There is more than one way to approach Legal Project Management. Creating a positive, diverse and productive environment will allow lawyers to expand their knowledge, skill-set and reach their full potential.
Author: Anna Marra, Project Manager, Consultant and Trainer. Director of IE Law School’s Executive Education Management for Lawyers programs
Skills for Project Management: Can we use different intelligences to manage a legal project?
For years, I have been passionately teaching Legal Project Management (LPM) to lawyers from in-house legal departments and law firms, both in Spain and around the world. Through this experience, I have been able to identify a common factor in all my courses: my students’ high level of learning. It has been an extremely gratifying experience to see attorneys from different generations, cultures, academic and professional backgrounds being able to learn project management content and apply it to practice through problem solving.
I am not an expert in the psychology of learning, but I have come up with an explanation that I would like to share—especially as I believe we need to carry out further research into solutions that can help generate more productivity and value in LPM.
My starting hypothesis is that Legal Project Management and project methodologies in general are environments which reward multiple intelligences; that is, they are environments in which each individual, with their own blend of different intelligences, can learn project management and participate to their fullest potential.
Not just one, but multiple intelligences
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was introduced in 1983 by American psychologist Howard Gardner, when he published Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner argued that intelligence is not a unitary set that groups together different specific capacities, but a network of interrelated, autonomous sets.
In simpler terms, and with Mario Alonso Puig—winner of the highest award of merit for Communication and Human Relations from the Dale Carnegie Institute in New York—as a reference, we are not born with a closed set of intelligences. Instead, intelligence is like a window that opens in response to different stimuli. Gardner identifies nine types of intelligence:
- Visual-spatial intelligence: These are people who need to have a 3-D visual image
of the world.
- Kinesthetic intelligence: Those who have to move, interact, and touch.
- Logical-Mathematical intelligence: Some need to see things sequentially.
- Linguistic intelligence: There are others who rely on language.
- Musical intelligence: Some people’s windows are opened through sound.
- Interpersonal intelligence: The need to feel connected to other human beings.
- Intrapersonal intelligence: The need to self-reflect in order
- Naturalist intelligence: We see others light up when they are in contact with nature.
- Existential intelligence: These are people who have to find purpose in everything.
According to this theory, a child who learns to multiply easily is not necessarily smarter than a child who has difficulties with the same task. The child who needs more time to master multiplication may find it easier to learn to multiply through a different approach. Such a simplistic understanding of intelligence can result in the oversight of the potentially greater mathematical intelligence of a child who can quickly memorize his multiplication table, despite possessing a lesser understanding of the process of multiplication.
LPM as an environment for all nine intelligences
As we saw earlier, Gardner classified intelligence into nine modalities based on this foundation.
Legal Project Management is an approach that allows these nine intelligences to be incorporated in such a way that the Legal Project Manager can reach each individual involved. It is not by chance that when this methodology is applied, the performances of a company or a firm outstrips the performance of organizations which have not adopted the same approach.
PM helps us solve problems or create products or services. However, this also happens to be the challenge of any intelligence.
Looking at skills for project management
In Project Management we use visual-spatial intelligence to see the bigger picture of a project. Visual-spatial intelligence is the ability to conceptualize abstract ideas in 3-D using mental imagery and spatial reasoning. Those with visual-spatial intelligence could be compared to excellent search engines and browsers. They can manipulate the visual representations of the physical world in their minds and are often highly gifted at solving puzzles and mazes. It is evident that this type of intelligence is used in project management, both in the area of integration, as well as in tools such as the Project Charter or different project plans. The uncertainty of any project constantly challenges its developers to walk through mazes, and it is not by chance that we rely not only on project management tools, but also on legal design thinking as a methodology for solving problems.
We use logical-mathematical intelligence to design processes or build tools such as the Work Breakdown Structure. We can see sequences, for example on a Gantt Chart, and structure the work using macro-tasks and smaller tasks, identifying dependencies. People with logical-mathematical intelligence have an easy time with numbers and figures. They use instinct and deductive reasoning, have a knack for logical puzzles and are able to conceptualize abstract ideas.
Some people may use their body-kinesthetic intelligence when working on a project. Someone with this type of intelligence has a talent for communicating with their body. They also obtain a high degree of body awareness and an ability to manipulate their physical environment. In methodologies like Kanban, for example, physical communication and movement are very important to the workflow.
Another intelligence with which you can participate in a project is linguistic intelligence. Based on their sophisticated use of words, linguistically intelligent people can communicate project objectives and how they will be carried out. It is also useful when managing stakeholders, the team and the client.
Naturalist intelligence arises in those people who connect with nature. In Legal Project Management, this intelligence can be utilized to connect a project to its environment.
People with existential intelligence have the unique ability to tackle the big questions in life. They are philosophical and abstract thinkers who have a genuine curiosity about the meaning of life. Existentially intelligent people can guide others to a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and what collective existence is all about. This intelligence also exists in project management and could possibly be its foundation—as understanding the reason for the project helps to solve problems and create opportunities. In the purpose of the project, we also find our commitment.
Finally, musical intelligence, which allows us to “hear” the project. Hearing the project means understanding its rhythms, pauses and tones. There is often an effective connection between music and emotions; and mathematical and musical intelligences can share common thought processes.
In the development of multiple intelligences, some psychologists and sociologists also consider three other types of intelligences:
- Emotional intelligence
- Creative intelligence
- Collaborative intelligence
At first glance, it is clear that these three types of intelligence can also be found in the development of skills for project management.
Emotional intelligence—which became famous through the work of American writer Daniel Goleman—comprises both intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence. It contains five elements: emotional self-awareness, emotional self-control, self-motivation, empathy and social skills.
Creative intelligence allows the mind to fly. Those who have creative intelligence exhibit fluidity, flexibility and originality. Fluidity fosters the production of ideas; flexibility allows one to see and approach situations in different ways; and originality drives unique responses.
Collaborative intelligence could be defined as the ability to achieve a certain goal by working together and choosing the best option to accomplish this. Collaborative intelligence is based on the idea of teamwork, which is necessary in the working world of today.
Project management should be an environment in which it is easy for each individual to participate while using their own intelligence. Hence the simplicity of learning. If this hypothesis is confirmed, our commitment in project management should be to keep the 12 windows of intelligences open. This way we can create a positive and productive learning environment in which any professional wishing to learn project management can find their place and reach their full potential.
Anna Marra is a PM trainer and consultant for private and public organizations. Anna was a pioneer in proposing the discipline of Legal Project Management to improve performances in law firms and in-house legal departments. In 2017 she became Councilor of the LPM Global Advisory Council of the International Institute of Legal Project Management (IILPM). Presently she is an IILPM Accredited Training Provider (ATP). Anna is author of various publications on legal project management, corporate social responsibility, and strategy for law firms
Note: The views expressed by the author of this paper are completely personal and do not represent the position of any affiliated institution