Supplier Relationships Need To Be Treated Like Babies Not Adults
June 24, 2016
Darragh Toolan
2 minutes

Peter Drucker once said,

“Innovative efforts should never report to line managers charged with responsibility for ongoing operations. The new project is an infant and will remain one for the foreseeable future, and infants belong in the nursery. The ‘adults’, that is, the executives in charge of existing businesses or products will have neither the time nor understanding for the infant.”

I believe that collaborative supplier relationships need to be viewed in a similar light. Think of a newborn baby, the ideal case would see it being brought into the world by a loving mother and father, who for a period of time have a shared responsibility to nurture the child up to a point where it is capable to stand on its own and reach its full potential.

Mum and dad may focus on different aspects of raising the child to maturity, but both understand that judging a toddler on its ability cook a souffle, shoot a three pointer or write a social justice dissertation is quite frankly ridiculous.   
Pretty basic stuff right? Well the same logic applies to supplier relationships tasked with delivering innovative solution to business problems. When a procurement team (mum) and a supplier (dad) set out to work together to deliver a project that produces value beyond the traditional metrics of cost and sales (raise a child), there has to be an understanding that this endeavour will take time. The strategic relationship needs time to find its feet first before it is able to reach a level of maturity where it can truly shine.

The idea that a strategic supplier relationship tasked with redefining the way a business operates is going to address long held procurement KPIs from day one is about as rational as expecting an eight year old to score a goal for England in the next world cup. It’s not ready yet. Different expectations need put in place based on the maturity of the relationship.

Mum and Dad are responsible for different things

In the same way that parents share the load when it comes to raising a child (by focussing on what they do best), so too must supplier relationships. For an engagement to be truly collaborative, it is critical that the relationship is viewed as its own standalone entity. The engagement must transcend the self-interests of the organisations and individuals that it comprises. Those within the relationship entity must understand they are collectively responsible for its success. Members must leave company biases behind and focus on achieving the goals and objectives outlined in the Statement of Intent.

In short, the parents must leave their own personal interests behind and focus on educating and raising a child that can reach its full potential, knowing full well that in the end this will be the most beneficial option for both the mother and the father.

A far more detailed approach to governance in collaborative supplier relationship can be found in our recently released and free to download whitepaper which can be accessed below.

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Head of Global Solutions @ Vizibl
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