Myth #8: Aggressively Managing Our Suppliers Is A Necessary Evil To Ensure Success – Part #2 (Lesson 25)
Collaborative relationships: Working together to maximise mutually beneficial outcomes
Tension is often seen as being the normal day-to-day state of a client/supplier relationship, but it does not have to be that way.
The ideal state of affairs is to establish and foster a collaborative relationship between the client and supplier. In this relationship, both parties operate in a true partnership, working to achieve shared outcomes that deliver consistent and ongoing value to both organisations.
Organisations that work together to build closer, long-term relationships create a situation where everyone can benefit greatly.
These benefits may be wide ranging, and may include:
- Happier employees and customers.
- Reduced costs.
- Increased productivity.
- Faster time to market or project completion.
When going through the tender/supplier evaluation process, clients should consider holding collaborative planning sessions between the buying team and the various suppliers. This gives them an opportunity to gain a broad consensus on the best approach to adopt for the project, and a better understanding of the challenges that the project may face.
Alternatively, the client may want to influence the approach that the prospective supplier takes to deliver the project. Keeping the supplier at arm’s length misses the opportunity to achieve successful outcomes – and yet too many clients seem to do this.
A supplier who operates in close partnership is more likely to better understand client concerns. With shared commitments from both parties and less focus on one-sided commercial interests, less conflict is likely to occur. This then allows everyone to focus on just solving the problems.
Both parties can obviously still call out major challenges to address. However, these are more likely to be resolved through a common-sense approach that is tied to the ‘spirit of the law’, rather than its letter in terms of the contract.
Client/supplier partnerships should always use the contract as the starting point. That said, when the need arises, they should work out an equitable approach to the overall project and any conflicts that may arise.
Not only does this keep issues from escalating to formal grievance, but each time they find a win-win solution, it further strengthens their partnership.
Key themes for a collaborative relationship
A collaborative relationship is characterised by the following key, common characteristics:
- Shared vision and outcomes central to a strategic partnership.
- Long-term view over short-term gain.
- Positive attitudes and behaviours.
- Trust, not suspicions.
- Fairness and equity.
- Flexibility to adjust goals and priorities.
- Shared problems, rather than finger-pointing.
- Collaborative conflict resolution, instead of fighting.
- Keeping both sides’ commercial interests in focus.
- Operating on facts, not emotions.
- Appropriate governance with involved, executive oversight.
- Big-picture view.
- Mutual focus on metrics and KPIs.
How a client organisation engages with its suppliers will have a huge impact on the performance of the teams involved. It will also affect the success of the project, and ultimately, the value that project delivers to the business and its customers.
Depending on the choices made early in the relationship, an organisation can either set the project on course for abject failure, or achieve Guaranteed Project OutcomesTM.
Are you confident that your organisation is making the right choices when it engages with suppliers?