Thursday, May 20, 2004

Whose Document Is It Anyway?

I have two firm sponsors toiling away twenty feet from me, re-writing the draft work product, forcing words which were never uttered during the FRO down their client’s throats. Who ‘owns’ this thing anyway? I tend to stick to the following self-defined guidelines:

The journal belongs to us. It is up to us to assure that it is as faithful as possible to what we believe went on during the event. I resist all attempts to interfere with it. Not only is all the content there, but even the look and feel of the web is up to us. I also push as hard as I can for timely distribution to all participants. It is a pact we make with them to listen to them and ensure that their work isn’t lost. Sometimes I make that pact explicit during the event. I then use this declaration in my defence when I am standing before the journal, arms crossed, blocking the way for any interference.

The Work Product, on the other hand, belongs to the Sponsors. I encourage them to edit as much as they want. I only get nervous when the Capgemini sponsors interfere with content without involving the client sponsors. In these cases, I will go over their heads to flag the changes and ensure that they are discussed.

It gets complicated when we have engagement team knowledge worker(s) on the Work Product team, as we tend to do. They feel that they have the right to ‘interpret’ what was said and written in light of their knowledge of the client issues, jargon, and sensitivities. This pressure is difficult to resist, and our principles (if that’s what they are) are difficult to explain. A good consultant feels that he or she ‘owns’ the Executive Summary and will resist the notion that our role is to transmit and not to interpret.

When we make an additional deliverable (video, poster, whatever) I think of it as a gift and don’t solicit any feedback from anybody. In fact, I rarely provide feedback myself, trusting graphics or production or video or whomever to use their best judgement.

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