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Posts Tagged ‘Re-engineering’

Business transformation – think like a farmer, not a scientist

Monday, December 7th, 2015

by Alastair Ross, Director

Business Transformation sign with lots of comments

Business Transformation.  What is it?

Does it even exist in the real world outside the rarefied environment of the CEO’s vision, the consultant’s presentation or the academic treatise?

If it does exist, how can it be achieved?

These are important questions at a time when the need for major change in businesses is ever more pressing, faced with an environment that is full of new challenges and opportunities.

In my career I have worked both inside large businesses and outside them as an external consultant. During this time I have experienced the wide continuum that is ‘business transformation’:  from the all-too-common hype to the reality of major change projects that drive step-change performance improvements through the application of new business practices.

What I have learned is that ‘business transformation’ is not achieved by one mythical ‘big bang’ programme, despite the (over) promises of advisors, consultants and CEOs. Business Transformation is not like a chemical reaction where you bring together key business elements and catalyse them with a strategy to create – in a flash of light and a cloud of smoke – a new business model. Instead it is something apparently more mundane. It’s like farming.

For transformation is achieved by the hacking-away of the stifling undergrowth of conventional thinking, the planting of seeds of new paradigms and practices, and the hard graft of execution in the office, on the factory floor and out in the field. Transformation is realized across many harvests of change – not simply one ‘bumper harvest’. Sometimes the yield from a harvest is poor, the crops of change wither and die and new approaches are needed. Transformation requires the hardy farmers of change as well as its clear-eyed visionaries and sober-headed analysts.

Business transformation requires a bold and unique vision of how the organisation can generate value in a significantly new way – effectively a new business model – and this vision needs to be bought into by leaders and champions in the business. Communicating this new vision across the organisation – repeatedly – serves to catalyze improvement activities and provide a focus for innovation programmes. Then comes the hard grind of execution.

The reality is that most business transformation programmes fail to realize the initial vision. Most commonly the business fails to sustain the transformation programme long enough to yield the planned results. Management is typically impatient for results and performance metrics in most businesses do not encourage the long-term outlook required for successful transformation.

Finally it is worth remembering that businesses that are successful in the long term continually transform themselves – developing new business models – just as a farmer will continually develop their land, introduce new methods and plant new crops. Business Transformation requires long term thinking, it is an ongoing journey of innovation,  not a single destination.

The challenge of efficiency for Private Client lawyers

Monday, March 11th, 2013

These are challenging times for all businesses – but the UK legal sector is facing major changes, driven by de-regulation, the internet and the tough economy. Firms are having to look at how they improve their efficiency and value to clients.

A recent article by Alastair Ross in ‘Private Client Adviser’ outlines how re-engineering has been applied to Private Client departments, to drive major cost savings – whilst maintaining service quality.

Lawyers on waste

Re-engineering Private Client legal services – February 2013

The attached pdf article was first published in Private Client Adviser in February 2013 and is reproduced by kind permission.

A new year – time for new resolutions?

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Goodbye 2012. Hello 2013.

A New Year represents renewal and the chance for a fresh start. Many of us will take the opportunity to make resolutions of personal improvement – to become fitter, get thinner and be better in some aspect of our lives. Some of us will even deliver on those resolutions too…

So what resolutions might you make in your own business? New Year resolutions for business? And why not? The start of a new year offers the opportunity to look at your business afresh, to start new initiatives and to retire old ones. All seems possible with the whole year ahead. In this spirit I offer three ‘2013 Business Resolutions’ that you could make that would stimulate and challenge you in the grey days of early January and if followed through would make major improvements in your business – with little investment other than time (and the courage to make change):

1. I will encourage more ‘crazy ideas’ within our business.
Crazy ideas? At a time of austerity do we really have time for such things, you might ask. Shouldn’t we be focusing on more grounded matters such as efficiency improvements and cost reduction – not on fuzzy, nebulous stuff like this? The simple answer is that you need to do both (more on efficiency later). ‘More of the same’ can only go so far. As Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking said, “You can’t dig a new well by digging the same hole deeper.” Truly getting ahead means doing something different.

To increase your differentiation from your rivals you need to create radical ‘do different’ products, services or ways of working. Only by allowing time and space for your employees to ‘think outside of the box’ are you likely to get some ideas that are truly revolutionary. Create the right conditions for this with space and time for innovation, clear management support and direction-setting together with a recognition and reward structure. Google’s well known ‘20% of time available for personal projects’ for its engineers has been a key element of its success in innovation. Separate out ‘ideation’ from implementation. Allowing space for ‘crazy’ ideas without the immediate application of rigid evaluation criteria allows opportunity for ‘crazy’ ideas to evolve into radical but nonetheless feasible business ideas. ‘Get crazy, get real’ is the approach to follow. Establish a simple process with some seed funding to enable controlled experimentation and prototyping of ideas. Then take the most promising ideas forward.

