In 2009, Ingersoll Rand began an overhaul to cut waste and operate more efficiently. To do it, company leaders asked two questions outlined by lean production expert Jim Womack: “Is this valuable?” and, assuming it is, “Are we doing it in the best currently known way?” Ingersoll Rand asked those questions about every process at every level of the organization.
Ingersoll Rand could have limited this transformation to its manufacturing facilities but instead chose to apply it all the way up to its executive functions. Michelle Trumpower is the vice president and deputy general counsel of the global commercial law and industrial segment, and she says the company is working to create efficiency within human resources, legal, IT, and more.
Trumpower and her team brainstormed ways to make their work more consistent and meet the needs of the company’s new initiative. Their method was to launch the Centers of Expertise, which would give attorneys leadership opportunities. “You can’t be a good business lawyer without being part of the business and serving on a leadership team,” says Trumpower. “Whether that’s serving as a senior vice president or at the president level, you need to understand—start to finish—that the strategies are and what they are trying to accomplish.”
Legal launched seven of these centers, and an attorney leads each one. The leaders are mid- to senior-level attorneys who are not currently on a legal leadership team and show enough promise that the company wants to develop their leadership skills. The leaders are chosen based on skill sets the company needs. Trumpower has also included people who say they want leadership roles.
“This is who we are as a culture of continuous improvement.”
Corporate in-house legal departments tend to be relatively flat, Trumpower admits, presenting few opportunities to gain management experience outside of the legal leadership team and the general counsel seat. The Centers for Expertise add those opportunities across levels.
“With the centers, attorneys actually learn how to be a manager,” Trumpower says. “Not only are they managing the people who are allocated to them, but they get an opportunity to manage people around the world. This way, they won’t feel they’re just sitting in a role for years, waiting for another opportunity to open up.”
The program is in its second year and has kept the legal team in line with Ingersoll’s focus on efficiency. The biggest challenge so far, Trumpower says, has been to familiarize attorneys with the program. Many were concerned they wouldn’t have the variety of daily work that a business attorney normally enjoys. “A business lawyer does everything, soup to nuts,” Trumpower says. “They like the strategic nature of it.” Once the centers launched and their purposes were more concrete, more attorneys realized the value of the initiative.
The global team of in-house counsel now has a network through the centers, which it can use to smooth communication. As a result, the company’s management of global risk on commercial matters is much more efficient than before the centers were launched.
Trumpower cites the experience of General Counsel Kim Betz as one of the successes of the program. In her senior role, she didn’t have a team of attorneys who reported to her. Now she leads the marketing and communications Center of Expertise, and she has the opportunity to manage a team as well as work as a senior business partner.
As Ingersoll Rand’s business grows and changes, Trumpower says there will be opportunities to create more centers as needed. “We know what works and what doesn’t,” she explains. “This isn’t a one and done. This is who we are as a culture of continuous improvement.”