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Valuing Customer Collaboration OVER Contract Negotiation

This month, we move to part 3 of our 4-part agile value miniseries. How can transformational middle managers enable Customer Collaboration OVER contract negotiation?

Contract negotiation comes across the desk of middle managers in several ways – working with 3rd party vendors, engaging teams within the organization, or collaborating with end customers. As you find yourself in these situations, cut through the contract jargon by focusing on these three tasks:

  • Develop Shared Understanding. Do I understand the other party's needs and capabilities, and do they understand mine? Do we both see the vision of the problem we are trying to solve? Without a common understanding and a candid picture of abilities to deliver, we set ourselves up for a contentious relationship as time goes on.
  • Establish Clear Milestones. It’s often tempting to try and define all deliverables (and the penalties for failing to meet them) while negotiating a contract. Instead of giving into temptation, consider a Deliver-Inspect-Adapt routine that allows both parties to surface the need to change quickly and collaboratively.
  • Define Success. Don't focus on checking off contractual clauses, define success as the delivery of business value with quick validation. If we can talk to one another as though we are on the same team, we can deliver value rapidly in a win-win environment. On the flip side, if we find that we can’t work together, we can quickly and mutually agree to discontinue the relationship without the need for any prolonged contractual maneuvering.

The manifesto does not ask you to abdicate your responsibility to “protect the organization” when working through contracts. Instead, it encourages us to focus on the conversations and understanding that will lead to working relationships that drive business value.

Next month: How do managers help their team Respond to Change  OVER following a plan?
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