Walls or bridges
This week saw the launch in Germany of a new Masters program in International Contract & Commercial Management. IACCM led the first two days, providing operational context and strategic direction.
As a concluding exercise, students were asked to develop presentations on the role that contract and commercial management functions will fulfil five years from now. One student summed it up brilliantly when he simply stated: ‘We will have shifted from building walls to building bridges’.
His point, of course, is that the contracting process today is too often focused on protecting narrow, siloed interests, rather than encouraging collaboration, transparency and agile movement. Protectionism is the opposite of free and open trade and always damages economic wealth. That is certainly the case with many contracts today. They are structured and worded in a way that undermines intent and threatens performance.
These students came from diverse industries and educational backgrounds, yet they were united in the challenge of managing uncertainty, dealing with change, defining outcomes and goals. They rapidly appreciated the need for contracts to assist in addressing these key issues, which means it must operate as a communication tool across stakeholders and provide mechanisms to deal with altered circumstances. Through that approach, a contract links parties and supports free movement of data and information, thereby ‘bridging gaps’ rather than creating walls to climb.