Six Sigma Theories – how can they be applied to law firms?

Six Sigma is a business management strategy, initially implemented by Motorola, that today enjoys widespread application in many sectors of industry. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and variation in business processes.

To put this into a nutshell, it saves money.

It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization (“Black Belts” etc.) who are experts in these methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction or profit increase).

Six Sigma asserts that –
• Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results are of vital importance to business success.
• Business processes have characteristics that can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled.
• Achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management.

Up until 2006 Motorola reported over US$17 billion in saving from Six Sigma. By the late 1990s, about two-thirds of the Fortune 500 organizations had begun Six Sigma initiatives with the aim of reducing costs and improving quality.
 
The main method of Six Sigma is called DMAIC:

• Define high-level project goals and the current process.
• Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
• Analyze the data to verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered.
• Improve or optimize the process based upon data analysis using techniques like design of experiments.
• Control to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability, move on to production, set up control mechanisms and continuously monitor the process.

There are many practitioners of Six Sigma but usually the senior practitioners are called Master Black Belts, the practitioners called Black Belts and the more junior workers with an understanding of the work are called Green Belts. In industry a Master Black Belt commands a salary or package in the region of £65,000-£110,000, depending on the level of experience.

If you would like to benefit from the services of a Master Black Belt you can contact a range of consultants who usually charge around £1,000 per day for their services on a one-off basis. Their success is measured in savings and so can be quantified quite easily.

Kaizen Sigma Lean Consulting are independent cost-cutting consultants who can assist your firm or business to look processes, save money and cut costs. www.kaizensigmalean.co.uk

Investigations – The Case of the Disappearing Lover

A recent case from the Diary of a Private Investigator Blog
http://private-investigator-diary.blogspot.com

We were instructed on a case not so long ago that involved a spouse concerned that her partner was cheating on her because he kept disappearing at weekends for fairly long periods of time, and was telling her that he was at work, when a coincidental telephone call had indicated to her that he was not there.
He would also sometimes come back with mud on his knees or in his hair and be smelling a bit of beer. She was very concerned so she instructed TP Investigations (http://www.tp-investigations.co.uk) to undertake some investigation work for her, to see where her spouse was going.

Ccovert surveillance was awkward because the target lived in a very rural area, which necessitated the visibility of the private investigator.

We sent our private investigator in disguise, and he was able to shadow the husband to a local cricket ground.

The private investigator sat and watched as the husband opened the batting for a local team, and it soon became obvious that he had been too scared to tell his wife that he had been playing cricket, and had instead told her he was going into work.

This is fairly common, but we would estimate that in 60 – 70% of cases, where a spouse suspects their partner is having an affair, they are usually correct, or the spouse has lied to them as to their whereabouts, in order to pursue some other interest or activity.

We were able to reassure the spouse of their husband’s infidelity with the game of cricket, but we would not have liked to have been in their house that evening.

Where he was getting his cricket whites washed we have no idea…

Free Outplacement Services and Jobsearch Support for Newly Unemployed Professionals

Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited has been awarded a 2 year contract by the Department of Work & Pensions to provide Job Search Support services to Newly Unemployed Professionals. Clients referred to us by Jobcentre Plus will receive free career coaching & counselling, CV reviews, interview practice, covering letter and email preparation, career changes, networking and job search techniques, both online and offline. The contract is for two years and it is estimated that up to 20,000 professional people per year will benefit from the programme.

Ten-Percent and JB Fagan & Associates have been coaching professionals for over 8 years in good times as well as bad. We have offered standalone CV, careers, interview and job searching advice throughout this time and as part of the DWP contract we cover the whole of the UK. Appointments can usually be arranged within 24 hours, and the service is conducted over the telephone and online where relevant. 

How does this help your business? If you make any staff redundant, you can advise them of the above scheme and the employee can get outplacement services free of charge. We have already assisted three lawyers, one of whom found a wills & probate job within 2 weeks of attending this scheme.

The current economic climate is forcing many businesses to downsize and make redundancies. Whilst in most cases this is necessary, unavoidable and unpleasant, it is in the best interest of affected companies to ensure their employees are well looked after during the process, particularly in specialist industries where the talent pool is small and bad news travels quickly.

To manage the process sensitively, many companies are turning to outplacement because it offers invaluable support and advice to help employees get back on their feet. It is also appealing to employers as it ensures their reputations are not damaged whilst making sure that surviving staff remain as motivated and engaged as possible.

Outplacement involves a number of stages, from coaching and counselling when candidates initially hear the news, to education on the current market and economy. The process enables candidates to clarify their objectives and expectations before creating their CV, job applications and attending interviews.

For further details of the services offered by Ten-Percent, please visit
http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/career.htm

LinkedIn – Update May 2009 – 11.5 million connections and counting..

