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Commercial Management: jelly or blancmange?

January 15, 2015

A repetitive issue with commercial management teams is the imprecision over their job role.

Yesterday I was speaking with the head of commercial at a major outsourcing company about the challenge he faces with staff retention. It became clear that lack of role clarity is a significant factor. While there is heavy demand for commercial services, there is little definition of what precise activities are provided, or of what value these deliver.

My colleague observed: “It all sounds a bit like a large jelly – absorbing whatever is thrown at it”. But we concluded that actually it was more like blancmange, since jelly is transparent, yet commercial services are often opaque.

This absence of defined value is a problem, not only in offering high caliber staff a meaningful role and career path, but also because senior management shares that confusion. At a time when ‘commercial excellence’ is becoming a key issue for business, it is far from clear whether existing resources are capable of meeting the challenge.

One Comment
  1. I’ve always described commercial management to those enquiring about it as a career as a broad subject area, that is essentially acting as a the ‘glue’ (as opposed to blancmange) in the business, as commercial management will tend to look across the various functions of the business (project management, technical, financial, legal, sales, bid management, business assurance / audit) in assessing commercial risk in any endeavour the business is undertaking.

    Therefore, whilst it has the flexibility to have a broader reach (and should do) and hence provide more exposure to the business than perhaps other areas might (I certainly believe it does, or rather it should), and because the role assesses and supports the ‘integrity’ of the endeavour in question, is precisely why commercial management as a career stream is to be valued.

    Just how healthy a particular endeavour is will determine the strength (and flexibility) of the glue required to hold the integrity of (the endeavour) together!

    Our natural tendency to demand clarity and accuracy in defining scope, charges, terms, risks etc. should not extend out to ourselves to the extent that we ‘pigeon hole’ what we do.

    It can get a bit sticky and messy, and you have to be careful sometimes not to bind something so strongly it has to break to change (though you might need a bit of super-glue in places!) – but that feels a stronger analogy in explaining our career choice than jelly or blancmange to me!

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