In this episode, Zack Glaser talks with our product director here at Lawyerist., Ashely Steckler, about common project management mistakes and how to avoid them.
- . Foundational aspects of project management
- . Common project management mistakes lawyers make
- . How to avoid duplication in your law practice
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Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Hi, I’m Jennifer Whigham
And I’m Zack Glaser. And this is episode 385 of the Lawyerist podcast. Part of the legal talk network. Today, I’ll be talking with Ashley Steckler about project management.
Today’s podcast is brought to you by MyCase, LawPay and Posh virtual receptionists. We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support. So stay tuned and we’ll tell you more about them later on. Zach. This is our first introduction that we have ever recorded together. And I just wanted to make note of that.
Yes, it’ll go down in the, the annals of, of, uh, Lawyerist, podcast history
Down in history. As I feel like Lawyerist, team meetings, we are often the class clowns could say,
I think that’s a good way. A nice way of saying it.
Yeah, I think that’s very, um, yeah, but, uh, for this though, this is not a very cloudy topic I wanna talk about. So we can immediately switch from that, but may is mental health awareness month. And something I wanted just to touch on a little bit about is how we handle mental health at Lawyerist and the way that it goes with us. So there are the things like, you know, when you’re in a workplace and you see all these articles that are like check in with people in your department and make sure that they’re doing okay and kind of these lip service things. But what I like about how we handle it is that we handle it in a way that the trust that we have built with our team makes it actually very genuine. So if I’m having a bad day, if I’m having an, an anxious day, I can actually say that, do Stephanie who’s my manager. And we can talk about it instead of other jobs where I felt, I don’t wanna say, like it was a weak thing or scared, but I was scared to tell somebody I was having an anxious day. I would have to make something up. I’d be like, I feel physically ill, but here I feel like I can say it and it gets dealt with.
Yeah, I think so. And starting off, I kind of just wanna say, like, I, I personally I have to work on my mental health every day and I do various things to, to do that. And quite frankly, I take medication to work on my mental health and I’m, I’m also go see counselors. And I have been for years, I’m very open about that. And I think people should be, if you’re not comfortable with it, you don’t have to be, but I personally want people to be more comfortable with it. And that is something like you’re saying at Lawyerist where we can be comfortable with that. And I’ll give you an example. Last week, I took two days off unexpectedly to go handle something. And I told my immediate reports and super I, I told Ashley and Stephanie <laugh>, um, what was, was going on? Uh, yeah, let’s not, let’s not church it up too much here.
I told Ashley and Stephanie what’s what’s going on. And in my message to them via slack, I said, you’re welcome to share this with whoever, you know, because a, I feel that comfortable with everybody. About two minutes later, I get a message from somebody you <laugh>, um, that just says, Hey, you know, I paraphrase. It just says, Hey, I’m feeling for you. I want you to know that I’m here to support you, whatever you need something to that extent. And that I think to me is what encapsulates this is. I felt comfortable about talking about it. I didn’t have to use euphemisms or anything like that. Yeah. And, and to be clear, like this was something I, I took off two days unexpectedly. It absolutely had something to do with, you know, my mental health, um, you know, like, or at least taking off two days unexpectedly would, would deal with your, your mental health.
And I’m very clear about that, I guess. Yeah. But I was okay. And everyone knew I was okay. And, and all that, but I felt comfortable saying exactly what it was. And more importantly, our team felt comfortable reaching out. Yeah. And saying, we support you. And I think it’s uncomfortable to do it’s uncomfortable to provide support. It is not something that we do all the time. And it is scary to say, what do I say to somebody who has just been open about something like that? Mm-hmm <affirmative> who is experiencing something that I may not know exactly what it is. Uh, I may not know exactly how they feel. How do I say something to them? I think that’s scary.
Yeah. I think it can be. Thank you for sharing that too. I also take medication. I’ve also seen therapists for years, and I’m also very open about that, but I haven’t worked in an environment where I could be yes. Like this agree or agree. If I was open, there would be, I don’t wanna say you get punished for it or there’s retribution, but there’s sort of, people might say they understand, but then there’s a resentment that starts to build up. Or people are like, well, I don’t get to take off just because I’m anxious. How come they get to take off or something like that at my old job. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I don’t feel that here. And I don’t feel that about anybody else either. Right. That needs to take time. Like you did. In fact, what I feel is how can I make this person’s life easier right now when they’re going through a tough time.
