Is it tougher to be collaborative?

Part II — Exploring risk in a leader’s decision to collaborate or take control

The underlying fundamentals of time-based work in terms of schedule/hours, cost, risk and value makes the discussion of Accountability, Risk and Reward a difficult conversation. Although most leaders see achieving a fully collaborative outcome with little or no compromise as highly beneficial, it can be tough to take a collaborative stance to each conversation/negotiation. The challenges of this conversation is heightened when acquiring services or engaging teams for time-based work.

The protocol and tools in general use today for determining accountability within procurement and for teaming agreements, are based on the adversarial legal system. The hallmarks for these processes are rights protection and control.

Through a series of posts, we will follow the journey of a typical team engagement that will feel very familiar. We take a critical look at today’s methods and explore how tough collaborative leaders can engage with less control and more collaboration to address age-old issues of wastage, unaligned interests and the adversarial relationships; one’s that frequently result in a blame game (when aspects of the project don’t go well).

Processes determining accountability, risk and rewards for teams are costly

The reality in the marketplace is that the adversarial approach is not working so well. In a $900BN global IT services industry (Gartner), 30% projects failed losing their budgets (Project Management Institute — PMI: “Pulse of the Profession 2018”).

The adversarial approach does not function effectively in today’s complex matrix style organizations with many unknowns and mixed loyalties. Poor alignment is experienced as resistance to the delivery of value and is characterized as “structural risk” introduced by these adversarial approaches to accountability. Higher cost processes, as well as misalignment that all-too-frequently results in escalating conflict are two of core disadvantages of the adversarial approach.

It’s true that most leaders have a strong “intent” to build trust relationships and work collaboratively, work with teams to deliver high value at a reasonable cost and within acceptable margins for the service provider.

the control needed for provider selection is not beneficial for creating two-sided delivery agreements “that have accountability, agility and durability”

Frequently our first step to engage a team is through a competitive procurement process. The advantages of the competitive procurement process are, it aligns parties on a mutually acceptable price as part of setting the triple constraint (scope/quality, cost and schedule). It provides leverage to reduce the price. It offer predictability to help with planning. It creates liability binding delivery partners. And, anchors the price against which any change or renegotiation occurs.

So why mess with a great thing!

“It is finally time, we are excited. The contract is signed, the team is on site. We have an excellent team. We’re in control, aligned and ready to deliver.” — Sara, Leader-Sponsor.

As leaders in program/projects, we know that feeling of excitement, of being in control, confident in ourselves and the plan. We believe in our teams, our delivery capability and the strong foundation we’ve built. The project is setup for success! Or is it?

The competitive process has some undesirable consequences. The introduction of potential misalignment and unknowns that has now been locked into a contracted framework. How costly is this engagement practice? We believe that a large portion of the waste can be addressed by learning to have this difficult conversation more effectively. The engagement component of the discussion is critical to setting up relationships for success. Why should we change? In short to overcome challenges associated with the use of the control frame and then gain the benefits associate with the collaborative/ empowerment frame.

For the articles, please see Medium publication: “Decentralized Teams”


Part I — In the face of systems & negotiation partners that are frequently adversarial

Part II — Exploring risk in a leader’s decision to collaborate or take control

Not Published: Part III: Structural Risk impacting Schedule, Cost & Quality

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