Becoming a lean service organisation
A Legal Services Commission case study

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Page 2: Lean production

Lean production is an approach that aims to maximise the use of available resources, thereby reducing waste and inefficiency. Typical components of lean production include 'Just in Time' and Total Quality Management (TQM).

Just-in-time is a model applied to production processes of all types. It aims to reduce the costs of holding excessive stocks and avoid duplicating effort. In a manufacturing environment this would refer to holding large amounts of components or finished goods. However in a service organisation like the Commission, just-in-time could help it, for example, to move from holding paper records to providing online data as and when needed.

The Total Quality Management approach is also very relevant to the work of the Commission. TQM involves establishing a culture of quality throughout the organisation. This means that every employee is responsible for making sure the needs of customers are met.

The Legal Services Commission aims to provide the best possible service for its clients. Any activity that creates benefits to these customers is a 'value adding activity'. By cutting out 'non-value adding activities', more time and resources can be spent on providing the best service. This is illustrated in the process of providing legal aid to clients who need legal advice.

The Legal Services Commission uses lean methods which focus on cutting out waste in the way that it operates. It is concentrating on improving the services that people would willingly pay for and reducing wasteful administrative burdens on employees and providers of services to the Commission. For example, its forms have been redesigned to make them easier for clients to complete correctly first time. This has reduced employees' time spent putting them right. Legal Providers can now supply information electronically or via the internet rather than by post, reducing paper handling and time taken.

With legal aid it is very important that processes are handled quickly and efficiently. There are three parties involved in the process: 

Information provided for the Legal Services Commission needs to be in a format that is easy to enter into its computer databases. Providers deal with a range of different types of clients and cases for example, criminal cases where a law has been broken and civil cases involving a dispute between two parties but where no law is broken.

The best way of understanding how lean production works at the Legal Services Commission is to look at some examples: 

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Legal Services Commission | Becoming a lean service organisation