Harnessing Generational Challenges for Effective Project Management #PMOSym

PMO Symposium, 11-14 November 2018, Washington D.C. USA

Session Description: Wow! Five generations in the workforce: iGen or Generation Z, Millenniels (aka Generation Y), Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists (those born before 1945). Project managers will need to communicate, understand, and motivate their core/extended teams capitalizing the workforce. This is a skillset that can be developed via learning and adoptive practice. Join Brigid Buchheit Carney as she uses Senn Delaney’s behavioral styles and Knoster’s Managing Complex Change. Senn Delaney, like DISC, will teach participants about behavioral styles and how to flex to others. The Knoster model will teach participants how to develop a communication framework for success.

At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:
1) Solve tough behavioral challenges by better understanding team dynamics.
2) Shift beyond traditional leadership by using a framework for communications.
3) Predict communication breakdowns and resolve them.

Speaker:  Brigid Buchheit Carney is the head of operations at Argus Group in Hamilton, Bermuda.

[These are my notes from the PMO Symposium 2018 . I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Why focus on generational challenges and behavioral styles?  Your projects will involve people from five different generations. Each of these team members also has their unique behavioral style. You need to craft your approach and messages for each generation and each style.
  • The Generations.
    • Traditionalists — born before 1945
    • Baby Boomers
    • Gen X
    • Millennials (Gen Y)
    • iGen (Gen Z)
  • Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change. Designed to develop organizational awareness and understand why projects fail. If you are missing any of the following elements, you will run the risk of failure.
    • Vision –Do you understand what you need to do AND why you need to do it? If you don’t understand why you are doing something, you end up in confusion, falling short of your goals.
    • Consensus — with five generational styles, you need five different ways to build consensus. Without consensus, you have sabotage and blame.
    • Skills — an absence of skills leads to anxiety
    • Incentives — an absence of appropriate incentives leads to resistance
    • Resources — an absence of adequate resources (including time for development, planning, reflection) leads to frustration
    • Action Plan — an absence leads to false starts and the sense of being on a treadmill
    • Culture = the way we do things
    • For more information on the Knoster Model, see
  • Senn Delaney Behavioral Styles.
    • Conductor
      • They are Type A and do not like to be told what to do
      • They strong-willed, self-motivated, results-focused
      • When crafting messages for them, focus on
        • results
        • decisions
        • efficiency
    • Promoter
      • They are enthusiastic, energetic, persuasive, adventurous, creative
      • They like shiny objects and hte next big thing. It is very difficult to get them to focus. However, they are really helpful when you need to deliver a difficult message.
      • They are happy to help others.
      • You have to help them keep their focus.
      • When crafting messages for them, focus on
        • big pictre thinking
    • Analyzer
      • Give them data, don’t ask them to go with their gut.
      • They will do things to the best of their ability. They know they are better at things then others.
      • Crafting messages
        • researchers
        • 2+2=4
        • Facts and figures
    • Supporter
      • They are relationship-oriented, team players, consensus builders
      • They will always ask for help.
      • When crafting messages for them, focus on
        • decision by committee
        • last to speak
        • subject mattter experts
        • speak face-to-face, but start with social conversation before jumping into the heart of the matter.
  • Exercises that appeal to each style.
    • Controlling
      • Mini-PM RAID log boss (RAID = Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies)
      • Don’t to a “ra ra” activity
    • Analyzing
      • Yes…and… exercise
      • Time-boxing — this avoids analysis paralysis
      • Five Whys
    • Supporting
      • Affinity brainstorming
      • Polling
      • Telephone — ask this supporter to be your communication maven
    • Promoting

Value Delivery in a Age of Disruption

PMO Symposium, 11-14 November 2018, Washington D.C. USA

Session Description: Disruption is the norm for organizations. Disruptive innovation is now seen as required to stay competitive in a world of emerging technologies, globalization and changing demographics. This is changing the way we work, blurring industry boundaries and forcing even established organizations to rethink their business strategies to find effective ways to deliver value. What are the implications for organizations when disruption will change the way projects are delivered and leaders are required to lead more agile organizations? What are the challenges and opportunities? How do organizations effectively use their project talents to evolve existing practices, provide value while positioning themselves for long term success? This session brings together experienced executives to share their perspectives and insights on managing projects and change when disruption is a constant in their value delivery.


