Start from the contract users
Don’t use a design pattern just because it looks cool: patterns are for you to choose and mix carefully (no need to use them all at the same time!), on the basis of the problems you are facing, and the communication goal you seek to achieve.
So, before starting to apply design patterns to your contract, we encourage you to stop and think of your contract users:
- Who are the contract users (inside and outside of your organization)?
- What do they want to know?
- What do they want to do or accomplish?
- What are the typical mistakes they make?
- What are the typical questions or complaints they have?
- What are their typical concerns?
- On what media do they use the contract?
- In what situation do they use the contract? To do what tasks?
- Are there situations when they need to read the contract under time pressure?
You should also think about the business needs and goals you are trying to accomplish by writing the contract:
- What do you need people to know?
- What do you need people to do – or not to do?
- What values do you want to communicate about your organization?
- What kind of relationship do you want to build with the counterparty?
- What risks are you trying to control or mitigate?
- What practical problems are you trying to prevent?
- What uncertainties are you trying to clarify?
- What opportunities are you trying to capture?
Lastly, think also about the information you are trying to communicate. Different types of information require different approaches to be communicated with maximum clarity and effectiveness:
- What information is intrinsically difficult and would benefit from more explanation?
- What information is really crucial, and which is extra detail? (hint: you may want to layer it)
- Do you need to describe processes, sequences of events, alternative scenarios? (hint: don’t use only words)
- Do you need to communicate formulas and quantitative data? (hint: don’t use only words)
By understanding people and the context in which they act you are in a better position to create contracts that achieve more than just insulating your organization against litigation attacks: they can further understanding, prevent mistakes and omissions, support implementation, and even create better relationships.
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