In our last post we reviewed Intervention Point 2 of the 12 Intervention Points in a System. By addressing Intervention 2: The mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises we were able to better understand how the finite vs infinite game debate can have a significant impact on our organization’s operations.

In this post, we reach the end of our journey with Intervention 1: The power to transcend paradigms, finally finding the freedom to look at the eDiscovery industry in exciting new ways.

If you know me, you know I absolutely despise hearing anything along the lines of “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” or its even uglier cousin, “that’s just the nature of the industry”. It drives me crazy! I’m not sure if there is a lazier line of thinking.

Because the truth is, all of the persistent operational problems plaguing the industry stem from a single source: getting stuck in a single paradigm with no appetite for adaptation. As soon as your organization cements into a way of thinking, the count down to its extinction has begun. That clock can be turned off, but only if you can harness the most powerful intervention point of all: the power to transcend paradigms…

1. The power to transcend paradigms

While there are plenty of eDiscovery paradigms we could review, there are three main dichotomies that will have the most effect on the impact of the learning system we have been designing to this point:

  • eDiscovery as Software Development vs eDiscovery as a Manufacturing Line
  • Is it a Person problem or a Process problem?
  • Per Hour vs Value-Based Pricing

eDiscovery as Software Development vs eDiscovery as a Manufacturing Line

When eDiscovery was first born, the perception of the industry as a software development space made perfect sense — everyone was trying to figure out how to handle the electronically stored information problem. Ad Hoc problem solving was necessary at every step. Creativity could make or break the success of a project.

But as the dust started to settle and a clear picture of what needed to be done and how it needed to be done formed, this paradigm started to become irrelevant. Organizations started demanding cheaper prices and faster services.

So, what has the software development paradigm provide as a solution? Agile Project Management. Why? Because that’s how you move fast and cheap when developing software.

Here’s the problem: Agile doesn’t scale, and it most definitely doesn’t lead to automation. Instead, it leads to further fragmentation and the misconception that the operations involved in every project are unique, when in reality they are likely 90%+ the same across the board. It’s not that the people suggesting Agile as the correct approach are wrong; in the early days, it was the right approach. But today, this approach is outdated. And those continuing to support it are looking at the problem through the wrong lens.

So, how do we solve the efficiency problem to meet demands for faster/cheaper services if not via Agile? We shift our perspective and consider eDiscovery as a manufacturing line.

The manufacturing lens casts problems in a new light — how do we adapt operations to be repeatable and scalable? Suddenly, novelty is no longer muddying up the waters. Multiple ways of doing the exact same thing are no longer praised for quickly meeting a need but seen as an introduction of an inefficiency. Instead, slowing down and examining how to build a fully functioning production line that scales is not only allowed but encouraged.

And this is where our learning system thrives. We’ve created a thorough mapping of how work is going to be done and a methodology to identify errors and eliminate them from occurring again. We can leverage team members from across the organization and we’ve created the consistency required to automate processes. Now that we have slowed down and set ourselves up as a manufacturing line, we can speed up faster than any agile solution could achieve. We can solve this problem with this paradigm.

The software development mindset served its purpose at the birth of eDiscovery, but in order to grow with the industry that paradigm needs to be left behind and a new manufacturing approach needs to be adopted.

Is it a Person problem or a Process problem?

This was discussed in-depth in my last blog post Intervention 2: The mindset or paradigm out of which the system arises but it’s a really important paradigm, so while I won’t dive fully back in I do want to reiterate a couple points:

  • The learning system does not function when blaming the person. Errors are valuable inputs providing insight into how to improve the process, and if the finger gets pointed at the operator then not only is the point being missed but it also can lead to a culture of covering up mistakes AKA cutting off the source of inputs and halting continuous improvement.
  • Everything is a process problem. And if you don’t think that’s the case, something is wrong with your processes. Likely your processes are incomplete. A complete process informs, executes, and provides feedback on the success of the execution. If you’re blaming the person, you are either missing or have poorly constructed either the inform or feedback component of the process — probably both. It’s easy to blame a person and move on, but it’s wrong. Instead, do the hard work.

Per Hour vs Value-Based Pricing

The billable hour has been a stalwart of the legal industry and I doubt it’s going anywhere soon, but in order to optimize our learning system it needs to be reviewed.

There is a direct conflict between driving as much efficiency as possible and charging by the hour. Even if the market is undergoing a price crunch and figuring out how to keep prices competitive is required, there will always be an instinctive hesitancy to go all the way. After all, you can’t give away all of your revenue stream.

Enter Value-Based pricing.

Determining a set price does two things to optimize the learning system: it removes any operational restrictions that are created via the need to keep hours involved in the process; and, it actively applies pressure to reduce hours.

Think about it — if you get the same amount of production for 30 hours as 3 hours, why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to create the 3 hour scenario?

This won’t happen overnight, but remember the compounding effect of the learning system as described in Intervention 3: The Goals of the System — the more efficiencies created by the team, the more time for them to focus on creating new efficiencies. This very well might not currently fit within the business model for your organization, but that’s exactly why it’s so important. Approaching the problem within a new paradigm is exactly how you set about solving and making the adjustments to that model.

When you’re a hammer, everything is a nail.

That’s the simplest way to summarize the lesson here. To revisit my complaint at the beginning of the blog — when you’re stuck in your paradigm, everything is the way it’s always been.

Being able to shift from mindset to mindset in order to analyze your current challenges is how you can break free from the “nature of the industry” mentality and open up your organization to massive operational opportunity.

This concludes our deep dive into The 12 Intervention Points of a System.

My hope is you take the ideas herein to heart, and have the courage to take action. You have the power to build your own learning system. You have the power to change the nature of the industry. And we’re here to help if you need us.

Thanks for reading.