This week’s blog is special because it is an interview with Iain Izatt, Project Manager at Burness Paull LLP, headquartered in Edinburgh, the first of our clients to have tried our all-new online course offering.

Over to Iain: 

Iain, had you encountered Lean methodology before the prospect of us working with you was raised?

I had not to be honest. My background is project management, and specifically software – projects predominantly – my first touch with Lean was last year encountering at Burness Paull what you guys had previously done for us a couple of years ago, I believe. Having gotten a sense of what you had done, I recognised, this could be something we could roll out further into the firm by reviewing our internal processes.

That’s interesting. I think there’s this perception of Lean as being impenetrable to ‘outsiders’, but it is very much something you can quite quickly get a handle on and quickly start seeing the benefits from. What did you want to achieve at the outset, and did you feel that was achieved with us? 

That’s right and I think conversations when they started again this year centred around how can we get this going moving forward. We had a false start last year, challenges included how do we do this without the ability to use post-it notes. We looked at it, occasionally thought we can’t do this, some of it was a step into unknown, we hadn’t done anything like this virtually before. ‘How are we going to get right engagement’, and ‘is this going to work’ being the key questions. When we did the training, we were able to manage digital whiteboards online, which gave us good idea of how it was going to go when we actually held an event.  We have now done a couple, and feedback was very positive having held it online. Some actually preferred it online, as it was perceived as less disruptive.

What would you say Lean methodology adds in value that other methods you’ve encountered do not?

I think being a project manager you have several methodologies you can use to run projects. And essentially, running Lean events is like running a project. Yet emphasis on Lean methods, of two fundamentals, continuous improvement, and respect for people, is a big message to get across and the approach when you actually get started, no idea is a bad idea, an ideas board if you’re not keen on speaking out, just starts to make people relaxed and get more out of it. Also having philosophy of having right people in the room, made the event very successful.

I also think that success is borne out of way we’ve done it. Every relevant area of business is involved, plus decision makers. Really easy, and meant that as we’re implementing results, it’s a lot less painful to get approval. And those on the event become very good ambassadors moving forward as changes rolled out.

One of amazing things about Lean is that it addresses the cultural things that need to be in place in order to change those processes

Absolutely and another of the big things as well that came out of it lies in the fact that the area we’ve been looking at, and events we’ve done are quite specialised. Essentially there are two key parts of the business we’ve focused on, Business Services and Client Facing.

And what was very telling was when we analysed existing processes, in Client Facing for example we didn’t realise how much effort was required for a simple request. We were quite taken aback to see all the steps required to actually produce a piece of paper, so all concerned became willing to engage to see if it can be done better, and we concluded that we could make a big difference.

That’s absolutely right. You need that managerial buy-in, otherwise you get the wall of excuses that I imagine Mark has talked about!

Yes! And again, it goes back to the conversation I had with Mark before we had even started. That buy-in starts at board level, so we get as much support and encouragement as we need, and the results of that are really starting to pay dividends.

So, in the spirit of this transition online that we have had to also become a part of here at SALC, our business of course being very client facing, I’m curious to ask how our online course offering stacked up against the more traditional services we’ve offered you. Would you describe it as complementarity, perhaps?

I believe as part of discussions of the course being run, and which changes need to happen in order for course to be run, there was a sense of balance. We went through the theory, realistic examples of changing processes delved into. Also, because of the way it was done virtually, we were able to capture more info that we can then share with wider firm. Mark did a presentation for us to the partners, to the senior lawyers, and internally we’ve been able to show that presentation to the wider audience.

That itself has enabled the word to be spread, particularly to senior managers. All the things Lean talks about, continuous improvement, respect for people, managerial buy-in, it is really starting to keep people interested.

As opposed to having, say, four people looking at a problem, writing it out, people have collaborated, generally not necessarily with right people in room. Individual ideas have given way to the ‘collective’ that Lean fosters. And going forward into events, the way we’ve done it has helped ensure this. In the first one we did some training at the beginning of week. Then we started fine tuning our approach; what we do now is two hours of Lean theory in advance, in addition to training on digital lightbulb, so when we start on the Monday, aside from housekeeping, we can get straight on to mapping out process.

What would you say to someone in an organisation who is unfamiliar with Lean?

When you’re researching Lean, you get claims of 60-70 percent more efficient, and you think ‘surely not!’ But when we did the events, it was a massive eye opener; when we started looking at the wait times, for example, yes, it’s 50% and above what we’ve managed to save.

I think those who haven’t touched this would say, we’re too busy. But actually, if you take a step back and be brave about it and say let’s have a look at this, even if it’s just trying a couple of events to see. It really does need investment from management to have a look. You just have to take a step back in the knowledge that you’re going to get great stuff out of it in the end. 

A slightly more self-promoting question, Ian! Would you recommend our services? And why?

What stuck out for me with SALC is that it’s a very relaxed approach, Mark is very knowledgeable, is able to convey what he needs to convey, and you are there when we need you. It’s been a very successful collaboration that’s going to continue for a while yet. Up there with the best services I’ve been involved with. 

Thank you, Iain, for a great interview!

So, there you have it, the first public insight from a client into our course. If you want to see some of the gains that Iain has been seeing, get in touch today and let’s discuss how we could help you.