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The Lean Law Firm Blog

E220: How to change the way people work and improve outcomes at your law practice

process improvement Feb 14, 2024
A hand lifts and plays a white chess piece.

Welcome to the final installment of our DMAIC series. We’ve covered (Define, Measure, Analyze, and Improve.) If you’re working through a project, that means you’ve defined your project, measured your current state, analyzed why some of the problems are occurring, and implemented improvements. Fantastic. But your project isn’t over yet. In fact, you’re about to embark on what’s likely the hardest phase: Control.

Maybe you’ve started implementing a new process for incorporating a company or a more efficient way to draft and review legal opinions. Whether it’s a legal or a business or administrative process, you’ll have changed the way people work and improved your outcomes.

When the initial excitement fades, or the energy for audit or enforcement drops, people often lose interest and slide back into their old ways

Your Tip: In the Control phase, you must ensure that your improvements continue to be implemented and that you’re still reaping benefits.

So how do you do it? When it comes to staying on top of your newly implemented process improvements, you’ll want to do these four things:

1. Ensure people know WHY they need to follow the new process

Communicate the importance of the new process, how it fits with your firm's strategy, why it’s important, how people will benefit. Socialize the new process, and make sure everyone understands what's in it for them.

2. Ensure they know HOW  to follow the new process

Create clear maps and practice guides for the new process. Wherever possible, make the new process visual. That old adage—a picture is worth a thousand words—is definitely true at the control phase. Show don't tell people what they need to do. Provide resources and mandatory training from the beginning.

3. Reward compliance

When you positively engage your team, it will reinforce your efforts. Consider the incentives you create for following the new process.

4. Set up regular audits and checkpoints. 

Keep collecting data. Perform regular check-ins on your new processes so you can effectively stay on top of quality control. Don’t forget to share the successes your law firm experiences from the new processes to keep your team involved from beginning to end.

The key to Control is creating new behaviours. To change people’s behaviour, you have to change their underlying belief. They need to believe the new way is easier, faster, and better for them. One of the best webinars I’ve seen on this aspect of change comes from Jamie Flinchbaugh.

Creating effective control mechanisms starts early in the improvement process. It cannot be an afterthought. Design your improvements with control in mind. That is, build the control in.

Ready to implement the full Practice Accelerator Framework for your law firm? Apply to join our current cohort today.

Our top tips from this series:

  • Make the new process visible, so deviations can be easily recognized. Good signage, colour-coding, and labelling can help in administrative processes.
  • Error-proof your process. Use those process maps you created along the way. Share them, digitize them. Turn them into actionable workflows with a tool like Legalboards.
  • Make non-compliance more difficult than compliance. People will take the easy way. For many, the old way will seem easier simply because they know it. You need to make the new way easier than the old way.

If you have questions about DMAIC or how you can implement it to improve outcomes in your practice, book a call with us - it’s free! 

- Karen and David 

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