How to build bridges, start by building a raft?

I have been involved with countless IT software development projects whereby many stakeholders (including lawyers) tried to work as a team to deliver a system/software to meet various requirements. I said ‘tried’ instead of ‘must’ or ‘need’ or ‘should’.

In my role as an IT manager or project manager, I will never say to my team ‘we must get along with so and so to build this system’ or ‘we should try to talk to each other’. Who relishes to be ‘told’ or talk to on what to do? Definitely not want that directed at/to me and so why do it to my fellow workmates/colleague? It’s simply counterproductive and easily generate towards an ‘I told you so’ culture which ultimately leads to ‘a blaming culture’. In a blaming culture, creating a meaningful or ‘good stuff’ outcomes gets circuited.

I have recently come across several articles/postings highlighting that ‘IT folks and lawyers are still not talking or failure to co-operate’ in ediscovery activities. This is the posting which got me to blog. BTW, a catchy title ‘Legal and IT Are Still Not Communicating’. The posting ended by stating that ‘Only dialog between legal and IT will change that’. (i.e. the respective responsibilities of legal and IT still are not being carried out by many because they don’t understand them). Understanding starts somewhere and dialog is great if both parties are willing to have a dialog. Even building bridges between IT folks and lawyers have surfaced elsewhere.

Let it be known that it is not that IT folks are not talking to lawyers; it is most likely that ‘the talk’ is directed from lawyers to IT folks. (I am assuming in most organizations, lawyers initiate or announce the litigation hold and other ediscovery requests to the IT department). IT folks are used to receiving requests from other departments (including lawyers). However what is unusual in ediscovery is that most IT folks (unless they are trained on ediscovery terms and have exposure to ediscovery activities or have been fully briefly beforehand by legal staff) will treat the request as an IT request rather than an ediscovery requests. It’s not that ‘we are not talking’, it’s more like ‘what are we talking about?’ and ‘how do we start to get to the ‘same starting page?’. Now, how to get both parties to turn ‘talking’ into meaningful dialogue?

Failure starts when both wants to start building bridges to bridge with each other and failed to recognize that the simplest bridge is defining a raft to get to a bridge. There is always a bridge somewhere already waiting for us, just finding a raft is the first hurdle.

Remember the story of building a bridge? Let’s start by learning to define a raft and not focus on building bridges as there’re already bridges (i.e. ediscovery models, tools/systems) waiting to be used.

Finding willing raft designers from both parties is probably the first hurdle :-)


  1. paulceaston
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Interesting perspective. I recently wrote about how project management can be the foundation upon which to build a functional multi-disciplinary e-discovery team and how the project manager can act as the bridge between lawyers and techies. So is project management the bridge or the raft? Raft? Maybe that is what Agile PM looks like. ;-)

    I’m not sure I understand exactly what “the raft to get to the bridge” would be in practice. I’d be interested in your expanding on this in a future post. I’d also be interested in your thoughts on my recent post on the same topic. Here: Law & IT: Can’t We All Just Get Along? With Project Management, Yes!

  2. Posted May 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi Paul, Thanks for your comment. A quick reply as I’m on the road (in NYC right now).
    Will read you post and comment & reply more when I’m next fully online.

  3. Posted May 15, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Paul, I wasn’t thinking of Project Management or Agile PM for the building of the raft :-) to explain ‘building raft to get to the bridge’ ?! Think systems and small is beautiful and also the cathedral and the bazaar :-)


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