“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” ― James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
During a recent discussion following one of my seminars I was asked the following question; “If we are 2 years or 5 years into a 10 or 15 year transactional arrangement, can we still become relational and take advantage of the relationship-based paradigm.”
I thought it was a great question for many reasons.
To begin, when one thinks of defining the parameters of doing business, they usually think of it at the beginning of a new relationship.
This is of course logical in that when we build new relationships, we normally spend a great deal of time and effort to establish a framework for how individual stakeholders will work together. This includes understanding individual stakeholder capabilities in relation to achieving a desired outcome.
Once that new relationship has evolved to the point that it seems to be up and running smoothly, we tend to turn our attention to other areas in which there is an immediate need. After all, if it isn’t broke as the saying goes, why fix it. Everything is good!
However, could it be better, or even great?
In this regard, I have always viewed relationships as an ongoing work in progress in which one never arrives but is in a state of constant progression. This is a critical point to consider because change is truly inevitable. What works today may not work tomorrow, and therefore you must always look for ways to improve upon the status quo, or the good.
That is why when I was asked the question “can we still become relational” – even after many years of working together, I said yes.
How To Make Good Relationships Great
So, how do you turn a good relationship into a great relationship?
It all begins with the collaborative convergence process through which stakeholders develop and operationalize the Relationship Charter.
The Relationship Charter consists of three main components: shared mission and purpose, joint governance and transparent financial management. This last element, which I refer to as being the Open Book Framework or “OBF”, is critical. Without financial transparency the viability of the relationship becomes impossible to assess, and therefore becomes vulnerable to competing agendas.
As a point of reference Jon Hansen, in his executive paper How To Make Your Outsourcing and PPP Initiatives Work, cites the U.S. Navy – EDS case study as an excellent example of what happens when competing agendas occur as a result of a lack of transparency.
A lack of transparency represents just one of many possible gaps, which can also include; differences or changes relative to client outcomes, changes in vendor business strategy or core capabilities, and misinterpretation of assumptions and contractual text relating to service levels and KPIs.
As a means to both identify and address these as well as other gaps, I utilize a Strategic Fit Assessment.
What Is A Strategic Fit Assessment or SFA?
As part of the process for developing and operationalizing a sound Relationship Charter, the Strategic Fit Assessment leverages the Diamond-E Framework concept.
The Diamond-E Framework, which was originally proposed by Joseph N. Fry and Peter J. Killing in 1986, focuses on the internal group (organization), and the external components or elements of a relationship, in an effort to identify their alignment with the organization’s overall strategy.
My Strategic Fit Assessment, goes one step further than the Diamond-E Framework. When there is a misalignment or gap, otherwise referred to as a deficiency, the SFA can identify it as well as assess the impact of said gap on the Relationship outcomes. The Stakeholders can then make the decision to either address the gaps while maintaining their adherence to the original objectives, or establish a new strategy through which alignment can be achieved.
Experience has shown that true alignment, is a multidirectional collective analysis that ensures that all stakeholders both internal and external to the buying organization are in sync with one another relative to the three main components of the Relationship Charter.
In this regard, the Relationship Charter serves a dual purpose as both a guide or reference point in terms of creating the needed alignment between stakeholders, as well as ensuring that said alignment is maintained in relation to achieving the best outcome.
When ongoing alignment is achieved good relationships, will become great relationships.