  • Joanie F. Newhart, Associate Administrator for Acquisition Workforce Programs at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), Office of Management and Budget and Executive Office of the President
  • Laura K. Furgione, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning, Innovation and Collaboration, U.S. Census Bureau
  • Beth Partleton served on the PMI Board of Directors from 2008 to 2013, serving as Chair in 2011. For six years she was a member of the PMI Educational Foundation Board of Directors, serving as Chair in 2006. Currently she is a member of the Certification Governance Council, serving as Vice Chair.
  • Linda Ott, Division Chief, Professional Development, Office of Project Management, Department of Energy (DOE)

[These are my notes from the PMO Symposium 2018 . I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • What skills will the workforce of the future need?
    • staying abreast of technology and understanding how we can leverage it.
    • understanding how to use data productively AND protect data privacy
  • How to improve the management of major acquisitions (contracting).
    • make sure that the members of the team with critical expertise get involved in the planning and execution early
    • they have started a new certification program that teaches government contracting officers how to manage digital acquisition contracting successfully. It is experiential, small-group training.
  • How does the Census Bureau deliver value?
    • Their demographic and economic data can help
      • federal and local emergency responders prepare for a climate event
      • government and private sector groups manage development after a climate disaster
  • Successes at the Department of Energy.
    • They run really large projects — sometimes worth several billions of dollars
    • They capture enormous amounts of data from their projects.
      • Their job is to understand and explain through these data the value the public receives from these projects
      • This helps the public understand how their tax dollars are being used
    • They focus on how to explain value to the public — not just explaining it to other scientists.
  • How can project leaders and their teams lead technology-driven projects.
    • DIUx: the defense department and the department of housing services are talking to and working with Silicon Valley to find technologists who can become valuable partners with government. The appeal for these new technology partners is that they can have an impact at an enormous scale when they work through government.
    • They are looking at new ways to streamline the acquistion (government contracting) process.
    • The department of homeland security has a procurement innovation lab. They innovate new ways of working and then share the success stories widely — within government and with industry partners.
  • What are the Data Capabilities and Skills at the Census Bureau.
    • One of the objectives in their strategic plan is to use innovative tools to increase their efficiency and use of their tools, as well as the efficient reuse of their data.
    • Linking as much of their data as possible to derive new insights
    • Ensuring that their regular environmental scans shape their strategic plan (which is a living document)
    • What skills are they recruiting for?
      • They are taking a closer look at the skills required for exploiting the data for multiple uses
      • They are also examining what technological skills their team needs
  • What they look for in their workforce.
    • They are looking for curious minds
      • The ability to focus on your own mission, while staying wide open to what is happening around you
    • Natural problem-solvers
    • The ability to connect their work to the needs of their users / consituents
    • The ability to communicate their work to the public
  • The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act.
    • PMIAA is a game changer because it tries to reach federal agencies where they are with respect to program management.
      • some agencies have fewer resources so they may not be as advanced with respect to project management
    • How to understand your projects, next put them in programs, then put those programs in portfolios and ensure that they connect clearly with strategy.
    • This helps develop a deep bench of experienced and capable project managers
    • The Federal PM Community of Practice is very active and engaged. They are helping spread PMIAA across the government
    • It helps focus on evaluation, quality assessment, and continuous attention to lessons learned.
  • PMO  Leadership.
    • Communication: 90% of your effort should focus on communicating with your stakeholders AND your team.
      • You need to listen, listen, listen
      • You need to understand the strengths and challenges of your team members
    • What’s our Value? Learn how to tie your efforts back to the values and strategy of your organization. What’s your elevator speech? What’s the value in what you do?
      • Do you have a crisp way of explaining how you are a value to (and not a burden on) your organization?
    • Collaborate Early and Often: don’t wait until an emergency or problem arises. That’s too late.
    • Customer Focus: talk to your customers early and often. Don’t assume you know what they want. You likely don’t.