By the way, this doesn’t mean that ‘do better’ innovation such as incremental improvement is any less important to your business. This is the core of business innovation, accounting for 99%+ of improvements and needs to continue and indeed accelerate in these challenging times. But a business that is effective at innovation will operate a balanced portfolio of innovation activity including some radical/risky/’crazy’ projects as well as the more ‘sure’ projects.

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
Thomas Edison

2. I will pick three key customers and go and give them a good listening to.

You might think you do this already – but are you simply telling them about your products/service offerings and listening to them within the confines of your existing offerings? To truly listen to them, try and stand in their shoes and understand their key business issues. Work to truly appreciate their underlying challenges which may be so accepted by them that they are not questioned and may not even be recognised. You can then determine their root cause limitations to their business. Then you can investigate how you could potentially reconceive the service you provide to them (or at least greatly improve it) to help them address their limitations and thus increase the value you provide to them.

In my work with professional service clients, I have found that the all-pervading ‘client satisfaction’ survey is almost a barrier to true client improvement. These surveys offer little insight on real client problems and give little value to clients. This is because they do not seek to understand the client’s business, but only the client’s view of the effectiveness of your service transaction. I have found it much more useful for Partners and Executives to meet with clients and talk specifics – about their business. Clients will always be pleased to talk about their business – if they know you are truly listening.

At the very least you will improve your working relationship with your client in working this way. You will also stand apart from your rivals who are stuck in the traditional ‘broadcast selling’ mode of doing business….

“All the innovations that have powered the company’s success have come from listening
to its customers and watching how their lives are changing.”
Terry Leahy, ex-CEO Tesco

3. I will identify opportunities for dramatically improving efficiency in one of our key services.
And by ‘dramatic’ I don’t mean five or ten percent improvement. I mean twenty five to fifty percent improvement. This is the level of cost reduction that can be achieved by radical re-engineering (I have seen this myself with many clients) – where you take a clinical look at your processes and services to dramatically reduce waste and increase value. From my experience over the last 20 years working with clients in service and industrial sectors, most businesses operate with inefficient processes for delivering services to clients or for supporting employees. In good times such waste is tolerated and then simply accepted.

There is a vast amount of waste in today’s businesses – despite all the investment in IT and other technology. Waste exists in unnecessary process steps, in time spent in inspection, checking and rework, in delays, in unnecessary variation, in ineffective technology systems and in performing work with over-skilled employees.

Lean thinking is highly effective in identifying and reducing such waste – if it is utilised. Business Process Re-engineering can drive dramatic improvements through process redesign. These are not new techniques. The foundations of Lean thinking originated over 60 years ago and re-engineering is nearly 20 years old. These are well proven improvement methods. So why do so many businesses operate with so much inefficiency? What are the barriers that stop these techniques being effectively employed to tackle this mountain of waste?

Lethargy could be one explanation. But really it is Fear.

Fear of change. Most importantly fear of leading change. Someone is needed to stand up and take the lead. To champion change. To challenge existing methods, to encourage others to participate in the programme of change, to apply the tools and then to persist in making the required changes in ways of working. And most importantly to simply start. Pick a business process or a service that is important and clearly needs improvement. Put a team together – with people who know the process, with people who are change-leaders, with users or customers served by the process. Help them apply the core techniques of Lean and re-engineering. And truly persist. For change always takes longer than you expect. Then use the results of improvement to engage others and your now-experienced team and start on other processes. But that is for next year.

But for this year, focus on just one process. And just start.

Read in December 2013:

So, what happened? Did you make your resolutions? Did you work to realise them? Did you successfully engage others in achieving them? Can you see the benefits? Perhaps you did not achieve as much as you would have liked. But did you achieve more than if you had done nothing? You should celebrate successes. But a good motto for leading change is “To be pleased, but not satisfied.” There is always more that can be done. Time to make your resolutions for 2014…..

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seven ways in which re-engineering enables law firm improvement

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

In our work with major UK law firms since 2005, we have seen a number of major benefits through applying ‘re-engineering’ techniques proven in other business sectors. Re-engineering drives down costs and increases value through a process and client-focused approach. We have successfully applied re-engineering to legal services including Commercial Due Diligence, Insurance, Employment, Inquests, Commercial Property, Probate and Matter Management. From this work we have seen that there are 7 distinct ways in which re-engineering can be used to improve law firm performance:

1. Reducing the chargeable time required to perform a matter by improving the efficiency with which processes are defined and operated – through the application of techniques such as Lean. This results in a reduction in the cost of performing the process. The process can be a service (i.e. a client facing process such as Corporate Acquisition or Probate) or a support process (i.e. an administrative process such as Client Inception or Billing). Law firms need to move to fixed or value pricing arrangements to fully benefit from the increased profitability that this enables.

