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Entries in Lean 101 (10)


Kano's Coffee Shop: Improving your Legal 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.

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DMAIC 4 - Improve: How can you create a better process?

Welcome to the next instalment of our DMAIC series: Improve. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. It’s a structured approach to process improvement that will help you design, execute, and implement successful improvement projects. 

Working through DMAIC starts with identifying what your client wants or needs (Define) and developing a clear picture of your baseline or current state (Measure). You need to see what you actually do. Not what you think you do, or think you should do.

As part of that picture of your current state, you’ll identify the frustrations and wastes that interfere with your ability to deliver what it is the client wants.

From there, you’ll move on to the Analyze phase: What’s causing those problems you’ve identified? Once you understand the root causes of the waste and frustration, you can move on to the Improve phase of DMAIC: How can you create a better process?


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Lean Six Sigma - What is it and why do lawyers need it?

Everybody's talking about Lean in law. This post comes from the Gimbal archives. It's a great refresher, especially if you're wondering how Lean, Lean Six Sigma, and process improvement can help you become more profitable, more productive, and more competitive.

If you have clients in manufacturing or you work in-house, you may be familiar with the management strategies of Six Sigma. Six Sigma focuses on process quality and the elimination of variations and defects from products and services.

Lean is a comprehensive strategy for eliminating waste and increasing the flow of products and services. Lean separates “value adding” from “non-value adding” work, using well-known business and process management tools.

Lean Six Sigma combines these two related strategies, delivering quality and efficiency. Lean Six Sigma offers a broad set of tools to approach and resolve problems through a relentless campaign of review and improvement. And it’s not just for manufacturing. Service providers that implement Lean Six Sigma see marked improvement throughout their operations, including improved speed, quality and cost, faster response times, increased productivity from fewer resources, improved client satisfaction and greater profit.

Law is a service, whether lawyers provide it in a firm or in-house. Like all services, opportunities for waste abound: time getting back “up to speed” on a file; over-processing, reworking or correcting a document; delays obtaining information, signatures, opinions or decisions; unproductive time spent in meetings. The list goes on.

Lean Six Sigma provides attorneys with a new way of looking at legal and business processes. It helps identify and eliminate obstacles, waste and non-value-adding work on the file. It also gives lawyers a concrete way to determine what each step in the process costs, allowing a much more accurate means to set fixed fees for some or all parts of a file. In short, Lean Six Sigma gives lawyers the tools they need to adapt to the changing legal market we face today.

Why now? Because law faces a serious crisis. Our long monopoly over the provision of legal services is crumbling. In the UK, new rules permit non-legal entities to provide legal services traditionally reserved for solicitors. In North America, on-line providers offer flat-fee legal services in many practice areas, clients can build their own documents using services like the Association of Corporate Counsel’s new Contract Advisor, and alternative dispute resolution and arbitration increasingly shift litigation out of the courts.

Add to this growing client dissatisfaction with high hourly rates, tight budgets in the wake of the recession, and increasing competition from legal process outsourcers, and we can see why clients are starting to demand more for less from their attorneys. With its emphasis on measuring value, rather than time, Lean Six Sigma is one way to get there. Lean Six Sigma aligns client and lawyer interests. It allows lawyers to deliver the legal services their clients need, with greater cost certainty and often, at lower rates.

We teach lawyers how to apply Lean Six Sigma, from simple things like 5S to more complicated process and value stream maps. The benefits are obvious and measurable. Implement Lean Six Sigma in your law practice and you will see increased client satisfaction, more business and greater revenues. It’s a practical approach that will help you prevent or reduce client leakage.  

If you are in private practice, this can translate into more business, lower overhead and more profit.

If you are in-house,implementing Lean Six Sigma can lead to better relationships with your internal clients and your external legal advisors, as well as better cost predictability, reduced legal fees and less strain on your legal budget.

What your clients will see:

  • Better, faster, value-adding service
  • Less waste, reduced costs and more transparent billing
  • Greater predictability for their legal spend
  • Improved communication and responsiveness

What you will see:

  • Increased productivity
  • Faster response times
  • Improved efficiency and greater flow of quality work
  • Reduced costs and overheads
  • More time for business development or other pursuits
  • Increased motivation and professional satisfaction

More…for less.

Follow our blog, The Lean Law Firm, read more about the services we provide to lawyers and law firms, and contact us to find out how we can help you become a lean law firm.



DMAIC 3 - Analyze: Why do you work the way you do?

Welcome back to our series on DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), a structured approach to process improvement.

At this stage, you’ve identified what your client wants or needs (Define) and developed a really clear picture of your baseline or current state (Measure). You’ve spotted the wastes and identified some issues in the way you accomplish your work. Every place where you find waste, every frustration you and your team identify…each one is an opportunity for improvement. Now it’s time to analyze why you work the way you do, so you can act on those improvement opportunities.

It’s time to start asking questions.

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DMAIC 2 - Measure: How do you work now to deliver results for your clients?

Welcome back to our series on DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), a structured approach to process improvement. We started the series with a general introduction and then dove into the Define phase.

In Define, you set the boundaries of your project and identified what your client wants or needs. Today we’re moving into Measure. Now you have to determine how you currently work to get (or try to get) that result.

The goal of Measure is to determine the current state of your process. You are looking for your actual performance baseline. Not how you think you do the work or how you think you should do the work, but how it actually gets done right now.

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