In-house Application of Lean Six Sigma Principles is a Boon for Companies Globally
“As an in-house lawyer, there are real advantages to streamlining procedures and processes,” opined Cara Bradley, spokesperson and deputy general counsel for Xylem Inc.
According to Suchitra Narayen, associate general counsel and vice-president at Oracle Corp, in the contemporary scenario, the primary question that corporate legal departments and allied authorities should be putting forth to themselves is, “What does success look like [for our department]?” She said that the integration and utilization of Lean Six Sigma principles was a sure-shot way of getting things done.
Bradley and Narayen were speaking on a panel that was discussing the current day application of diverse Six Sigma principles in relation to corporate legal departments. This forum was linked to the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section’s spring meeting, held on April 16.
Narayen has said that Six Sigma is a an essential set of tools that present day companies can look forward to for bringing about improvements to their processes. Six Sigma was originally developed to be utilized in the field of manufacturing companies and to improve upon the quality of their total outputs by analysing, zeroing in and removing errors. “ Quality is what Six Sigma is all about,” mentioned Narayen.
As per Rafael Zahralddin-Aravena, chairman and founding shareholder of the National Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Practice, Elliott Greenleaf, Six Sigma is typically “How you come to perfect an outcome.” It considers how to reach from “somebody should do something” to “getting consensus of who is going to do what,” conformed Narayen who also suggested that while it was easy to go through the process, it had to be done legitimately.
Narayen quoted the example of a specific senior executive in a given organization who requests the drafting of an important contract via an in-house attorney. Now, this senior executive expects the contract to be ready once she returns to her table from lunch. The in-house attorney starts the process of drafting but realizes that he is getting stuck due to many unanswered questions related to the contract. As a result the draft is not completed in time. Emphasizing the need for effective communication, Narayen believes that all stakeholders linked in the process should be “on the same page.” In other words, improved communication amongst all members related to a process is very essential for project management.
“Lengthening that initial conversation to make sure we know what is expected is key”, mentioned Thomas Romer, who is a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP. He adds, “All lawyers are project managers and we’re really just not that good.”
Zahralddin-Aravena said that a significant part of project management is linked with the definition of the scope of service, he mentioned, “This goes beyond the ethical requirements and should not be done without the client.”
Instead of defining the overall scope of services as “drafting a contract,” Zahralddin-Aravena said that an efficient lawyer should undertake a comprehensive discussion of the budget and ways of monitoring the same. He added that an assessment of limits and estimates for spend, alerts and reviews to notify the stage when a project nears any limits, and various phases or task codes for determining what resources are capable of being allocated (and where), are capable of being addressed through Lean Six Sigma processes.
Romer said that looking towards the features and advantages of Lean Six Sigma demystifies legal processes; this is because the act provides adequate predictability options via effective budget management. He said, “As lawyers, we have been trying to achieve all three: time, quality and price and we’re being dishonest if we don’t tell our clients that they will have to pick two.” He adds, “These are not panaceas,”
Though there were other discussions as well, the panellists had a collective opinion that the usages of Six Sigma principles as well as the steps taken for improving project management were the tools that needed instant implementation, especially with respect to corporate legal departments.