Projects

Here’s a management technique for you to consider for legal (or any) projects: Specify the person whose head will roll if the project is not accomplished.

If you’re on a committee of twelve people assigned to a project, the project won’t get done. No one will read the background materials before the committee meets; no one will think hard about how to move the project forward; no one will particularly care if the project concludes. If, months or years later, someone asks why the committee didn’t meet its goals, each member of the committee will point to the others and say, “It wasn’t my responsibility to do anything. We had a committee, and I figured the other guys would do it.”

To avoid this problem, identify the single individual who is responsible for accomplishing each specific task. If everyone knows whose head will roll if the project isn’t finished, then the designated person will take control, move the project forward, and preserve his or her head.

The “whose head will roll” theory of management applies to projects big and small, for lawyers both in-house and outside….

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As you can likely tell, I am fascinated by terminology. I understand the importance of using language to market and promote your firm. I had never thought, however, about the use of terminology within a firm until recently.

The word that inspired this revelation is “project.” Project is used in many ways and with multiple connotations:

(1) “She is my pet project.” This means that “she” is a disaster and needs help. Project is used to demean.

(2) “I am undertaking a house renovation project.” This means that “I” am boring. Project is used literally.

(3) “Do not tell anyone about Project X.” This means those who are a part of Project X are either CIA agents, criminals, or my mother (Project X = Project Val). Project is used mysteriously.

(4) “Hi Val, you are going to be in charge of the data gathering project.” This means that I have a terrible assignment to complete. Project is used insincerely….

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