And I think that’s what we mean by healthy owner too. And a healthy team. Mm-hmm <affirmative> is that the days of, you know, your work life being separate from your personal life, it’s impossible. We all work from home. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that doesn’t mean that you are working into the evening hours. I don’t mean that type of separation. No. I mean that you spend eight hours a day with this group of people you’re gonna care about ’em you’re gonna think about it. You’re gonna know their families and why can’t we also know, you know, where they are going through mentally, to me, it feels, you know, just the same, me having a, a very anxious day can feel just as hard as a physically ill day mm-hmm <affirmative> to me. I mean, I think they can be very similar. And knowing that if I said that, like you did, I would know people would reach out to me.
I would know my manager supported me and it takes time to get there, like in any relationship that you have yes. To build that trust within a team, you can say it right away, but people will have to see it in action before they can really believe that yes, you can get the support you need at work. And there are no consequences for that. Mm-hmm <affirmative> the consequences are that people will step up to help you. Right. And it takes time. So just remember that, I think to anybody on the audience, if you want to build that culture, it doesn’t come right away, but it comes in action and proving it and consistency over and over and over again. And, but once you get to the place, like with any, you know, marriage or friendship, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it is so gratifying. I get more work done knowing that I don’t have to hide an anxiety disorder that I can say same here.
Right. You know, because before it would be, it would build on each other. Right. Like I would have be anxious and then I’d be more anxious that I can’t say anything. And then I’d be like, what’s wrong with me and et cetera, et cetera. And now that I can be like, I am slow this morning because I am worried about these things. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I’m anxious, but I know that I’m not gonna be punished for that. There’s nothing wrong with me. It is part of me, it’s part of my process that I’m anxious and I will get what I need to get done. And I get the support, you know?
Right, right. I always say, you know, it’s how my brain works. Yep. Like I, I hate the, the phrase disorder. Yes. When we put it into to some of these things and I, I don’t like putting labels on, on how our brains operate. Really. I know it helps to sure. To help people kind of organize things, but this is how my brain works and I get the good with the difficult. Yes. And so I have found through talking with, with counselors that if I will embrace the difficult, it’s kind of like, like judo or something, you know, like, how can I take this energy? I like judo. It’s exa it’s 100%. I
Know nothing about judo. Go
Ahead though. I, I don’t either. I’m, I’m just, you know, talking,
Continue talking then,
But it is, you know, how do I take this energy and direct it to where I can, I can be positive with it.
That’s a good way to look
At it. So instead of trying to fight it and trying to say, okay, well, I’m just not gonna be anxious today, you know, and do that. And I still do that. And I, oh, I do too, but kind of accepting it, recognizing it, leaning into it sometimes. And then I’m able to be more productive and at the same time, because my mind works that way because my mind works in a way that is different from a lot of people, honestly, it’s different from everybody. I also have the benefits of my mind. Yes. But I I’d like to go back as we’re kind of closing out here to what you said about this. Isn’t something, when you create this environment of healthy ownership and healthy workforce, this isn’t something where healthy ownership and healthy teams that happens in a day. It is about trust. It is about doing this over and over and showing up as your genuine self every day. So now we have my conversation, my genuine self conversation with Ashley.
Hi, I’m Ashley stickler. And I’m the product director here at Lawyerist.
Hey, Ashley. Um, we’ve had you on the podcast a couple times. And as the product director, you are kind of our, well, I say kind of, you’re our project manager. You shepherded things through, from nothing to creation. And so we’d like to talk to you today again, about project management.
Yeah. I’m the one who gets really excited and also really picky about our tasks and workflows and making sure that they work as effortlessly as possible.
Right. Well, excited is the word that I would usually use when, when you’re making sure that my workflows are, are working through as effortly as possible. Yeah. So last time you and Stephanie, in episode 353 were talking about some of the foundational aspects of, of project management. Can we like really quickly review that? So people don’t necessarily have to go back to that.
Yeah, absolutely. So Stephanie and I were talking about the questions to ask before you start a project, what a project might entail. So something outside of your normal day to day workflow, something that you need to scope, assign tasks, prioritize, and get it done. Right, right. Outside of the, here’s what I have to do every day. When I come to work, identifying objectives, who’s going to do it, what resources do we need? And when do we wanna complete this? Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> what are the goals that we’re trying to achieve? And so Stephanie and I started talking through the process of really setting up a project at the beginning. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so that you have success at the end.
