Ivan Fong Leaves DHS for GC Job at 3M
The 3M Company Friday named Ivan Fong as its new general counsel, effective October 15, and heres something the 3M folks should know: Fong is a one-on-one kind of guy.
If he follows his own procedure on prior jobs, Fong is likely to ask for individual meetings with each member of 3Ms legal department, as well as each client within the company.
At least thats how he outlined his own steps for starting a new job when he spoke to a GC conference in the fall of 2009a few months after being named general counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Obviously he couldnt meet individually with the nearly 1,800 lawyers he oversaw there, so he settled for their supervisors instead.
When taking a new post, Fong at the time advised any GC to ask the client, What can I do to help you do your job more effectively? . . . It sends the message that Im willing to come to them and interact with them on their terms.
Among his other advice included in his speech, as well as in an interview with Corporate Counsel afterwards:
- Begin with the end in mindpurpose, vision, and mission. Ask anyone in your organization at any levelthey all need to say and believe the same thing.
- Go slow to go fast. Step back and think about things in terms of processes, and how we can streamline them. Stop doing things that really arent adding value.
- Identify one or two critical things you can do well now; dont get caught up in the urgent many.
- Work together as a team and address any opposing divisions. Fong said he has stopped meetings and sent warring factions out to reach agreement before resuming. Dont waste time plotting how to defend againstor play ambush withyour own teammates.
- Delegate clearly and directly. Let people know who is doing what and who needs to be informed or consulted.
- Communicate. Then do it again. You have to remember you may have lived with an issue for a year but there are people who are just beginning, and you need to go back and communicate with them. Overcommunicate.
Prior to joining the government in May 2009, Fong, 51, was the chief legal officer of Cardinal Health, Inc., where he was named one of the "most influential general counsel" by The National Law Journal, a sibling publication of CorpoCounsel.com. He was previously general counsel of GE Vendor Financial Services; a partner with Covington & Burling in Washington D.C.; and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.
That Fong worked at Covington is suddenly ironic, because one of his first tasks will be to tackle the hissing match and court suit between 3M and the law firm.
St. Paul-based 3M sued Covington, its former outside counsel, in July in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis for breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract. The suit came after Covington decided to represent Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in environmental litigation against 3M.
A 3M spokesperson said Fong is not commenting on his new job at this time.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Ivan for some time, said Inge Thulin, 3M chairman and CEO, in a press release Friday. His diverse experience, unmatched qualifications, and proven success, along with his winning personal style, make him an ideal addition to 3M.