Being well advised: Kanban in the legal department

Kanban in der Rechtsabteilung

Kanban is a so-called agile method for controlling production processes. Kanban comes from the Asian language and means card, label or sticker. The first Kanban system was developed from 1947 by Taiichi Ohno at the Japanese company Toyota. One reason for the development of Kanban was the insufficient productivity and efficiency of the company compared to American competitors. With Kanban, Toyota achieved flexible and efficient production control, which increased productivity and at the same time reduced cost-intensive stocks of raw materials, semi-finished materials and also end products.

Ideally, Kanban systems control the entire value chain from the supplier to the end customer. This is precisely where the transfer of the method to the legal department comes in. The question is: How can throughput times be shortened, quality be increased, CIP be integrated, teamwork be improved, planning reliability be achieved, efficiency be increased and thus customer satisfaction be enhanced?

The essential intellectual and methodological approach is to replace the “push” system, in which orders are given to the legal department, with a “pull” system, in which orders are only taken into processing when current tasks have been completed. The principle is: stop starting – start finishing.

A so-called pull system is installed for this purpose:

  • Tickets (i.e.: requests) must never be passed on to the following process step, but rather Tickets may only be “pulled” if all existing tickets have been processed before.

This is the central mechanism for achieving the goals of the Kanban method: All tasks are completed before new tickets are pulled.

Blockades of individual tasks are solved (together) before new tasks are processed.

The method seems radical. It seems to turn the usual workflows of the legal department upside down. This is also true in parts. Figuratively speaking, acceleration – as at the Gotthard tunnel at rush hour – is achieved by block handling, and thus the congestion formula that explains the eternal congestion times at the Elbe tunnel is used: braking times are bundled.

The introduction of such a method requires a process that involves the most important stakeholders in the legal department from the very beginning. In keywords:

  • Involving management and key internal customers
  • Stocktaking with the legal team: Making work (status quo) visible on the Kanban board
  • Make process rules explicit
  • Prioritization of requirements (one-time and continuous)
  • Description of the requirements with a view to customer benefit in the team

Daily work meeting (15 min): each team member reports

  • “Am I finished with what I set out to do until today?”
  • “What am I going to do until tomorrow?”
  • “Is there a problem that has prevented me from completing my task?”

Control throughput times: Record and document the time from order placement to completion to done. Analyze throughput times and adjust backlog categories according to departmental or functional requirements or service levels (standard, express, fixed date, indefinite).

The results are impressive. Kanban can certainly not be transferred in its pure form to the legal department; however, when adapted slightly, the method leads to a significant improvement in throughput times, team cooperation, benefits for internal customers and the company and, last but not least, quality. Dr.-Ing. Sascha Theißen, former Senior Vice President Legal/General Counsel of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group can be named as a pioneer in this respect.

If you would like to know more about how you can make your legal department work faster and more focused, please contact Dr. Wolf Peter Gross at 089 452157 0.

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