Okay. And I think if people want to know a little bit more how that fits into kind of their day to day stuff, because I, I think of project management, that’s like you said, an individual kind of thing, as opposed to just your daily tasks that are kind of repeatable each day. So if people wanna know more about that, they can go back to episode 3 53, which is a good starting point for this one. What I’d to get into today though, is common project management mistakes. Let’s look at this from the, from the negative, what are things that we want to avoid when we’re doing the project management? Because when we don’t have experience in this, or we have little experience in this, we, you know, run full force gung-ho into this thing and we’re gonna run across some, some issues. So help us out with that, Ashley.
Yeah. I think one of the main things, as I see people start to get excited and want to systematize and make sure that they’re handling projects, mm-hmm <affirmative> that have resources and have timelines and have details so that people can finish them and really clarify what the objectives are and give attention to project management. I think one of the things that people it’s easy to do at the beginning, and that is confusing your procedure with the process. And so sometimes when I talk with and coach people in our, uh, lawyer slab program is they’ll start to take on project management in a way that covers the who, what, when and the how. And so when we think through project management of what are the tasks that we need to complete to finish this project, we need to have a system in place that takes us through the tasks without also bringing in the operations manual piece of it.
And so when I think through project management, from the perspective of what are the actions that need to be taken to finish the project, we need people to have, whether that’s in a project management tool or a checklist or a template, one of the common mistakes is merging the process and the procedure. So as I see it, when you start to do a project management workflow of like, what are the tasks that we need to do to get from the beginning to the end mm-hmm <affirmative> is we need to say, who’s gonna do it. What are they going to do? And when are they going to do it without bringing in the, how, which is the procedure. And so when you start thinking through, we need to, so in my world, write, edit, revise, edit, publish, mm-hmm <affirmative> as one example of a project, I don’t want to have people spend time when they’re saying yes, I finished the writing of also have that be here’s our strategy.
And here’s how you wanna do it. And the procedure of things that we need to consider. People need that information, but we want to have a bulleted checklist of, I need to write that’s the action. Okay. And so having a separation between the procedure of these are the things that you need to consider when you are writing and putting together this article, we need to have that, but that actually lives in our systems and our procedures manual. And so sometimes what I’ve seen people do is when they work through project management and they’re using a project management tool, mm-hmm <affirmative>, or even a checklist, is that they will bring in that narrative and process of the operations and procedures manual. Right. Which actually hinders our actionable items of you need to write the thing.
Okay. So that’s where I would start. Honestly, I think this is a great point because a lot of times when I’m trying to write my process, I’m gonna go to my ops manual mm-hmm <affirmative> and it doesn’t sound like you’re saying that that’s a bad thing to go to the ops manual necessarily that should have the information filled out. So, so for example, with, with you and I working on, on certain projects, we’d write a lot of things and send them back and forth. The specifics of why we’re writing an article is gonna be in the ops manual. But Zach, you need to write a first draft of this that’s in our process, that’s in what we’re doing with our project management. That’s part of the project, as opposed to part of the operations. Is that what we’re saying?
Absolutely. When you merge the two into one visual space, it slows down the process. Mm-hmm <affirmative> you absolutely need to have all of your procedures documented so that people know how right. So that everyone’s on the same page of how, but when you are working through a project management workflow, you don’t want to make things longer. You don’t wanna muddy it up. We need to know who’s gonna do what and when.
Right. And I think personally, I’ve, I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten into the weeds with that, with scoping out some projects where I’ve started to make some of the subtasks, what would normally just be a checklist of things that we’re gonna do every single time. So that’s how I’m kind of envisioning this is that if I’m gonna make it into a checklist, then it, it might need to live over there in, in the operations area.
Yeah. I think an easy rule is, is it an action item? And when we start wanting to write multiple sentences, that’s when it becomes not the action item itself, but the explanation of how,
Okay. And so that’s just gonna muddy kind of the, the water, like that’s, that’s our problem is that it starts to get muddled and we can’t clearly see what all of our action items are as easily when we bring all that information in. Is, is that what I’m kind of hearing there?
