In April 2023, LEX360 and The Legal 500 held the UK’s first ever legal Gemba Walk, utilising methods from Lean Six Sigma. Gemba is from the Japanese for ‘the real place’, and it is the most important place for a team as it is where the work happens. The Gemba Walk allows management teams to leave their daily routines, and experience how the team works and build better trust relationships, understand the issues, and find solutions. Our first Gemba Walk was provided by the award-winning legal team at E.ON UK.
Based on our research, there are five actions that legal leaders should undertake to drive a culture of continuous improvement:
- Clarity of purpose – The legal leader must understand and be able to explain what their business expects from the legal function today and in the future. Having a clear strategic plan ensures that a gap analysis can be undertaken between current and future state to achieve the goal including timelines and costs.
- Prioritising improvement opportunities notwithstanding barriers such as budget, time and other resources – Often with a bit of vision, leadership and space, team members will step up and drive initiatives that will deliver personal or professional gain. Utilising existing technology stack, wider business initiatives or opportunities from the supply chain constraints can be managed.
- Creating an improvement mindset for the function – Many lawyers are fixated on perfection, which can prohibit continuous improvement and therefore legal leaders should create an open, inclusive workplace where the team are free to experiment and are recognised equally for the wins and the failures. An environment where ‘to do my job and improve my job’ are both important.
- Look at adjacent teams and businesses for best practice – Blueprints for most legal problems exist, attending conferences and having information calls to understand how others have addressed your priorities can circumvent inefficiencies. The legal eco-system is great for sharing know-how and best practice, therefore utilise your connections.
- Help the team understand ‘the art of the possible’ of what helming a transformation project could mean to them personally by highlighting industry role models or career paths – Every senior legal job description today has an element of how general counsel (GCs) have embedded strategy and delivery. Time spent on legal improvement projects will enhance CVs and create examples for interviews.
Story of E.ON
E.ON presented to an excited audience their background, their ESG and digital transformation journey. Some of the key highlights are listed below:
- Purpose: To provide personalised energy solutions to our customers.
- Aspiration: Drive to Net Zero by 2030.
- Over six million customers and 8,000 employees
The role of the legal team: they are there to help colleagues with commercial decisions, risk appetite discussions, experience, and knowledge of corporate history, all of which are not strictly speaking ‘Legal’ but add value to our business. E.ON’s GC Kirin Kalsi provided: ‘there are no silos – resource is utilised on a fluid basis depending on capacity and specialism, including on special projects’.
They have one firm outsource arrangement, outsourcing non-BAU work (such as disputes and M&A) and to cover peak periods (eg, close to year end) ‘as they do not resource to cover peaks, but to cover base load, therefore peaks require external support’.
The Gemba walk included E.ON sharing the great work that the legal team have been doing on ESG and their net zero goals.
Goals of LEAP
The legal industry is littered with articles and conferences chasing the latest shiny object that will ‘transform’ in-house teams with ‘innovative solutions’ et al. The issue many have with this is that it can often feel like an echo chamber of the same names, saying the same thing to the same clique. Change is hard, and for in-house teams to enable change, practical help is needed, and the best way to learn how to enable change is to listen to people who have done it. To hear how they did it, the failures and successes, and the things they would do differently.
Legal Excellence Pioneers (LEAP) is a transformative learning academy for the in-house legal community. Attendees benefit from in-depth case studies provided by pioneering counsel. The case studies will outline the highs and lows experienced during specified improvement projects.
A partnership between Mo Zain Ajaz (LEX360) and The Legal500, LEAP will feature immersive presentations centred around the A3 concept from Lean Six Sigma. The concept covers the following steps:
- Goals: The transformation, why it was chosen, and how it was achieved.
- Resources: The team, tools, and systems used to deliver the outcome.
- Learnings: Reflections on the successes and setbacks experienced.
- Roadmap: An overview of the organisation’s strategic vision for the next three years.
- Purpose-led: LEAP is dedicated to offering value-driven content, tools, and know-how. Our events will be based on extensive research, providing a high-quality learning experience.
- Addressing industry problems: Research from GCs reveals enduring challenges across intake, delivery, supply chain, and technology. LEAP will provide a blueprint for addressing these issues to bring about lasting change.
- Lean principles: Leveraging tried and tested methodologies from the Lean Six Sigma world to showcase the transformations.
- Building a network: By attending LEAP events, in-house counsel will build a network of peers for ongoing support beyond the events.
David Burgess, publishing director, The Legal 500