 professionals worldwide developing and maintaining the firm's database.
Remunerating partners or directors could be detrimental to the sustainability of the firm, he said. "This one-dimensional system tends to result in silo behaviour where the clients and assignments are held tightly by the partner. The work is often not being performed by the best person in the firm who has the skills to deliver good client impacts. It also results in competition within the firm instead of between firms."
Firms should be very clear about who target customers were and their segment of the market, making sure your firm's offering is aligned to target customers' needs.
"Check that in your HR plan you are hiring people with the skills to deliver the offering to the target customers. Make sure your branding, premises, website and staff remuneration etc all align with your strategy.
"Achieving cohesive alignment requires a move from a culture where the partnership behaves like a firm of sole practitioners sharing rent and overheads to a new team-based business model where knowledge is shared throughout the organisation."
He said leading change could be difficult and current success the biggest barrier for initiating change, with a "why fix what's not broke" mentality.
"Achieving dissatisfaction with the status quo can be challenging. On the flip side, tunnel vision is not uncommon for businesses under stress - the inclination is to hunker down and thinking stops."