Kano's Coffee Shop: Improving your Legal Process Improvement
Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 3:58PM
David Skinner in DMAIC, Kano's Model, Lean 101, Lean 101, Lean Lexicon, Lean Lexicon, Lean Tools, Process Improvement

What’s coffee got to do with improvement? Well, thinking about how you deliver a great cup of coffee can help you deliver great process improvements. As Karen wrote in last week's blog, the Improve phase of DMAIC might be fun, but it's a phase where teams can get bogged down. They need to move from the negative, “No, we can’t do that because…” mentality towards a more positive, “Yes, we can do that if….”

Teams that adopt the innovator's approach are usually richly rewarded. Their creative juices start flowing, and they generate long lists of ideas for potential improvement. However, the very wealth of ideas can give rise to a second reason teams get bogged down: they can’t possibly implement all of the solutions they’ve come up with.

Kano’s Model helps teams prioritize ideas and solutions that might otherwise compete for limited time and resources. It also helps them understand value from their clients’ perspective. Remember, depending on the process, some of those clients may be internal, as well as external, to the firm.

Kano’s Model prioritizes your improvement efforts based your clients’ needs. Those needs are categorized as must-haves, nice-to-haves, delighters, or frustraters.

Kano’s 4 Categories

Must Have: something your client expects. Offering it will not make your clients happy, but not offering it will make them upset. Think email: respond promptly and people won’t notice, but delay and they’ll be upset. 

Nice to Have: something extra. Offering it will make your clients happy, but not offering it will not upset them. Free coffee in your waiting room is a good example. 

Delighter: something you do that your competition doesn’t. Offering it delights your client and helps distinguish you from everyone else. This might be something as simple as spending some unbilled time to meet with members of a client’s management team (not just the legal team) to learn more about critical issues that keep them awake at night. 

Frustrater: something you think is necessary, but your clients find annoying or frustrating. We have a GC client who puts quarterly reports from outside counsel in this category. He knows he's being billed for the time it takes to prepare the report, so he feels compelled to waste his own time reading it, despite being very satisfied with the regular updates he gets from his in-house team.

When you’re working on an improvement project, think carefully about what your clients need and want from the process. Classify those needs and wants using Kano’s Model. Then go back to your project charter and re-examine the business case for the project. 

Using your prioritized list of client needs, think about the many different ideas and potential improvement opportunities you’ve identified during your brainstorming sessions. Look at each suggestion. Will it help deliver a must-have, nice-to-have, or delighter, or eliminate a frustrater in the target process?  

You want to invest your limited resources first on those improvements that give your clients the must-haves and eliminate the frustraters. Only once you’ve done that successfully should you focus resources on delivering client needs that are either nice-to-haves or delighters. 

Kano’s Coffee Shop

Looking at what is takes to deliver a really good cup of coffee is a simple example that illustrates how the model works.

Granted, coffee’s a tricky topic, since the number of opinions on what constitutes a good cup of coffee may equal or exceed the number of people you survey. However, by canvassing enough patrons you can arrive at a pretty representative understanding of what you must do and not do if you’re going to be really successful with your coffee clientele. 

What are the must-haves of good cup of coffee?

What are the nice-to-haves?



You can apply the very same principles to optimizing legal services or the business and administrative processes that support the practice of law. Obviously, you can’t individualize every aspect of your offering, but listen to enough clients in relation to a given process and you’ll identify themes. It’s great to deliver delighters, but the greatest initial value to your clients (and to you) will come from consistently delivering more of the must-haves and eliminating as many of the frustraters as you can. 

Make absolutely sure you have the must-haves down and, if you don’t, start there. As a close second, prioritize improvements that will eliminate those things that frustrate or annoy your clients. Don’t ignore the insights you gain about the nice-to-haves and delighters. Park them for now and return to them later, when you have the time and resources to work on them. 

We’ve been using Kano’s model in legal process improvement projects for more than four years now. Our clients find it extremely helpful. It focuses their attention back on the fundamentals of their process improvement initiatives: listening to their clients, and understanding their needs and the value they assign to different work and services. 

Our clients also find it really helpful when they’re trying to decide where to start process improvement initiatives, or as they define their projects. If you have a solid understanding of your clients’ broader wants and needs, Kano’s model can help you decide which processes to focus on first. Start improving processes that deliver must-haves or eliminate frustraters. 

Whether you use Kano’s model to select processes for improvement, or to prioritize your many improvement ideas in the course of a project, by arming yourself with insight about what satisfies, delights, and frustrates clients, you’ll be better able to increase the flow of quality work and services in less time and at less cost.

Contact us if you'd like to learn more about LeanLegal™ and legal process improvement. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to The Lean Law Firm for more practical tips on process improvement in law.


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