Yeah, for sure. We need to have an operations manual. We need to have something that manages our tasks. Mm-hmm <affirmative> when we bring those two things together, it makes the task management less efficient because we’re giving too much, too much explanation. Mm-hmm <affirmative>
Because we don’t need that every time
It’s heavy. Yeah.
You know, you would think since you and I operate on projects together, a lot that this wouldn’t be a moment where we’re explaining things to me, but that’s, that’s very helpful. And that makes a lot of sense.
Yeah. I deliver these things to you, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, that’s my place on the team. I simplify things to deliver it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so that you don’t have to see the, how every time, right. You go in to write something because our workflow and our process is streamlined enough to the point where, you know, the, how already. Right. And so, as an example, if it’s something in a project workflow that you’re constantly doing, your brain actually has to process you seeing the, how, if it’s presented to you every time you do the task
Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I, I think you also wind up with those tasks that you have to check off that you’re like, ah, I gotta check off 15 things now, because you, you put in all the little things that, that are part of the, of the procedure instead of that are part of the process.
Yeah. And so that’s another thing that I see people running up against is we add in to our action items for project management. We add in decision points, mm-hmm <affirmative>, which is not an action item. The action item comes after the, the decision point. And so if you have, let’s say we have a checklist of things that we’re checking off mm-hmm <affirmative> and we have first decide, check that off and complete that task. Then do the thing that’s based on your decision, check that item and move it off. That’s actually two things you’re checking when you only really needed to check once mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so asking yourself, is this checkbox actually a part of another action item that I’m already doing? Mm-hmm <affirmative> and so do we need to check off one thing or five,
Right. And that is going to not only save time, but also kind of save process like brain processing power as well, just sitting there looking at it, because I honestly, and I think that a lot of people run into this, you look at your tasks and you scope something and it has 20 tasks that you have to do to get this done. Yeah. That gets overwhelming. Sometimes even if they’re tiny little tasks, it gets overwhelming. Now I know some people love checking checklists off and you can still get that by having the checklist off to the side, you can still, my sister loves crossing things off the list and she’s wonderful at project management, you can have that off to the side. It doesn’t need to muddy the water in the process here,
Especially if you’re actually, when you’re doing the action, you go back to that checklist and you say, oh, I did seven things. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you’re taking your time and attention to seven different things to check off when actually your action was one thing that covered all of them. Mm-hmm
<affirmative> yeah. Okay. So that is a big common mistake. I think. What, what are some of the other common mistakes we have?
Yeah. I think we can boil that one down into simplify when you’re able
Hmm. I like that.
Yeah. Another thing that I see people do is not assigning the right task to the right owner. And so really looking at is this the person who’s the best person to own this action or task mm-hmm <affirmative> do we have some, someone who’s looking over and owning the process of scoping, making sure we’re meeting deadlines, is that the same person who’s delivering all of the actions because oftentimes it’s not the same person or the person delivering all of the actions is really good at completing the actions, but maybe not necessarily good at making sure that the scope is held onto, right. So we’re not adding tasks or we’re not missing timelines, or if you have multiple people working on a project step back and make sure that you have the right resources on the right actions. And so you have the right person owning the item.
Okay. So let me kind of unpack that a little bit. Yeah. What we’re saying is that, well, I guess I put, shouldn’t put words in your mouth necessarily, but the doer of the task doesn’t necessarily need to be the owner of the task. I think that’s one of the first premises here. Yep. And so the doer of the task doesn’t necessarily need to be the, the person that, that is assigned to that because they’re, they’re not making sure that it gets done. They’re doing it.
Yeah. And so I would say if you have resources available to not take on the entire project yourself, mm-hmm <affirmative>, if there’s other people on your team that maybe are really good at task managing or making detailed checklists or making sure that people are on time, you know, mm-hmm <affirmative>, I know that you and I can think of a few of us on the team that follow up as soon as the deadline right. Is overdue. And we have other people who are really, really good at getting into creative mode and doing the thing mm-hmm <affirmative> and those two people aren’t usually the same. Right. And so having a project where one person is managing the thing from front to end is not usually the most efficient way to do it.
