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Contract Managers Acting Differently

May 8, 2012

Yesterday IACCM ran a webinar featuring 4 leaders from the contracts and commercial community and the things they are doing to bring change within their corporations.

The program was part of IACCM’s ‘License to Act Differently’ initiative, whereby members sign up to be a change agent and to share their innovation ideas and successes. The webinar featured four quite different stories, both in their scale and in their stage of development (a recording is available in the IACCM member library and also through the program pages dedicated to the Act Differently ¬†community).

Adrian Furner (until recently Commercial Director at BAE Systems in the UK) described a team program where each staff member was asked to spend an hour a week researching and sharing new discoveries or ideas with fellow-team members. He highlighted initial resistance (too busy), but how persistent leadership had steadily led staff to a realization that many of the ideas they shared were leading to improved productivity and greater influence in the business.

Following Adrian, Richard Russell (from Bombardier in Germany) outlined a much larger program, which has drawn on IACCM research and best practice studies, to redefine the role of legal and commercial in their support of the business. He illustrated this with analysis of where time is spend and how the focus of work is changing, supported by a new and more holistic vision and mission statement for the combined organization.

Patrick Christian (WW Grainger, in t he US) provided insight to an impressive project which had reduced bid-to-contract cycle time by more than 25% and created a stronger sense of partnering between Sales and the Commitment Management function. The program involved an analysis of not only overall cycle time, but also where time was spent. It resulted in far earlier involvement by the contracts staff, resulting in substantial reductions in negotiation and rework time.

Dave Barton (Agilent Technologies, US) completed the presentations by describing his function’s work in focusing on improvement and change, rather than being stuck in the familiar review and approval mode. Their focus on areas of potential improvement has transformed the understanding of value and contribution – leading to very different conversations with senior management.

If there was a disappointing aspect to the webinar, it was the relatively low attendance. Contracts and Commercial staff consistently reflect concerns about their status and the way the business fails to value their contribution; unfortunately, many still fail to grasp the need for innovation and a changed focus if they are to turn around those perceptions. Their failure to spend even 45 minutes to discover new ideas and the improvements they can yield speaks volumes for the challenge the community faces.


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