Dick Costolo Keynote – From Twitter to the New Economy #PMOSym

PMO Symposium, 11-14 November 2018, Washington D.C. USA

Session Description: When Twitter began, the founders did not set out to create a new economy, yet the way we do business has changed forever. When consumers are 80% more likely to purchase from a business they follow, there is a real business case for open communication between a brand and its consumers. Open access to information, or creating the feeling of open access to the brand, builds loyalty, identifies new product ideas and provides another channel for consumer influence. Equal access to information renders entire business models fragile as consumers become their own sourcers with all of the information. Costolo lays out the implications of an open access economy on innovation process and the future of work.

Speaker:  Dick Costolo was most recently the Chief Executive Officer of Twitter from October 2010 to June 2015, where he took the company from $0 to $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

[These are my notes from the PMO Symposium 2018 . I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • The keys to Success are Speed of Execution and Leadership
  • Speed of Execution.  There were four things they did at Twitter to build their speed to execution muscle:
    • Adopt a Bias to Yes
      • As an organization grows, increasingly the answer to every question is no.
      • The bias to yes means
        • there have to be many paths to yes within the company
        • any function is not allowed to tell another function “you’re not allowed to do that”
        • avoid the most nefarious version of “no” = “you have to go ask these other 12 people.” So people spend their time asking for permission rather than taking critical action.
    • Focus on Speed of Learning: Every month at Costolo’s operating committee meeting, they asked one question: “What is it taking us too long to learn and how can we learn that faster?”
      • this question causes people within the company innovate cross-functional solutions to the problem that they had not generated previously.
      • This question surfaces commonly held beliefs in the company that are not true.
    • Ed Catmull: Protect the future not the past
      • Protecting the past: The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal. It moves the focus to avoiding mistakes rather than getting things done.
      • Protecting the future:
        • enable people to move quickly to get things done
        • resist creating too many rules. Instead, replace the critical rules with principles and guidelines. Then release your team to work within their own good judgment.
        • leaders must be a role model — make sure you are the first to be transparent about failures.
      • For more information on Catmull, read his book Creativity Inc.
  • Leadership. Much of this guidance is based on what Costolo learned from Bill Campbell, executive coach to Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, and Dick Costolo.
    • Campbell believes that  anyone can be CEO. It’s a matter of mindset, training, and experience.
    • For more information on Campbell’s advice, see these video interviews.
    • Be yourself. Don’t assume a different persona when you are acting as a leader.
    • Communication is key
      • Communicate context rather than authority.
        • Communicating authority = “Do it because Dick says so.”
        • Communicating context = explaining the reasons for your decision so your team understands the “why” not just the “what.”
      • The way to build trust with your team is to be forthright about the context of your decision.
    • Delegation
      • Push decisions down the stack
      • Write down and put on your desk: “What’s the highest leverage thing I could be doing right now.”
      • When in doubt, force yourself to delegate. Set a weekly goal of the percentage of meetings you will stop attending and delegate instead.
      • One sure sign that you are not delegating enough:
        • At the end of meeting, most of the action items are yours.
      • “Your job as a leader is not to make decision. It’s to ensure that decisions get made.”
        • Your job as a leader is to break logjams when your team cannot reach consensus
      • Ownership is both authority and accountability. If you give people responsibility without accountability, then they don’t care. If you give them ownership, they actually get work done.
    • Eliminate Politics
      • Don’t be the sole decisionmaker. If you make all the decisions, then you become the target of and conduit for organizational politics.
      • Encourage open debate within your team. But once the debate is done and the decision made, follow Jeff’s Bezos’ advice: “Disagree and commit.”
      • When people cannot agree, send them away to develop a joint solution. Don’t play Solomon and try to work out a compromise yourself.
    • The best questions to ask your teams to get really eye-opening information:
      • What’s not working in this organization and why?
      • What is working and why?
  • Final Thoughts.
    • Bezos: Don’t punish the person who disagrees with you.
    • Bezos: When you opt for compromise rather than the truth, then you don’t get the right answer.
    • Bezos: Don’t let the communication architecture follow the organizational architecture.
      • Don’t trap people in the organizational structure, forced to depend solely on their manager for information.
      • Let people talk to whomever they need to talk to get the information they need to do their job