I think that’s probably something that needs to be said to lawyers in their offices because when I was so practicing and managing in the office, a lot of times the default is okay, well I’ll just I’ll own it. Yeah. I’ll own the whole thing. I’ll make sure everybody’s getting it done. And that’s not really, I mean, personally, that’s not a good use of my talents. Like that’s not how, like I’m not the person that needs to be the project manager. Whereas I had people in my office that were better at that, that were better at, at kind of keeping things on track, even if they weren’t. So I guess we’re saying even if they’re not the doer of the thing, we may still be able to assign them that task of keeping this moving forward.
Yeah. I would suggest that everyone asks themselves the question, do I need to be the one doing that? Mm-hmm <affirmative> because it’s easy to say, I’ll just do it.
Right. Right. And I, I may get into that still a lot. And I think most people do because that’s, it’s just, but that is, um, I don’t wanna be too harsh here, but that’s lazy. I think, I think it is a little bit like, oh, I don’t want to think about it. I don’t wanna process through it and figure out what is the best way to do it. I know I’ll get it done cuz I’m confident in myself. And so I’ll just make it my, my task.
Yeah. I agree. I think it seems like the easier solution, but I think it actually hinders the process.
Mm-hmm <affirmative> okay. So making sure that each step along the process has the right person dealing with it and shepherding it at the very least.
Yeah. Okay. Yep.
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so you can focus on what matters most to your firm. MyCase is an affordable all-in-one solution that gets your business up and running quickly. Hundreds of lawyers have rated MyCase the number one legal case management software. After making the switch to MyCase, one law firm saved over 100 hours per month–time that would have otherwise been spent on tedious administrative tasks. It’s time to choose a case management software that works for you. If you’re looking to supercharge the growth of your firm, go to mycase.com/lawyerist and sign up for a free trial. Right now, Lawyerist listeners get three months at no cost on a new annual plan! (Offer cannot be combined with other discounts). Visit mycase.com/lawyerist (my case dot com forward slash lawyerist) to get started. So we’re back Ashley and we were talking about common project management mistakes, and we’ve already gone through confusing process with procedure and then making sure that we have the right task connected with the right owner of that task. So what else, what, what are some other common mistakes? I know there are a lot of common mistakes and we won’t get through everything, but, but what are some other common mistakes here?
Yeah. So another one I see is people will process things twice. And so if it doesn’t need to be looked at again processed again, don’t pick it up twice. And so avoid duplication. There are times where, when we work through our own workflows project management, that we look at something, right. We have a spot in our project management to think through brainstorm, think through ideas. Mm-hmm <affirmative> do we wanna do this thing? Or don’t we mm-hmm <affirmative> and I try to encourage the team not to leave it there because I don’t wanna look at it again. I wanna make a decision about whether or not we wanna move forward with this or abandon this mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so I don’t want to look at it again. We need to make a decision and move on because that also takes a lot of our time and resources when we’re going back to something mm-hmm <affirmative> right.
We can, we can think about that when we process our email inbox of, oh, I see that I’m going to leave it there and then I’m gonna check my email again tomorrow and oh, that’s right. Should I respond? Should I forward it? Should I snooze it? And if we don’t take that action, that thing is going to live in our inbox and we’re actually gonna spend mental energy on it. Every time we look at it. And so we either need to schedule a snooze forward it, the appropriate person tell, I mean, we should be responding, right? We should be taking an action item. Mm-hmm <affirmative> at minimum responding to the person and saying, thank you. I got your email. I have a task or time next week. Right? And so you’re actually dealing with the thing we should avoid constantly using brain power to process the same thing over and over
Suppose I don’t have the time to process it immediately. I’m going through my email and I’m looking for a specific email that I’m trying to respond to for a case. As I go through my email, I see a bunch of stuff in there. I don’t have the time to respond to those things. I need to move on. You know, I suppose I run across tasks. If somebody comes into my office, interrupts me and says, Hey Zach, I’ve got this thing. How do I deal with that? How do I make it a touch once if I, I don’t even wanna touch it right now.
Yeah. I, and this is getting, I think a little bit away from project management, but I would say, make sure to block off time on your calendar so that you can, in this example, process your inbox and make sure that the things you need to do are dealt with, which could be snoozing, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> I think sometimes when it comes into play in project management is we will look at this idea and we will talk about it. Right? Do we wanna take on this project? Do we wanna add this component to our project? Do we wanna reach out to someone else? If we can answer the question, we should answer the question and not let it sit there as this recurring. What did we mean when we said that, right? Yeah. What did we wanna do with that? Sometimes we have stuff in our brainstorm pile, right?