2. Lowering the cost of performing a matter by reducing the cost of the personnel required to perform the process – what we call ‘right-skilling’. This means using a higher proportion of junior and paralegal personnel. To enable this whilst maintaining required service quality the process needs to be redesigned, standardised and supported with operating procedures, templates and documents – so that it can be effectively operated by lower skilled personnel. This also creates opportunities for reducing the indirect costs of support staff and infrastructure. It should be emphasised that the resulting process will be of higher quality and consistency – even though lower skilled personnel are being used – because it is designed and operated based on the ‘one best way’ process derived from the codified knowledge of the senior experienced personnel. In our work with law firms, reducing chargeable time and right-skilling have yielded direct cost reductions of between 20-40% – with minimal capital investment.

3. Improving the service received by clients through improvement/redesign of the client experience throughout the service cycle. For example by improving responsiveness, reducing errors and improving consistency – focusing on the key ‘moments of truth’ in the client service experience.

4. Raising the value received by clients by improving/innovating the overall service value proposition and the individual elements of the service offer in ways that are valued by the client and so improve client retention and the firm’s competitiveness. The required client-centred approach in our re-engineering work flushes out these opportunities. For example we worked with one firm to develop a new internet-enabled service for inquests, with another we developed a new collaborative improvement approach for insurance claims management and have worked with a number of firms to develop fixed price services.

5. Exploiting the potential of IT and internet-enabled IT as part of re-engineering to improve internal efficiency and client service, including the development of internet-enabled services or service elements. We do this by ensuring that IT is well represented in the re-engineering programme team and so identify opportunities for leveraging IT.

6. Developing opportunities for strategic innovation in the firm covering a change in the value proposition, new business models and organisational change. Re-engineering promotes questioning and analysis of the services provided and how they are delivered, together with improving insights into client requirements. This naturally leads to opportunities for significant changes in the firm’s business model.

7. Catalysing the firm’s approach to innovation – addressing culture, resourcing and management of innovation and ongoing improvement. A re-engineering project establishes an environment for focused and collaborative innovation, together with experience in a systematic improvement approach. The Partners and employees involved can share this knowledge with others and the re-engineering approach can be deployed in other parts of the firm. We assist this in our projects with deliberate and structured skills transfer. In addition, this work creates a new paradigm where questioning and new ideas become welcome.

As law firms face challenging business times, re-engineering is an approach for step-change competitive improvement that we believe should not be overlooked, based on the significant improvements that can be achieved.

Law Firms can request a complimentary copy of our whitepaper: ‘Smarter working in law firms – re-engineering value and cost’ published in March 2012, which covers this subject in detail, by contacting us via the website.

I’d welcome your views and comments on this topic.

Alastair Ross
Codexx Associates Ltd

Smarter Working – helping law firms find their mojo

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

How can law firms respond to increasingly tough business environment, deregulation and the march of internet-enabled business models?

We advocate the application of ‘Smarter Working’ – an approach that embraces re-engineering and innovation to address both value and cost. Codexx has been applying Smarter Working methods with major UK law firms since 2005.

To help change leaders understand this we have just produced this short video ‘Smarter Working – helping law firms find their mojo’:

Making law firms more innovative – Codexx presentation at international innovation conference

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Alastair Ross, Director of Codexx, is speaking on ‘Making law firms more innovative’ at the ‘6th International Innovation Lab Conference: Updates from the Frontier of Innovation’ in London on Friday 8th July 2011. The conference is run by the Advanced Institute for Management and hosted by Professor John Bessant of the University of Exeter Business School. For more information go to: http://www.aimresearch.org/calendar/61/232-Updates-from-the-Frontier-of-Innovation-Innovation-Lab-2011

Legal Re-engineering – Masterclass and Whitepaper

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

The tough economic environment is driving an increased cost focus across businesses, causing budgets to be cut and cost reduction measures to be introduced. This cost-down pressure rolls back through the supply chain, impacting other businesses. Professional services organisations, such as Law Firms, are not immune to this. In the UK this pressure for change has come on top of ongoing deregulation in the legal sector. Law firm management is looking at ways of increasing their own efficiency to operate within this tougher business environment. We are now seeing increased interest in process re-engineering approaches – typically firms have not applied process management and improvement methods to their work. But needs must, and the current business conditions have created an increasingly ‘hot platform’ for change, giving support to those Partners and Directors seeking new ways of working in their firms.

For those interested in understanding more about business process re-engineering and how it can be applied within law firms, then why not come along to a a masterclass on ‘Re-engineering Law Firm Work for improved efficiency and service’ being given by Alastair Ross, Codexx Director, on behalf of ARK Publications in London on 27th April 2010. He will be sharing his experience gained over the last 20 years in re-engineering across multiple business sectors and with law firms since 2005. For more information, go to http://www.ark-group.com/mp_introduction.asp?ac=887&nc=1&fc=167

In addition we are just completing our latest whitepaper on ‘Business process re-engineering in law firms’ and it is just undergoing peer review with selected firms. This document provides a substantial and practical introduction to re-engineering and how it can be applied in law firms, considering both the opportunities and the challenges to be faced. If you work in a law firm and would like to receive a complimentary copy of the paper, then contact us via our website https://www.codexx.com/contact-codexx.php

Energizing Change

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