Year of Living Dangerously — Being the Product Owner for an Agile Transformation #PMOSym

PMO Symposium, 11-14 November 2018, Washington D.C. USA

Session Description:

Suncor Energy recently embarked on the journey of enabling agile capability within its project portfolio. With the aim of improving the time to value received by the organization and the overall engagement of business stakeholders in project delivery, a center of excellence (COE) was commissioned to develop, pilot, and recommend the plan for enabling agile delivery. This presentation, given by the product owner of the COE, will detail the motivations behind its creation, the approach taken to enable and standardize agile delivery, the services offered to support agile projects, and the lessons learned during the first year of its operation.

At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:
1) Learn how to drive shared project accountability across business, execution, and operational leadership.
2) Learn how the agile product owner approach was an enabling force behind the agile center of excellence.
3) Demonstrate an approach used to commence, develop, and sustain an agile practice within a large-scale enterprise.

Speaker: Joey Roa, Manager, Project Management Office, Suncor Energy

[These are my notes from the PMO Symposium 2018. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • His Context.
    • Suncor Energy is Canada’s largest integrated energy company
    • Their Digital and Enterprise Technical (IT) Projects
      • They do very little software development — yet they still use agile more broadly to “agilify” Suncor
    • Subject to frequent reorganizations
    • Heavily matrixed organization with a reliance on partnership and consultants
    • Very focused on specialized roles
    • Historical approach:
      • They were very reliant on the waterfall method. The construction mindset with a clear idea of scope was pervasive throughout the organization.
      • IT tended to drive projects, hoping that “if you build it they will come.”
      • They had limited business participation in their projects. They had a book-end approach: bring the business leaders in at the beginning to kick off the project, then bring them in at the end to see what IT has done.
      • They rarely had a sense of shared accountability. Rather, accountability was handed off from one group to another.
  • Why Agile?
    • Their motivation for adopting agile
      • delivering value faster
        • this does not necessarily mean that the entire project finishes earlier, but it does mean that the work is broken into small batches and each batch is delivered as quickly as possible
      • including business customers in the heart of the project teams
        • if the business folks cannot commit to participating in the process, then you cannot do agile
        • they drive the value, they drive the priorities
      • simplifying project delivery
        • reduce role confusion
          • they eliminated a large number of roles without eliminating people. They eliminated the titles and made the people involved team members.
        • eliminate waste and process complexity
        • increase focus on incremental delivery of working solutions
  • The started with an Agile Center of Excellence.
    • Agile COE services
      • Agile-related training
      • Agile project support
    • Delivery norms & interfaces
      • Guidance & knowledge bases
      • Ongoing change management
      • Process facilitation
    • Created an Agile coaching role
      • they have done delivery AND they can coach effectively
      • they help teams complete specific tasks — not by doing the work themselves but by helping the team do the work better
      • initially they hired contractors into this role until they could identify full-time employees ready for the role
    • Best Practices/ Alignment
    • They built a roadmap that was NOT a Gantt chart
  • They Learned by Doing.
    • They started with some pilot projects.
    • First they observed what was happening and then the coaches recommended more effective approaches.
    • Then they revised their delivery norms to reflect the recommended approaches
  • DAD.y
  • What They Did.
    • They used featuremap software to build a story map to prioritize a backlog for releases.
    • They used the Scrum ceremonies ands roles from the start
    • Leverage Pilot Projects
      • introduce/align new terminlogy, roles and processes
      • People don’t like to reinvent the wheel
        • so learn quickly so you can share the lessons with other teams
      • Improve your marketing collateral so you can communicate your success to your leadership
    • Create Agile role definitions
      • Product Owner
        • came from the business
        • responsible for prioritizing the backlog
      • Scrum Master
      • Architecture Owner