We wrote an article 3 months ago on LinkedIn, outlining its benefits to professionals, particularly lawyers. At the time, we gave you our Managing Director’s LinkedIn details: 92 connections, 145,800 connections 2 degrees away and 7,714,500 connections 3 degrees away. In the space of 12 weeks, this has increased to 231 connections, 264,600 connections 2 degrees away and 11,428,800 connections 3 degrees away.

This just shows the power of social networking for rapidly increasing your contacts. If you contribute to forums and groups as well, the above can just be a small part of your presence on the LinkedIn website..

 View Jonathan Fagan''''''''''''''''s profile on LinkedIn

Jonathan Fagan, Managing Director – Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment

Which? enters the Wills Market

The Law Society Gazette has reported that Which? have entered the wills market via a link to Blake Lapthorn. This is nothing to be surprised about really, as Which? seem to have taken an affront to solicitors for many years (unsurprising really with some of the shocking cases they have uncovered in the same time) and have been running a legal help service for some time to assist with consumer claims. What is surprising is the price – it must mean that Blake Lapthorn are hoping for mass volume on the service, as the price is £89 and £129 for single and mirror wills.

Could we be seeing the start of a move from volume conveyancing into volume wills & probate? I know that some firms have been eyeing up the market – not law firms, but IFA firms and insurance brokers – as we have been approached to find what can only be termed salesmen rather than fee earners. The probate work is kept in house and done by a sole practitioner working as a law firm but in effect an in house department.

Is there such a market out there?

You can comment on this article below..

Helping Employees with Credit Crunch stress levels

As the recession deepens and anxiety takes hold, you can play a vital role in helping staff avoid falling victim to stress. Increased anxiety brought about by financial and job insecurity now pose a risk to employee health, with two in three workers claiming they feel more stressed, run down and prone to illness since the credit crunch.

A serious issue is that increased stress can have a direct impact on employee health in itself, causing increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is proven to suppress immunity, making those most under pressure more susceptible to viruses.

Heightened levels of stress can also lead to other symptoms, including reduced ability to sleep, loss of appetite and tendency towards maladaptive behaviours, such as excessive alcohol consumption or drug use, further damaging the individual’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Good and bad
This isn’t to say that all stress is a bad thing. A certain amount of ‘good’ stress is essential, motivating us to perform and strive to overcome obstacles. Too little stress, and we become bored and disengaged. Stress is our body’s natural warning signal, telling us that there’s an event on the horizon that will require all our focus and energy to overcome it. The problem arises when we are unable to recover quickly and fully. Then our body/mind equilibrium becomes disturbed and sets itself to a constant state of alarm. The resulting ‘bad’ stress can lead to ill health, ranging from anxiety and depression to cardiovascular disease.

Responses
Research into who stays healthy while under stress reveals that it isn’t the amount of stress that we are exposed to that matters most, but rather our ability to view increased pressure as a positive challenge to be overcome, rather than an insurmountable obstacle or threat.

The problem is that each individual’s reaction to stress is different, with some people positively thriving on increased uncertainty, pressure and deadlines that others would gladly call in sick to avoid. Indeed ‘stress junkies’ – competitive high-achievers – pride themselves on performing under pressure so extreme it would cause most of us to become distracted by the thought of failure and under-perform.

Stress occurs when our perception of a threat or pressure exceeds our perceived ability to cope. For the most part, this is pre-determined by our genetic disposition and principles for living imparted to us in early life. However, there is a third factor – how pressurised our environment is – once wrongly viewed as a ‘manager disease’, the reality is that those who feel most overworked and least empowered are most likely to become sick from stress.

Empowerment
Research shows the more people feel they can control their destiny, even if that’s just setting their own deadlines or having an opportunity to own a project or initiative, the greater their resilience to stress and the adverse health effects that can result.

Vitality initiatives, ranging from nutrition workshops to sports activities, should be designed not only to improve the physical wellbeing of staff, but also to educate them on how to boost their energy levels. Something as simple as introducing a bowl of fruit, information on how to improve their posture at work, or telephone access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) to talk through any concerns, will encourage employees to take better care of themselves.

Even if you are considering redundancies, offering career coaching & outplacement services can result in a very negative outcome being viewed in a positive light by employees, and can avoid damage to your brand.

When employees feel looked after and empowered to take care of themselves at work, they will naturally follow these principles outside of work, and feel less inclined to drink to excess, skip meals or stay up late.

It is important to empower staff to take better care of themselves, and increase their resilience to stress, is breaking bad habits. If someone habitually works through lunch and does not realise how thirsty they are until the end of the day, they will be even less inclined to listen to their body in times of crisis. To overcome this, we must promote healthy workplace rituals that also increase productivity, such as working intensively for ‘sprints’ of two hours followed by a proper break, but also engage senior managers to lead by example and make employees feel it’s okay to follow suit.

Article Source: http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2009/02/25/49558/empower-staff-to-tackle-stress.html

Career Coaching and Outplacement Services: www.ten-percent.co.uk/career.htm