If you are managing a change team you may work with a number of contractors – finance and HR service providers for example. It is surprising how few clients and contract managers bother to get to know their contractors and suppliers. Oh yes they engage during the procurement process. But quite often the teams that actually manage and deliver the contract will be quite different to those who negotiated it. The marriage has been arranged and now both parties need to settle into a new life together. And like a marriage the contractual relationship will develop better with good communication. The contract gives you a skeleton for the relationship – you both now need to put flesh on the bones! Every organization has its own unique culture and way of doing business. You can help your supplier deliver successfully if you help him to understand the culture of the organization you expect him to deliver in. If you understand the culture of your supplier’s organization you will understand better how to get the best from him. For example, if yours is a distributed organization, can you expect the same level of service from all of your supplier’s regional teams? Perhaps there are extra services available from your supplier in particular regions to meet your own regional team needs.
When things go well!
It is surprising how few contract managers actually tell their suppliers when they are pleased with the service being delivered. Many seem anxious that if they do so they be thought soft and will be taken advantage of as a result. If this happens, quite simply you have wrong supplier. You can, and should, be able to praise your supplier without appearing weak. Reinforce and reward good performance with praise and advertise that performance within your organization. Remember, good supplier performance reflects well on you as contract manager.
When things go wrong
The first message is to tell your supplier exactly what your problem is as plainly as possible. Don’t ramble – be as precise as you can in presenting your evidence – times, dates, statistics, complaints! Then give your supplier an opportunity and enough time to investigate and respond. Ask for action and if the matter is urgent, let them know and explain why. Be scrupulously fair in judging their response regardless of the internal pressures within your own organisation – this is part of your responsibility as contract manager, If the supplier’s explanation is reasonable and they can make restitution – let them do so. It is rarely advantageous to invoke the contract if the service can be restored and you can use your own communication skills to reassure your internal customers. However be clear about the failure resolution clauses in your own contract. The majority of suppliers will not want a contract to fail – never underestimate the value of talking. The issues may need to be raised at more senior level in your organization and in that of the supplier. CEO to CEO telephone calls are a better result than contract failure and expensive legal action. Remember your supplier’s failure is your failure and with good communication on most occasions this can be avoided.