    • They created a process for declaring an agile project
      • have a conversation to ascertain if the proposed project has the requisite level of business participation and uncertainty
    • They created their delivery norms
      • Inception norm
        • sprint zero
        • sprint release plan
        • definition of done
        • backlog management
        • project performance reporting (burndown, velocity measurement)
        • funding strategy
      • Construction norm
        • construction checkpoint guidance and supporting documents
        • stage alignment and supporting documentation
      • Transition norm
  • The COE Service Model.
    • Agile coaching and process facilitators
      • they are critical to speed up learning and improvement
      • they are expensive but they should NOT be billable back to the project (most project owners will reject this charge even though it is necessary and useful)
      • they help build corporate memory and culture
      • don’t allow them to be 100% dedicated to a project — ask that some of their time be spent sharing lessons learned back to the COE so those lessons are available to other teams
      • ask them to train from the “back of the room” rather than having them in the middle of the action
      • they deployed coaches in the following way:
        • one coach for three projects in inception
        • one coach for five projects in construction
        • one coach for 10 projects in transition
    • Suncor Agile training curriculm
      • created curriculum for scrum masters, product owners, project teams
      • they customized the curriculum for Suncor, its projects, and its people
      • assume that Scrum masters are already versed in Scrum
    • COE service intake / consulting / advisor
    • Agile skillset and scrum master provisioning
    • Build, shape, and influence adoption of Agile within Suncor
    • Develop, monitor, and extend Agile technologies
      • how will you bring in the relevant technologies?
      • how will you integrate them?
      • don’t try to build/prioritize backlogs using excel or powerpoint — use better agile-specific tools
  • Critical Communications.
    • Leadership wants:
      • you to communicate faster and clearly about pitfalls and solutions
      • to know what do you need from us and how will you keep us updated?
    • The Ambitious
      • they want to know what’s in it for them
      • how will this help me?
    • The Agile COE Team
      • one of the services the coaches provide the team is the health assessment (supported by a surveymonkey survey owned by the COE)
        • use the health assessment to determine if your team is working well
      • do a fishbowl exercise during the team retrospect
        • put a chair in the center of the room
        • ask for volunteers to sit in the chair
        • once they are in the chair, other members of the team say the following things:
          • “One thing I appreciate about you is…”
          • “One thing I wish you would change is…”
        • This exercise really builds trust and team feeling
      • The Resistors — ignore them!
  • Lessons Learned.
    • Culture is always the challenge
    • Role clarity is vital and not easy
    • Training, training, training
    • Establish the COE and its service model as early as possible
    • Coaches — get them early — they are your ninjas and can train new ninjas
    • Be aware that leadership will not be patient forever so be prepared to explain your value
    • Perfection is the enemy of the good: start small, experiment, and adapt
    • Psychological safety: this is critical to good teamwork. Their coaches spend a lot of time on this. [For more information on this, read about Google’s Project Aristotle.]
    • Agile work practices versus Agile execution methodologies
    • Set wide riverbanks and empower the team to take action within those limits
    • Enterpise agile needs standars, guidelines, templates,
    • Don’t underestimate the need to supply tools to project teams

When Scope Creeps Like Kudzu

1024px-Kudzu_field_horz2 Japanese arrowroot is the name of a group of plants in the pea family. Sounds innocuous, right? What if you learned that these plants are “climbing, coiling and trailing perennial vines”? Still sound innocuous? What if you were then told that these plants are more commonly known as Kudzu and are considered noxious and invasive? Now are you concerned?

You should be. On his website Jack Anthony has some astonishing photos of what happens when kudzu is left to creep unchecked. These photos are accompanied by equally astonishing commentary:

Kudzu vines will cover buildings and parked vehicles over a period of years if no attempt is made to control its growth. A number of abandoned houses, vehicles and barns covered with kudzu can be seen in Georgia and other southern states.

