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Know it all, or know nothing?

December 5, 2014

Michael Casey wrote an excellent comment on one of my recent blogs about contract and commercial skills. He observed that many practitioners tend to believe (or at least portray) that they ‘know it all’. And in Michael’s experience, they do not. He asked whether there is any data regarding the benefits of training.

I strongly agree with the point Michael makes – and indeed the issue he highlights lies at the heart of IACCM’s reason for existence. Like so many, I ‘stumbled’ into contract / commercial management and found a group of well-meaning, often talented, individual practitioners, but with no consistency of training and in many cases little consistency in their perception of the role to be performed. Within customer organizations, the contracts / commercial discipline was generally absent (outside their law department) and – as Michael observes – in many geographies contracts were either seen as culturally alien or purely administrative.

IACCM was formed to change that environment. It is 10 years since we developed the first unified ‘body of knowledge’ for the community and there have been some 12,000 practitioners enrolled into that program. That remains the tip of an iceberg, but it is an important start. Unfortunately, those who are most resistant to ‘professionalization’ and standards of practice are often the ‘leaders’ of the function. Either because they feel no personal need, or perhaps feel threatened by the idea of consistent training, there is frequently denial of benefit from consistent knowledge, practices and certified competence.

It is this attitude which ultimately undermines the growth or status of the function. As an example just this week, I heard from the CEO of a large, international company who observed “I am told that the people in my commercial department work really hard, but I have no idea what they do”. In these challenging economic times, you can imagine that is not a good way to be viewed – but it is inevitable while we remain scattered individuals without a professional standing or ethos and without reliable data that demonstrates the value that we bring.

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