Posted by Chris Pucci, chief executive of Legal Futures Associate Osprey Approach
In the worlds of business and law, there are always so many changeable parts to juggle. Nothing stands still for too long, which is why – to be most effective and optimise for success – the habits and processes you build for your business need to be continually reviewed and improved.
Continuous improvement isn’t simply about improving; it’s about identifying what is no longer serving the business well. Often, it’s the bad habits that are more detrimental to performance than following good ones.
Being complacent could result in an increased risk of cyber-attacks; financial performance could suffer; employees may become disengaged; and clients could start leaving poor reviews.
What is a continuous improvement mindset?
A continuous improvement mindset is a business culture built on the aim of implementing ongoing improvements to all elements of the business, including its processes, tools, services, and products.
The focus, primarily, is that those improvements are small, incremental and frequent steps to achieve marginal gains, rather than attempting large, complex and resource-heavy improvement projects.
Looking for small steps that take you closer to your goals helps with momentum and provides a sense of achievement and progression, which is essential for a sustainable plan and long-term motivation.
That’s why a continuous mindset is based on goals without an end-goal, because this promotes curiosity and enables the team to always strive for better. The openness and willingness for change needs to be a culture adopted by frontline employees and management to see the true impact.
A prime example of the impact of continuous improvements is the incredible impact it had on the British Cycling team.
You can discover more in our guide to maximising a return on your investment, which explains how David Brailsford, its performance director at the time, looked for marginal gains that would compound and have a big impact.
He famously said to forget about perfection but focus on progression, because that’s what will make the biggest difference.
The benefits of continuous improvement
Implementing a continuous review mindset puts your firm in the best position to achieve its goals, remain competitive and tackle challenges. It allows the practice to be more agile and adaptable, and ensures the foundations and basics of the business are performing at their best.
The compound effect of small improvements has a big impact on overall success but with minimum disruption and firm-wide responsibility, with benefits including:
- A positive impact to the bottom-line because when time is saved, costs are reduced and return on investments are maximised, so profitability increases;
- An enhanced client service because efficiencies are passed through to clients, which improves satisfaction rates. When employees are freed up to dedicate more time to the client experience, it can boost retention rates, and reviews and recommendations increase to help win new business;
- An increase in business longevity because reputation is improved through happy employees and clients, risks and errors are reduced, which aid compliance and reduces costs, and processes and tools are adaptable and flexible to meet unforeseen challenges effectively.
How technology aids continuous improvement
Running a successful law firm requires more than being an expert in the practice of law. In business, data is power, and a competitive firm will collect, analyse and utilise the right information to make data-driven decisions that push performance and potential.
Legal technology helps to digitalise and connect the data you hold to extract and analyse through reporting tools and business intelligence dashboards. This enables your firm to gain data-driven insight into the firm’s performance, rather than relying on gut feeling or instinct.
With a centralised practice and case management solution, which is integrated to your other business tools, you can build an accurate representation of your firm and make smarter business decisions based on fact, enabling you to spot trends, better allocate resource and identify opportunities.
Without a connected digital platform, it’s an almost impossible task to collect and report on the data you hold.
The management information gained from the software can determine the priorities you focus on in your continuous improvement plans. This insight can help to identify the areas for improvement that will have the biggest impact on your goals and, crucially, it enables you to monitor performance and the impact your continuous review processes has had on the business.
How the legal sector already embraces continuous improvement
Continuous review is already a requirement for compliance officers throughout the legal sector. The requirements set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for COLPs and COFAs are there to ensure that the systems, tools and processes in place to aid compliance are reviewed and managed continually to ensure the risk to the business is minimised.
Continuous training and development are also expected of all lawyers to ensure individuals are up to date with the latest legislative rules and best practices. That expectation of review should apply to business operations to ensure the firm is keeping up with client expectations, employee needs and technology platforms.
You five-point continuous improvement plan
We’ve put together a five-point plan that sets out in detail the steps to consider when implementing a continuous improvement programme into your firm. The full user guide can be downloaded here, but briefly the plan helps you to achieve the following:
- Create guidelines: set some basic guidelines and structures to help employees understand the role they play in reaching the firm’s goals.
- Set goals and communicate the aim: look at the firm-wide, top-level aims and goals, and ensure these are communicated to the entire team. This should not only consider your goals for the firm, but also the reasons why you’re implementing a continuous review plan.
- Map out current processes and challenges: this will enable real change to occur, whilst ensuring the team understands the current barriers, challenges and pain-points. This will help you to be more realistic when breaking down the improvement plan into manageable, actionable tasks.
- Define the ‘what’: decide what can be improved to bring you one step closer to meeting your goals.
- Evaluate your digital tools: this enables you to assess whether you need to implement new tools or look at ways to optimise processes and maximise your team’s skills.
Future-proof your law firm
By putting in place a continuous improvement plan and investing time to create solid foundations across all areas of your business, you’re giving it every chance for success – boosted profits, happy staff and clients, a good reputation and being adaptable to challenges.
It’s easy to become too focused on the need for perfection, but simply taking steps towards building better habits and having a continuous improvement mindset is a great place to start.