Mm-hmm <affirmative> our brainstorm column. And we say, here’s what I was thinking with this idea. Here’s why I think we need to do it. And that’s a great idea. Let’s consider it later, but maybe we didn’t add additional notes on why we thought it was a good idea. Mm-hmm <affirmative> we talk about doing it maybe next quarter or maybe even next year. And then next month, when we come back around and we process our idea inbox again, we might say, what did we wanna do with that? I know that we said we should do it in the future. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and then we end up talking about it again. Here’s why I thought we should do it. I was considering next quarter. Here’s the drawbacks here’s reasons why we might wanna do it. When at the time we could have added a target date to revisit and added those notes to the details. Right?
Okay. So even if we are, like you said, snoozing, it let’s intentionally snooze. It let’s process it appropriately. So as far as things outside of project management, you know, dealing with email that comes in, things like that, that’s kind of its separate little box of like, how do we organize our day? But inside this project management, if we’re coming across a process coming across a task, don’t just kind of half process it and say, oh, we’ll deal with that later. Go ahead and and deal with it. And I think that to me, you have actually like having meetings with you on this has helped me because we will make a decision and actually make a task out of that decision, set, a meeting, set a thing like while we’re in the meeting, not just say, okay, well, when we’re done, you go make these tasks. We’ll actually set that task. So it is fully actualized, fully processed. And when we come back to this thing, we don’t have to deal with what we just dealt with.
Yeah. I think distilling that down and you made great clarifications. If we don’t need to kick the pebble down the road, mm-hmm <affirmative>, let’s not do it. Okay. Another one that kind of piggybacks on this is making sure that the actions that we have set up, don’t start to become unwieldy and get additions added down the line. Mm-hmm <affirmative> a lot of times when we get into a project, we’re like, oh, you know, it’d be great if we added this or mm-hmm <affirmative>, this would improve our final product. If we add this in now, or we didn’t think about this at the beginning. And so let’s do it now. Right? There’s lots of things that come up when we’re managing a project that actually sprawl the scope. Right. And so don’t let it morph into something that you didn’t want it to be at the beginning, we often on our team talk about, is this part of the original project scope or is this version two mm-hmm <affirmative> I think often we get into wanting to make it the best version the first time mm-hmm <affirmative> and then the project grows because you are going to come into things that would improve it.
And so asking yourself at those points, is this something that we need to do right now? Or can we version to this?
Right. So that that’s that perfect. Is the enemy of good. Yes. I think in there and I think giving people the idea of you can have a version two that’s okay. We, we will make this better potentially, but sock that away, make a note of it fully process it and put it into version two, because that is how you don’t get something done is scope creep. Yeah. You know, it, it just, you, you keep going, keep going and you never deliver something. And I I’ve done that many, many, many, many, how many times can I say many? Um, <laugh> times in life, in my academic career and, and professional career. And, and the version two, I think is a, is really a savior. And for our purposes, version two part one, version two part two, we can, we can even do that. We can break things into that, but you have a deliverable, have a, is this what we wanted to get done at the start?
Yeah. And is this going to be the thing that holds us up from not doing it right? Like, are we going to get the thing done or are we gonna keep adding stuff? You’re laughing because I tell you that, right. Zach, are you going to be the one? No, this is not the dis this is not the time. Right, right. And so what a relief, right? We cannot, we don’t need to be perfect and we can deliver a good end result and improve with version two mm-hmm <affirmative>.
Right. But I, I think clarity upfront also yes. Is the key here is that when we get into this, when this makes sense to us and it shouldn’t, the scope of sprawl should not make sense to us in the, in the project. But when it does is when we didn’t clearly outline where we were going, we said, we’re gonna get in this car and we’re gonna just build it while we’re driving down the road. And we intended to do that from the get go. And that’s because we didn’t really scope this out at the beginning.
