Walk a mile in my shoes

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we learnt about the birds and the bees in biology at school, our teacher explained one of the reasons that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. In the quest for love, there are stages, milestones almost, by which human beings judge their progress in a relationship and whether they are happy to make the next step.

The cause of much angst is that the number of steps for men is far fewer than the number for women. So, if a man has 3 romantic milestones hard-wired into his psyche, he’s thinking it’s only a couple of short steps to Nirvana. If the woman he is trying to woo has 11 such romantic milestones – he has a long way to go to win her heart. Both are likely to be frustrated by the other because of the difference in pace.

I faced a similar conundrum this week when I faced my first contract negotiation. To me, this was just another item on my to-do list. Something to get crossed off by lunchtime and I move onto the next item. However, our legal counsel had other ideas. The documents in question formed the last line of defence should something go wrong. I tried to get through it as quickly as possible. She went through in meticulous detail, questioning just about everything.

At first I was as frustrated as that man was in his courtship. Well – probably not that frustrated if I’m honest, but at first I thought she was being overly pernickety (or is it pedantic?)

When I sat back and reconsidered though, I realised it was me being difficult. If this contract was the suit of armour that was going to protect the company when things went wrong, it makes sense to craft the finest suit of armour we can. Also, this was my first contract negotiation. In her career, she has undoubtedly drafted a huge number. She’s undoubtedly been there in the thick of things when they had to be used in anger to protect the company.

I realised my mistake and adjusted my expectations of just how long this process would take.

When you’re at loggerheads with someone, it pays to take a moment to try to see things from their point of view. What’s important to you might be completely different to what’s important to them. Understanding that difference can be the key to resolving the dispute and moving on.



Read the small print

Read the fine print!

Read the fine print! (Photo credit: snacktime2007)

Would you ever sign anything if you hadn’t read the small print? Would you ever click a button to indicate your agreement with something if you hadn’t read the small print? What about if there were reams and reams of small print? What if you started reading it, but after a couple of paragraphs, you couldn’t make head nor tail of it – would you still go on to sign in blood?

Pretty much every time you install a new piece of software, there will invariably be a huge agreement in unintelligible legalese. In order to go ahead and reap the benefits of whichever piece of software you are installing, you will be faced with a choice. Here’s a ton of legal gobbledegook, click here to go ahead and agree or hard cheese, you can’t have your software.

I’m no lawyer, but if you actually take the time to read some of this small print, it will typically indemnify the software publisher against pretty much anything. They won’t guarantee that the software is fit for purpose – which seems bizarre to me. They’re not so candid in their marketing. Come and buy our latest office software – it can do anything you want* (small print: we’re not guaranteeing it will do anything at all).

Typically, the small print will indemnify the publisher against any kind of defect. Having worked in software all my life, I do understand why this is in place. I doubt that there is any software in existence today that doesn’t have a bug in it somewhere, but to abandon all responsibility for the quality of your product seems outrageous.

There will also be something in there that limits the company’s liability. If there is a remedy, which is by no means guaranteed, it will usually be restricted to the purchase price of the software. Forget any consequential losses – worth bearing in mind next time you use a piece of software to produce your invoices or calculate your tax return.

Would any other vendor get away with it? You don’t get all that small print when you buy a car. How would you feel if at purchase time you get presented with a big contract with statements like; this car may not do everything you expect. We don’t offer any warranty and if, because the brakes fail, you run into something or someone expensive, the best you can expect is a refund.

How do they get away with it?