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Wanted: Tribal Leaders

December 27, 2013

“It’s difficult with big end-to-end processes to have a tribe that has ownership of the overall goal and a process owner who is also the tribal leader.”

This comment comes from an excellent blog by Brad Power, in which he explains why it is so difficult for organizations to drive sustained improvement in end-to-end business processes. He observes: “In the absence of a significant disruptive event, or obvious proof that the world is changing, the gravitational forces in organizations pull strongly towards the performance engine: functional, hierarchical, command-and-control, rigid”. And this means that traditional forces provide powerful resistance to any cross-functional initiative for change.

Indeed, in many cases that resistance may mean that certain activities have no defined process at all. This is often the case for contracting. As an activity, it spans multiple stakeholders and functional groups. The quality of output depends very much on the extent of cooperation and a shared view of the goal. Efforts at improvement tend to be driven by a sense of crisis or some ‘disruptive event’ because there is no acknowledged leader or owner of contracting. Process updates or re-design are therefore periodic, often painful, and typically short-lived in their effectiveness.

Occasionally, organizations grasp the importance of integrated contract management capabilities. A leader may step forward or be appointed to ensure cross-functional integration, but their efforts struggle to survive. In case after case, I have seen the traditional functional or geographic silos steadily undermine the central effort, especially when the original architect or leader has moved on.

Unfortunately, there are too few champions of integrated contracting process. Most practitioners are far too tactical or operational in outlook. They are happy fixing problems rather than eliminating them.  It takes real vision and personality to be a tribal leader. With the importance that contracting has today to overall business performance, we must hope that a new breed of tribal leader soon starts to emerge.

One Comment
  1. Kam permalink

    I agree that many companies do not have an integrated view of contract or commercial management. Especially, less than adequate exposure or appreciation in ” operations” and ” engineering” can be visibly seen when you interview staff from these departments.

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