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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Innovation Insights

Best delivery in the times of coronavirus

Last year, three members of the Best Delivery network attended Lean Six Sigma training. This year they had the opportunity to apply the learning in unexpected ways.

The world is living in uncertain times. Some things that directly impact how we live our lives can change from one day to the next, while the "new normal" of widespread remote working appears to be here to stay. Some people see it as an opportunity to rethink and adapt, while others feel unsafe and out of control. Today this relates to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the same principles can be applied to any business transformation programme. Over the last few years, Best Delivery has been at the forefront of a change programme for Clifford Chance, drawing together cross functional teams of specialists that can help the firm transform the way the legal services are delivered, and give clients the best possible experience.

Last year, three Best Delivery Advisors from our network – Olga Grudinina from Moscow, Merve Yaşkut, from Istanbul, and me from Madrid, had the opportunity to improve our problem solving skills through attending Lean Six Sigma training. Applying the Lean principles, we have been able to improve certain processes in our respective offices, and establish new ways of working. Despite any cultural or experiential differences between us, we all have been able to think globally and follow the same generic structure, which may also be replicated in many other scenarios in life.

Below you can see how the Six Sigma methodology framework can work to improve the situation in which we all find ourselves:

Define: Make sure you identify what is the underlying problem and understand why it’s an issue. Is it the working from home situation? Is it that someone close to you requires more attention than usual? Try to focus on the core issues. Life doesn't come with an upper limit on the number of problems we might face at any one time (unfortunately!), but we have the power to organise them in a way that makes them manageable. Sometimes, just taking a step back and being more objective helps us realise that it's not such a big problem.

Measure: Once you have identified your underlying problem, collect data. If it's the working from home situation, you can assess whether the set-up of your desk helping or hindering your work; consider the ways you communicate with your team members and others, the frequency of those communications, your work schedule, the amount of time you allow for activities apart from work, and any other aspects of your home working operation. It can also be useful to seek feedback from your team members, so you can see the problem from different perspectives.

Analyse: Having gathered all the information, ask yourself "Why?". Try to reach the root cause of the problem by analysing every detail related to it. "Why are we using videocalls for quick questions?"; "Why am I answering emails late at night?" "Why do I get distracted before I've finished a task?". The answer to those questions should drive us to the cause-effect principle: "Setting up videocalls takes longer than a phone call, so we waste time in these conversations"; "I'm answering emails late at night because I don't log off from my computer".

Improve: Develop a series of options to eliminate, or at least control, the root causes identified. Only one option needs to be implemented, but the good thing about having alternatives is that you can test and even optimise the most promising solution. Brainstorming with your team may also make this phase easier. "Instead of videocalls, let's use the phone"; "If the question is quick but not really urgent, try using Skype"; "We can also set up a OneNote workbook so we can share the information there for the rest of the team"; "If there was something urgent, they would call me. I don't need to check my inbox every 30 minutes".

Control: Make sure that you stick to the solutions you have identified and keep an eye on how you are doing so your original problem doesn't return. Knowledge transfer with your team is also key: if you want a solution to become a reality, everybody involved should know the details and have the opportunity to intervene. The implementation may be immediate, but it's important to keep in mind that things may change outside our control, so we also need to be flexible and re-adapt if necessary.