This week’s blog addresses what can be accomplished when General Counsel implement a Continuous Improvement Program. As you read this article, bear in mind that it is not the technology per se, but how the technology is used that makes the difference in the level of success achieved.

Over the coming months I will highlight other law department success stories. While these stories involve companies in different industries, using different technologies, and may cover periods of time that are decades apart, one common thread is almost always present. Each department was led by a visionary general counsel and had on its staff an effective law department administrator that was able to implement the procedures required to achieve the general counsel’s vision.

The point is, regardless of individual departmental characteristics, the same management principles apply in order to implement a successful Continuous Improvement Program.

The company I will profile in this article is KONE Corporation (

KONE Corporation

KONE is one of the global leaders in the elevator and escalator industry. The company was founded in 1910 and has been committed to understanding the needs of its customers for the past century, providing industry-leading elevators, escalators and automatic building doors as well as innovative solutions for modernization and maintenance. In 2014, KONE had annual net sales of EUR 7.3 billion and at the end of the year over 47,000 employees. KONE class B shares are listed on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Ltd. in Finland.

Kurt Stepaniak is the general counsel of KONE Corporation. In 2006, he embarked on a program to improve the information management of KONE’s law department. Implementing a matter management system was a key element of this initiative. Rhonda Bailey was Kurt’s able assistant in executing the necessary steps required to implement Kurt’s vision.

The first step was to develop a standard set of keywords and issues to codify all their claims. Kurt and Rhonda took it one step further, and this extra effort was crucial to achieving their success. They identified every element they could think of regarding their claims – type of customer (e.g., retail store), time of day, location within the store, and so on. Once these metrics were identified, entering all open active claims followed.

Now that they had all this data in their matter management system, they were able to easily “slice and dice” the information to identify trends and tendencies. Guess what happened next? Some interesting trends started to emerge.

One such trend that was identified involved department stores and fragrance counters. The KONE team noticed that there was an unusually high number of claims associated with escalators in the vicinity of fragrance counters within department stores of their customers.

They decided to investigate. KONE employees went to these locations and noticed that customers would get distracted by store employees who would spray sample fragrances. Once distracted, these customers would momentarily lose track of their children. Said children would then wander over to the escalator unattended. I won’t go into details, but it doesn’t take much imagination to know what happened next.

Kurt and Rhonda approached this major customer with their analysis and observations. The result was that the customer relocated the fragrance counter away from the escalator! This was an all-around win-win-win for the store’s customers, KONE’s customer (i.e., the store) and KONE itself. Claims went down, and customer satisfaction went up. And it happened because Kurt Stepaniak made the effort to analyze their information in order to improve operations.

This is a classic example of implementing a Continuous Improvement Program. More examples will follow in the coming months.



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