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Credit: Kevin Fales

Compensation systems are typically a strategic afterthought, seen as the means by which to allocate the spoils of a successful strategy. They’re viewed as affecting the level of grousing among partners, but not a firm’s performance. The data, however, indicates the reverse is true. Profitability growth has varied markedly by compensation system over the past decade, while partner satisfaction has been consistent across all systems. The choice of compensation system is thus best thought of as a critical strategy decision, with second-order implications that leaders need to think through and manage adroitly.

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