So what happens when you ask a child to hurry up, or criticize a teenager for not getting a job done? Is their automatic reaction to jump right to it and promise to do better next time, or to find an excuse (or better still, someone else to blame)?
Whenever we are told we need to do something faster, most of us have a tendency to find fault in others. Certainly lead times for getting to contract are a case in point; there are a myriad of factors, multiple stakeholders and endless good reasons why decisions can’t be made more quickly. But executive impatience is growing and competitive forces are unrelenting, resulting in a growing number of IACCM members wanting to know ‘how do we develop an agile organization?’.
I am confident that this will become a steadily more pressing topic in 2017 and commercial groups – legal, procurement, contract management – will need to focus more on how they empower the business, far less on how they physically intervene. In order to do this effectively, they must fully understand the process of which they are part and the outcomes the business is trying to achieve. Here is a brief example.
Most of us will have observed the growth in recent years of the use of NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). Whether correectly or not, organizations have decided that it is a good risk management procedure to establish NDAs with many of their counter-parties in conjunction with any form of bid or proposal activity. As the volume has grown, most organizations have developed standard templates. Some have automated the process, enabling completion in just a few hours. Others have delegated. A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues was talking with a group in the delegation camp. They explained that their legal function had issued some standard templates with the instruction that they must be used whenever there might be any exchange of commercial information. Unfortunately, that was the limit of their guidance. Therefore this particular group maintains no record of what information is received or provided. They agree exceptions or changes to the templates without any point of reference. And, as a product research team, they give no thought to the risk that they may already be developing ideas or products very similar to those being shared from outside(and hence an NDA is absolutely not the thing they want to put in place). So in summary, the NDA process has become a major source of risk – but the good news is that it no longer causes delays.
In this instance, as in many others, commercial teams need to develop their inventory of knowledge and then consider how to apply that knowledge more effectively and efficiently. In the example above, it is clear that the legal team had not considered the level of knowledge among those to whom delegation was being made, nor the context in which it was being applied. As a result, there was no attempt at knowledge transfer and there is no on-going monitoring of performance.
In a recent edition of his Spend Matters newsletter, Peter Smith supports this view of the importance of speed. Writing about Procurement, he makes the following observation: “One prediction – we’re going to hear more about speed and agility in the procurement context in the year ahead. Organisations and our internal stakeholders won’t put up with procurement taking months to choose suppliers or put contracts in place. The world is moving too fast now, organisations must move and change with it, so it is going to be about making good decisions – but making them quickly”. (I wonder whether Spend Matters will soon be re-christened ‘Speed Matters’?)
Certainly, at IACCM, we recognize exactly this need and seek to equip our members with agility through a combination of thought-provoking modules (our ‘Becoming Agile’ series) and wide-ranging advisory and benchmarking services. I’m not sure I entirely agreee with Peter when he says of technology ‘we have not seen anything truly disruptive yet’. Our analysis of the products coming to market in 2016 is that several of them truly are disruptive – but only a few people are grasping the opportunity they represent. Most others are still busy finding excuses for why things are not getting done.