August 14 by Prashant Dubey
I love the summer. First off, I’m a southern hemisphere guy who has lived in Oregon for over 2 decades, though I definitely reflect more light today than when I first arrived here. [Note: First useless random fact of the day – the more melanin, the less light reflected). In any case, summer means sun, sun means warmth and I like both things.
Summer also means kids are out of school. I have always been a a fan of some structured activities in the summer but also a lot of downtime. This downtime is referred to by many as “unstructured play time.”
Back in the Day
When I was a kid (walking over hot coals, uphill..both directions, to attend school), unstructured play time was just…play. I had no club soccer, no tennis coaches, no formal SAT prep classes…I just went out with my friends in the summer mornings, ate as much fried food off the Bombay food carts as my stomach could hold, played marbles using a hole we dug in the asphalt as our “destination,” and avoided the snakes in the rocks at the local construction site (where we trespassed of course).
I tried to make it back home on time, but often I didn’t and had to sneak in while my mother was cooking.
With my kids, unstructured play time is the time before, after and in-between structured and planned self-improvement activities of the ilk outlined above. During these windows, the easy default is the phone or computer. However, in many cases, we/they manage to find activities borne from unstructured play time that have become the most interesting part of my summer. As with all these things, I put a contract management lens on them and am able to draw parallels that seem useful (at least to me, so I share them with you). Here are some examples of these translations.
The “iPod Shuffle” Time
I have been blessed with two sons and one daughter. As my daughter reminds me regularly, I don’t really “get girls.” I think that’s just her way of getting me to question my parenting competency so she can manipulate me toward her agenda. In any case, she’s in my head, and as of today, she’s winning.
One of her favorite unstructured activities is plugging in her headphones, retiring to her dark room, in the middle of a beautiful sunny day, and listening to music. Sometimes for couple of long hours.
Initially, I was uncomfortable with this. Yes, I like unstructured time, but this seemed amoeba-like. My wife stepped in and educated me that teenage girls like their alone, introspection time. Ah yes, of course, she wants to think about her place in the world, what it means to grow up in a tumultuous world, the slow decay of our environment and determine how she can contribute to the world at large. In fact, my wife told me, she’s likely just thinking about what Rihanna is doing during the big festival in her native Barbados.
In any case, when she emerged from her room, she was pleasant, playful and seemingly full of joy. So, whatever happened in there with the iPod…it was good.
In a CLM program, there is often a lot of intensity. Many training sessions, meetings, demos, process mapping sessions, re-training sessions, user acceptance testing….it can get draining. It is my experience that when a CLM program builds in some “iPod sessions,” it can add some much needed energy to a program. This is where key stakeholders are gathered together for a seemingly structured meeting but in fact, upon commencing, they agree to put all contract management topics aside – they talk about everything and anything but CLM. Conversations could be personal but also about work other than contract management work. These gatherings can reveal a lot and can humanize the CLM program with a good reminder that ultimately, any program is an agglomeration of people working together, doing work. In the weeks following a session such as this, decision making becomes easier and more collaborative…who knew?
Yes, in a work environment, some structure is needed to create an unstructured event, but the benefits seem to be significant.
Would you rather?
Another unstructured game that I play with my daughter is a rather twisted game of “would you rather?” It’s usually one-way. She presents me with a series of quasi-Faustian choices (not really, but sometimes it seems that severe) and I have to choose one or the other. Some are just plain grade school gross: “Would you rather drink a jugful of pus or eat a plate of scabs?” Some are more thought-provoking: “Would you rather save a family of whales or a family of turtles?” Some seem duplicitous (I’m sure she’d bring up my response to this sometime): “If my brother and I were both falling off a cliff, which one would you save?”
I have a great answer to this that has worked well (email me if you want to hear it). This game sometimes goes on for hours as the choices she presents to me get more and more challenging. I never get to present any to her…I’m still trying.
“Would you rather” games in a CLM program can be really productive. Imagine holding a meeting focused entirely on trade-offs? Would you rather spend an extra 10 minutes filling out a contract intake form or answer 10 emails and 4 phone calls from the legal department trying to understand the business rationale behind your contract request? Would you rather create 5 transaction related metadata fields for your customer agreements and sign up to maintaining them or spend time to research pertinent agreements at the time there is an M&A event? These are real choices and the coin could land on either side based on the exact situation or the person.
My younger son (the big guy is off in college, which means that for him, I’m perfunctory), comes up with random projects, borne from nothing but impulse. In the winter, it is a photo shoot in the snow on the rare days that it snows in Portland, cross country skiing in the middle of the main streets when there are no cars around…and other such impulsive yet fun activities.
One of the most fun and productive unstructured and impulsive summer activities is when my son is inspired to make something that we normally purchase as a finished product (typically an edible product). One of these recent inspirations is Kombucha.
Fermented tea. It’s an acquired taste for sure, but it has amazing health benefits and once you are hooked, you are really hooked. Here’s the problem, it’s an expensive acquired taste.
So, my son decided that we should go get our own starter SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). If you Google it, be prepared for some yummy images. We are, this week, going to start a batch, ferment it and see how it goes.
The process of thinking about a Do-it-Yourself (DIY) exercise has been fun.
I’m sure the process of making Kombucha with him will be equally invigorating. The best part about such a project is that both of us start out knowing nothing and learn together along the way. I’m sure there will be arguments, but for now, I have my rose-colored glasses on.
In a CLM initiative, a DIY approach can be really productive. For example I have seen many organizations struggle with how to quicly tackle low hanging fruit in a CLM initiative and accelerate a program. For example, a NDA clearinghouse can certainly be faciliated by a CLM system, but before the system is implemented, there’s nothing wrong with a DIY approach where everyone sends an email to NDARequest@company.com, fills out a web-form outlining the counter-party, the effective date, 2 or 3 fields outlining the business purpose of the relationship and if a one-way or mutual NDA Is required. The creation of the NDA can be manually executed on the back end, but at least the process is centralized. Yes, it is actually as easy as I made it sound. Now, you have a process that can easily be automated when your CLM system is ready. DIY…pretty productive.
Sometimes the unstructured play time devolves into a mid-day nap for me, which I will find a way to justify as a parallel to a CLM implementation strategy…perhaps the next blog post?
Be sure to check back on August 28th for the final post in the “Mastering Contract Lifecycle Management” series.
To learn how to navigate the IT – Legal relationship in a CLM initiative, visit the previous post – HERE.
The “Mastering Contract Lifecycle Management” series is written by Prashant Dubey, bestselling author of The Generalist Counsel and CEO of The Sumati Group, which is the Apttus premier contract migration and CLM Managed Services partner.