Yeah. That’s a great point. And that’s a great place to identify some retrospective or iterative improvement of how can we do this better next time? Cuz we missed some details. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that were actually really vital. And maybe we missed at the beginning mm-hmm <affirmative> so how can we clarify upfront and make sure that yes, we have a clear path to where we wanna go and where we, where we wanna get in the end mm-hmm <affirmative>
Okay. So one of the things that I run into in my tasks in my projects is the beginning takes so long. The tasks take longer than I expect them to. And of course, if the tasks, the beginning are gonna take longer than I expect them to the tasks at the end are gonna go way faster than I thought they were gonna. Right. <laugh>
Yeah. Yeah. So that’s another thing that I think we all are prone to and that’s when we set time expectations for how long we think the thing is going to take. Sometimes we’re off. Sometimes they take longer mm-hmm <affirmative> sometimes it’s true that once you figure out the beginning, you’ll start to get into a rhythm and you’ll start to improve your own efficiency. If it’s something that you are repeating or mm-hmm <affirmative> you have some learning up front to do and it is going to improve as you go along. Because now you’re really confident in owning what it is you’re creating. But most of the time we don’t speed up later. And so not adjusting to the actuals, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> you have a plan at the beginning, you’ve set your here’s how long it’s going to take. Here’s the resources and the people that we need to complete it. And that might change if you underestimate time, it’s not very reasonable to assume that you’re gonna speed up later. And so thinking that you have something that’ll take 30 days and most of the time spent up front, you didn’t make as much progress. You’re not gonna get 90% of it done the last two days.
Well, I, I am
What, what is, what is it say about work and gas expand to the, to the container allotted. I think to me, and I’m not actually even playing devil’s advocate, but just kind of talking this through. That’s what people run into is I have 30 days to do this. Yeah. And I have, because I had 30 days to this and I think this is actually a problem with scoping. Again, this is a problem with trying to figure out how long something’s gonna take. As we say, I have 30 days to do this. It looks like I have three big, broad sections of this. So I’m gonna say, okay, I have 10 days to do each of those. And then it looks like I have two tasks inside of that. So my first task is gonna take me five days. My second task is gonna take me five days, my third task, you know?
And I think that’s the problem is that we work back from time allotted. And so then you get to where the first section took 20 days and you got 10 days to do the other ones, um, whether you like it or not. So again, I think this comes from a, an area of, we scoped incorrectly. We didn’t take the time to actually say, well, how long is this task actually gonna take? Because if you have 30 days to do something and the tasks are 100%, they’re gonna take you 55 days. You can’t do it, but you need to know that at the beginning, instead of at the end, instead of three days before you’re supposed to deliver this thing.
Yeah. And so it really is finding that balance between being realistic on the timeline, making sure that you’re scoping up front mm-hmm <affirmative> not adding in a bunch of steps in the middle. That’s actually going to extend it from 30 days to 55 because you’re trying to reach perfection mm-hmm <affirmative> or we’re unrealistic in something that you thought would take three hours taking 10 mm-hmm
<affirmative> man, do I run into these <laugh> <laugh>
Yeah, me too. Me too. That’s why I know what they are.
Uh, right. These are things that are, are, uh, I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with them, but I’m familiar with them. They’re yeah. They rear their, their little heads. So just to kind of recap, cuz we’ll we’ll need to, I mean, we could obviously talk about project management for a while, which I think may make us a little nerdy or something. I, I don’t know. That’s kind of a very specific thing we talk about, but we could talk about that for a while, but let’s kind of recap here. So we’ve got confusing procedure with process, right. Task, right. Owner do not pick something up twice. Don’t let it morph. So I like scope creep for that, but don’t let it morph. And then when you don’t adjust to the actual time that things are taking anything else or any, any other like Sage wisdom on, on what we need to avoid,
I think I’m out for today.
Safe. That’s safe
Enough for, I think you probably, yeah, I think we have enough to digest
Today. Don’t use more words where less words. Good.
Well, Ashley, thank you for talking about this. I mean, it helps me, but I, I think this is a good topic for, for lawyers and their staff to be aware of. So again, if people want to kind of go back to the previous thoughts of this episode 353 is where you and Stephanie talk about what to think about at the beginning of dealing with your, with your project. So, uh, again, Ashley, thanks for, thanks for being with us.
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Zack Glaser is the Legal Tech Advisor at Lawyerist, where he assists the Lawyerist community in understanding and selecting appropriate technologies for their practices. He also writes product reviews and develops legal technology content helpful to lawyers and law firms. Zack is focused on helping Modern Lawyers find and create solutions to help assist their clients more effectively.
Avoiding Common Project Management Mistakes, with Ashley Steckler
Last updated June 28th, 2022