The Surprising(ly Negative) Power of Incentives

I’m a fan of Daniel Pink. I think he does an excellent job breaking down complex business problems and encouraging new ways of thinking about them. I especially like his 2009 book Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and I keep coming back to it when I think about creating Value.

A key topic of that book is the complex interplay of reward, incentive, and motivation. In the book (and in a related Ted Talk) Pink explains an experiment using an old puzzle called the Candle Problem. I won’t re-hash the whole thing, but the upshot is that a group of subjects was asked to solve a puzzle and told they were being timed—but only to establish a baseline. When a second group was asked to work on the same puzzle but were offered a decent cash reward for finishing in the top 25% (and a larger reward for reaching #1), the time for that group to complete the puzzle changed…Continue reading

The Relationship between Value and Profit

The basic premise of my search for the Grand Unified Theory of Legal Value has been that Value is the gap between what you Invest and the Benefit you receive in a particular transaction. Otherwise stated:

Value = Benefit – Investment

My discussion so far has focused on Value from the customer’s perspective, although a friend pointed out that my post on Waste conflated the customer’s Investment with the provider’s Investment. He has a good point, and I think the best way to differentiate the two is to introduce the concept of Profit.Continue reading

Waste: Investment without Benefit

In my last post I kicked off my search for the Grand Unified Theory of Legal Value by proposing a simple equation:

Value = Benefit – Investment

In other words, Value is the gap between what you Invest and the Benefit you receive in a particular transaction.

I also suggested that increasing your customer’s* perceived Benefit (and the customer’s perception is all that matters), can have a stronger impact on Value than reducing the customer’s Investment (especially through discounting).

That said, this post will introduce a tool for increasing Value by reducing Investment: Minimize Waste.Continue reading

Defining Value

As long as I’ve been practicing law, and certainly since the recent recession, I’ve heard much talk about “value” without a satisfactory explanation of what value is. You’ve heard it too: Clients talk about “getting more value for our legal spend,” lawyers talk about “delivering client value.” But what do they mean?Continue reading

Hello World

After several years away from blogging I’ve decided to give it another go with a new subject and an outrageous goal: to develop a Grand Unified Theory of Legal Value.™ I’ve spent years in operations, in legal practice, and in legal operations, always in search of ways to deliver outstanding customer value. While I’m not nearly so bold as to think that I can actually come up with the best and final answer to the legal value equation, I think it will be a lot of fun to try.

My hope is to discuss and draw from the tools and techniques that have powered modern businesses to new levels of achievement, but that aren’t (yet) widely practiced in the legal world. These include Lean, Agile, Six Sigma, Kanban, the Theory of Constraints, and surely others we’ll encounter along the way. I am a student of all of these methodologies, but I offer fealty to none. They all have their strengths, and each will suit some situations better than others.

If I do have devotion to a single concept, that concept is Kaizen, or continuous improvement.Continue reading

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