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To measure a process-improvement ratio is a fool’s errand

Once more I attack the Nov. 10, 2005 report by The Corporate Legal Standard, and specifically one item in a table entitled Top 25 Law Department Operations Metrics (at 10). One mouthful of a metric sounds innocuous yet impressive: “ratio of law department business processes undergoing automation/business processing reengineering/Six Sigma — TQM — other quality improvement.” But pause to deconstruct it.

The subjectivity of deciding when a law department has undertaken an initiative to improve the quality of any of its “business processes” detracts considerably from the reliability of this metric. Even if you were able to pinpoint the start of each initiative, there is no accepted taxonomy of law department “processes” (See my post of Oct. 18, 2006 on processes.). This point leads to another criticism. The law department would need to catalog all its processes to calculate the ratio of those undergoing quality improvement efforts.

Those of us who care about law department management ought to have our “reach exceed our grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” But the firmament is not big enough to hold this ethereal metric.

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