Even if you don’t work in landscape design, I am certain you have experienced the encroaching nature of kudzu at the office. It is most commonly seen in projects that lack firm direction and a disciplined team.  While the project may start out with a clear purpose and agreed budget and schedule, over time the budget, schedule and even purpose can get blurry as well-intentioned people start adding items to the project’s scope. In extreme cases, scope creep (like kudzu) can obliterate the landscape, while totally demoralizing team members and tarnishing their professional reputations.

If you are ever tempted to turn a blind eye as project scope creeps around you, consider the extreme case of the Bradley armored personnel carrier (see below) and think again. Would you ever want to be associated with a mess like that? If not, then be sure to curtail the kudzu around you.



[Photo Credit: Galen Parks Smith, Kudzu covered field near Port Gibson, Mississippi)


Components of Effective Legal Project Management #LexMundi

LexMundi_logo_CMYKSpeaker: Lucy Dillon, Director of Knowledge Management at Berwin Leighton Paisner.

[These are my notes from the 2013 Lex Mundi Knowledge Management Roundtable. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • “Project management in law firms is like the global environment: everyone knows it’s an important issue, but very few people are willing to change their behaviour in order to address it.”
  • The 5 stages of a project
    • agreeing with the client on what needs to be done
    • planning the work
    • doing the work
    • closing the project
    • reviewing the project
  • Required Skills
    • communicate, communicate and communicate
    • empower someone to take charge
    • delegation and supervision (these are skills, not just something people do)
  • What effective project management in law firms needs
    • resource — documents, checklists, practice guides
    • small group training that has been customized to specific practice areas and approaches
    • champions and guides with the practice groups and client teams
  • The Client-Driven Approach
    • the process improvement only takes hold on matters (and in practice groups) where the partner in charge acknowledges the for efficiency. When this happens, the process mapping effort helps the team understand how to push the work down to less expensive staff. This improves the price for the client, the time management of the partner and the experience of more junior lawyers.
    • when you create the project map that shows the actions required and the actors involved, it quickly becomes very clear if the work is being done at the right level within the firm. It also shows where there are imbalances in workload.
    • in the course of process mapping, highlight everything that represents an improvement or innovation.
    • measure outcomes so that you can establish clearly what’s working and what’s not

What Makes Lawyers So Challenging?

What makes lawyers so challenging?

No, this is not the beginning of a lawyer joke! Rather it’s the question that was answered at an informative session held at the Practising Law Institute in New York City.  As part of a day-long program on legal project management, the organizers asked Mark I. Sirkin, Ph.D., to speak about the personality traits of lawyers and their suitability to lead or serve on project teams. (Dr. Sirkin is the co-managing partner of Threshold Advisors, LLC and was formerly a consultant with Hildebrandt.) Using recent research and the Hogan Personality Inventory Scales, Dr. Sirkin identified the following challenges:

  • Lawyers are not designed for teamwork. Most lawyers have the personality trait of Autonomy, which means they would prefer to do their own thing rather than work with others.  Further, not only do they score high in Autonomy, but also in Skepticism and Pessimism. They are trained to assume the worst, look for problems, issue spot. Taken together, these traits can make them hard to be around.
  • Lawyers don’t find it easy to work with others. Lawyers score below the general population in Sociability (i.e., the need for social interaction) and Resilience (i.e., they are thin-skinned).
  • Lawyers are trained for independent action. Law schools traditionally have emphasized individual performance. Contrast this with business schools, which require teamwork from their students from the beginning.
  • Law firms traditionally have rewarded individual performance. If the compensation system of a firm is individualized and competitive, it does not provide incentives for teamwork and cooperation.
  • Lawyers feel fungible. If a lawyer feels like a fungible billing bot, that lawyer will find it hard to identify and pursue an inspiring goal. Sharing inspiring goals is key to establishing team spirit.
  • Lawyers tend to be adversarial. Dr. Sirkin’s data show that many (if not most) lawyers tend to be adversarial by nature. Further, they are tough-minded and tolerant of conflict.
  • Lawyers have high Urgency. A high Urgency score indicates a tendency to rush to action.  Most lawyers score high in Urgency, which means that they tend to lack patience for the early planning that is required for project management and teamwork.
  • Lawyers are not detail-oriented. The data supporting this assertion will surprise lawyers and their critics alike.  When compared to the general population, lawyers tend to be more “big picture” people and less focused on small details.  To the extent lawyers do focus on details, it is often because of their Aesthetics score, which tends to push them toward providing good work product.

