119: Creating Conditions for Change with Mo Zain Ajaz of National Grid

Enabling Collaboration Through Tools

On episode 119 we talk with Mo Zain Ajaz, the 2018 Legal 500 Individual of the Year for Legal Operations.    Mo is accountable for operational excellence across National Grid’s Global Legal Function.

Having understood what is important to its business (including a 25% efficiency goal), the legal operations team at National Grid helped build a 3-year strategic program. They started by gaining visibility to their external spends.

The introduction of an e-billing system and a new panel of outside counsel provided an opportunity for improved scoping of work, matter budgeting and stronger alignment with firms.  To manage risk and drive efficiency, National Grid prioritizes and right sources legal work; matter profile and risk thresholds underpin decisions specifically what should be done in-house and what should be outsourced with the goal being to drive value and reduce cost without increasing risk.

With the addition of data and standards for outside engagement, the next step involved enabling change using lean and design thinking models including legal project management data-driven decisionsvisual management; real time information. Through these models including the Hines Model for change National Grid ensured that their strategic road map remained on track.  The Hines model highlights the key conditions required for effective change and more importantly the consequences when a key condition is missing.

This and other lean models can be used to take an audience from current state to future state.  A lean tool that National Grid uses for stakeholder engagement is 3C.   Using 3C stakeholders are asked:

  • What are your concerns with the current way of doing things?
  • What is the cause of these concerns?
  • What would be the counter-measure to this concern?

The project sponsor using 3C model puts counter-measures in place to address the concerns and create greater solution ownership from stakeholders.  

Creating the conditions for change and collaboration with law firms is the role of in-house teams.   National Grid holds quarterly Operational Excellence Workshops with their firms to address relationship or process concerns through collaborative design thinking workshops.  The internal team and a panel of outside counsel work to resolve issues by problems solving, sharing best practice and building a plan of deliverables for the next quarter.

Topics addressed at these workshops include a technology audit of the law firms National Grid uses to optimize the use of technology on National Grid matters and decision trees to right source work. 

The next frontier for National Grid is obligations tracking within a contract lifecycle.  Data suggestions a 10% savings on procurement spend when post-negotiation obligations are well managed.  Working with a broad team of stakeholders in the industry they are looking to partner and take on this challenge.  That’s what legal operations and executing change is about solving big hairy problems with your partners in the ecosystem.

Mo Zain Ajaz is the Global Head of Legal Operational Excellence at National Grid.  He has responsibility for legal function strategy, operations, embedding performance excellence, technology, as well as panel firm appointment and delivery. Mo is also engaged in a not for profit program called LExOpenSource.com, which is a platform where a number of other legal professionals share market best practice on the business of law.