Collaborating Across Boundaries

Published: 14 Feb 2018 Average Rating: 4.2 / 5 Print

Author: Tim Cummins, President, IACCM

Trade lies at the heart of human and social wealth and welfare - and it depends on collaboration. Effective contracts and commercial management are also dependent on collaboration - yet too often this is constrained by organizational and behavioral barriers. The consequences are often severe, ranging from increased operational costs (fixing problems and issues that could have been avoided) to outright disputes or project failure.

What do we mean by the term 'collaboration'?

A dictionary definition is 'the action of working with someone to produce something'. That 'someone' may be a colleague, someone from a another function or division of your organization, customer or supplier personnel, consultants or external experts – it is potentially a long list and that in itself represents a source of complexity. Yet failure to work together will put your contract at risk, either now or perhaps in the future.

Collaboration doesn't mean you have to like the people you engage with. With modern technology, you may not even meet them. But collaboration does require some form of shared motivation or sense of benefit and it does require a degree of cooperation.

The extent of that cooperation will inevitably vary. For example, are you providing expertise or are you transferring knowledge? Are you giving time or perhaps giving money? Are you utilizing assets or just personal labor? The implication of each of these examples is that collaboration generates value - better results, faster results, maybe improved financial results.

On the counter-side, there are many instances where a failure to collaborate results in negative consequences - perhaps missed requirements, unrealistic commitments, unexpected opposition, a refusal to cooperate at some later stage.

Boundaries are often barriers

Every time we collaborate we have to cross some form of boundary and enter into someone else's space. What are the barriers that often hold us back? They include:

  • ignorance: either not knowing who to connect with, or not appreciating why it would be valuable
  • arrogance: a belief that it isn't necessary, that 'I know everything or have everything I need'
  • past experience: I tried it once before and didn't get the support I wanted or needed
  • perception: this person/group/ organization isn't helpful/creates barriers/causes delay
  • too difficult: the tools, systems, budget that are needed aren't readily available

The costs associated with failure to collaborate continue to grow. That's because we operate in an increasingly complicated world and try to achieve increasingly complicated goals. Contracts are becoming more important, but at the same time much more complex. Today, they often cross multiple boundaries – cultural borders, jurisdictional borders, linguistic borders, industry borders, regulatory borders – driving a need to engage with multiple stakeholders both at inception and to support execution and management.

Dare to do differently

This represents a challenge and an opportunity for all those who prepare, negotiate or manage contracts. We must find simpler and better ways to develop more inclusive and efficient sharing of information and data. We must embed collaboration into our processes and activities because otherwise we will produce contracts that simply are not 'fit for purpose'.

Tackling this problem lies at the heart of IACCM's 2018 conference series. New technologies offer us the chance to do things very differently; but technology alone is not enough. We must also examine our underlying practices and procedures, the way we view and manage risk, the nature of the commercial arrangements that we form, the skills we need as a community.

Many have started on this journey and will be among the presenters at our events. We aim to share experiences, to inspire ideas, to create new answers through fresh connections. Above all, IACCM itself is about an organization and a community that puts collaborating across boundaries into practice. A community that dares to do things differently.



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