While a lifetime of hearing lawyer jokes may predispose you to believe that lawyers have few good traits, the reality is more nuanced than that.  Their self-selection over time tends to concentrate particular traits within the profession, but those traits have been viewed as necessary for survival until now. That said, lawyers at the top of their game are highly functioning individuals who have accomplished a great deal of good in the world.  Nonetheless, from a purely self-referential perspective, I do find this research troubling. What is clear is that the personality traits of many lawyers make them less amenable to general law firm knowledge management efforts. When reinforced by an “eat what you kill” compensation system, they apparently have little incentive to share, cooperate or collaborate.

However, the problem goes far beyond law firm KM. In fact, this discussion left me wondering if the people who had been so successful in a profession that traditionally emphasized independent, adversarial action might now be ill-equipped for the new style of lawyering involving project management, focused teamwork, effective knowledge management and transparency.  Obviously, firms will need to change their training practices.  Will they also have to change their hiring practices?

[Photo Credit: slgckgc]


Planning Fallacy and Bad Estimates

It turns out that lawyers are human after all – at least with respect to their all too human inability to plan appropriately.  Heidi Grant Halvorson recently published an interesting post on the planning fallacy, which is what psychologists call the inability to estimate accurately how much time an activity can take.  Halvorson’s review of the research in this area suggests several reasons (or biases) that lead to our bad estimates:

  • “First, we routinely fail to consider our own past experiences while planning.”
  • “Second, we ignore the very real possibility that things won’t go as planned – our future plans tend to be `best-case scenarios.'”
  • “Lastly, we don’t think about all the steps or subcomponents that make up the task, and consider how long each part of the task will take.”

When lawyers work in a world that rewards according to time spent, it becomes imperative that we understand better exactly how much time an activity takes.  This means that we have to create systems to counteract the effects of the biases mentioned above.  Chief among these is keeping track of the components of every task, as well as the time actually spent in the past on those components.  If you think this is something you can put off, consider that as we shift to alternative billing arrangements, bad estimates come out of the lawyer’s pocket rather than the client’s pocket.


Related reading:

[Photo Credit:  American Virus]


Hardwiring KM Into Your Client Work

If you want good knowledge management results, you have to find a way to bridge the divide in your colleagues’ minds between getting their job done and doing KM. If they have a choice between racing to meet client needs and stopping to select and contribute content for the KM system, they will choose their clients every single time. And they should.

So where does that leave your empty KM system? The knowledge management team at HP has a very simple answer to this problem: make contributing content to the KM system an integral part of every client engagement. It should be managed along with everything else required for that client engagement. Managed, measured and rewarded.
– If KM deliverables are part of project Scope, they are managed along with everything else required for the project.
– Planning for KM increases the probability that Time is allocated for KM and actions will be carried out. (The project team works more efficiently by reusing knowledge generated by others; knowledge generated by the project team is then captured in a timely fashion and made available immediately for use by others.)
– The benefits from knowledge reuse and the efforts for capture are part of the Cost equation and our customers benefit from the overall savings.
– Managing the information about capture assets as part of project Communication ensures timely access to assets.
He also notes the following benefits from this approach:
– Reusing knowledge can greatly reduce the time and effort required to meet client needs.
– Reusing knowledge can help reduce risk.
– The time saved through reuse can be put towards improving quality.
Doing this hardwiring is not easy. It requires significant leadership and follow through. And this must be applied consistently to every client engagement. However, by organizing around this goal and using tools like project management you can significantly increase the likelihood of success. Knowledge Capture and Reuse is one of the basic building blocks of any KM system and also one of the biggest KM challenges. Hardwiring it into your client service workflow is a great way to meet that challenge.
(My thanks to Stan Garfield’s Weekly Knowledge Management Blog for pointing out Marcus Funke’s presentation.)