Posts Tagged ‘best practices’
Best Practices and Guidelines for Successfully Managing Projects Remotely
As a project manager, it’s my job to ensure projects are executed on-time and on-budget in the most efficient and accurate way possible. This calls for a delicate balance of people, technology and processes. Every project is different with its own unique set of circumstances and requirements. What works flawlessly for one client might not be appropriate or applicable for another… yet, remote (or virtual) project management is becoming an increasingly more viable option in the digital age. Being away from the team isn’t always easy, but it’s highly effective when done right.
When I was a child, I abhorred being away from my family. In fact, while I was in kindergarten, my many feigned illnesses enabling me to stay home became so obvious that the principal came to visit me there to investigate. What resulted was a concerted effort to assure me that even though my family wasn’t there, that things were ok and that they weren’t far away. My first-grade (pun intended) sister, was allowed to visit my classroom on occasion, and my parents stressed that they were only a phone call away. This played out in later years through equipping me with family pictures and other mementos during summer camps. Such things gave me the feeling that they were there without actually being there. Those memories and that concept resurfaced recently when I was asked a question about managing a project remotely.
The question is simply: When the circumstances are right, how do you manage a project remotely? My answer is, you make the project team feel like you are there when you aren’t actually there. This is evidently a popular thing to do nowadays, exemplified by the emergence of such things as virtual offices, Skype, Instant Messaging and all forms communication that allow remote employment to be a desirable and cost-effective option for many businesses.
I have two passions in life – Project Management and Philosophy. Examining various management and E-discovery concepts from a philosopher’s point of view can shed light on the trickier debates that permeate the interactions of a document review team. So, please allow me to wax philosophical.
An Introduction to Pragmatism
A short philosophical background – currently my favorite brand of philosophy is Pragmatism. This is an American brand of philosophy. The essence of the version I find most appealing is that there are no enduring Truths. Words and concepts do not mirror nature, there are only ways of talking. A consequence of this view is that it dissolves all of those seemingly irresolvable questions about Metaphysical concepts – What is Truth? What is Justice? What is Reality? What is Evil? What is really there? To the pragmatist, those are questions without answers. He or she puts those questions aside and instead tries to change his or her world. (For example: We do not need to get at the metaphysical foundations of Justice to come to a good outcome in a dispute.)
The pragmatist holds that if two people disagree on “what is reality,” there is nothing outside of our use of language to compare our views on reality. Every attempt to convince the other party inevitably falls back to that individual’s linguistic behavior. It’s all we have. When words don’t mirror nature, you only have two people making various noises trying to get what they want. Perhaps the two parties will move forward and begin to talk like each other. Perhaps they will agree at some point. But they will never find a reality to compare their language against. There is nothing outside of the way we talk.
Pragmatism is a response against Essentialism. Essentialism is the general concept at the heart of most philosophical thinkers throughout history and at the heart of common sense. It says that things do have an essence. There is Truth. There is real objective Universally True Justice, Reality, Evil, Right, Wrong, etc. We just have to find the correct way to look at the problem.
The pragmatist retorts, because there is no reality “out there” to compare our descriptions of reality against, “how would you know when/if you got there?”
How Does Pragmatism Relate to Legal Project Management?
One large overlooked problem in today’s e-discovery project management world is in the way contract attorneys are treated. Conventional thinking focuses on concepts such as, “how can we make the review go faster?” or “how can we make the worker review more documents?” Clearly, at times, that mentality must take precedence, but I do not think it should be the default. Continue reading “A Pragmatic View of Legal Project Management” »
Anybody who has been trained in any modern business management practice has learned when dealing with people for business output, catering to the human aspects of the work will produce the most efficient and best product. Why is it that in the legal field, this lesson is still not normally applied?
Managing Efficiency in the Legal World
The legal field is a notoriously challenging environment in which to manage efficiently. It is difficult to predict work effort due to the amorphous nature of case work, court sliding deadlines, surprise information or tactics by opposing counsel, or any other myriad of mechanisms. Environmental factors are not completely foreign to other industries, just colored and represented differently. I have seen first-hand, and successfully implemented strategies, that either among colleagues, subordinates, or even cross-functional groups can actually apply to legal work.
It’s People that Count
It is far too large of a scale to discuss all business strategies in one sitting so I will just mention one (and only a subset of that one to boot). That one is the management of one of the largest, most valuable resources in the legal industry and is also probably one of the easier resources to work with. It is simply, and I do say “simply”, people management.
There are various ways to manage people. Imagine my surprise when I heard an educated legal professional say to me, “I know the way I manage people is draconian. It works and it is what we do around here.” I knew what draconian meant but was not sure if the speaker was trying to use some obscure meaning. Looking up draconian at dictionary.com it shows up as “unusually severe or cruel” while Merriam-Webster merely says “cruel”. Was the speaker merely mistaken in word choice or was the speaker proud of the adopted methodology? We’d hope the former, but are not sure it is not the latter.
Selfless Leaders Breed Efficiency
Before becoming a lawyer I worked in big business. They liked us to be effective and efficient. I remember my first supervisor was a real go-getter. He found the best, most interesting, and high profile projects, won them over and gave them to his subordinates to work on. The nature of the projects was great for career building, as well as fun to do, so we already liked him. He did something else though, if anything went wrong, he Continue reading “People Management Matters in Legal” »
A question that comes to mind while reading Judge Scheindlin admonish the Government in National Day Laborer is this: did they really intend to obscure information by producing in this format? That’s the key here – in reading this opinion there’s almost a presumption that the Government was intentionally hiding information or purposely making it difficult by not producing metadata. This would have been a terribly silly strategy. I just don’t believe that the U.S. Attorney meant to act in bad faith.
This is a speculative leap, but it’s much more likely that the person responsible for creating this production had produced documents the same way before, and honestly thought it would be sufficient. Once the documents were produced in this lousy format, the Government was left having to make up “rhetorically nuanced” (i.e., poor) arguments to defend its production, and Judge Scheindlin seized the opportunity to slap them around a bit.