More from IACCM on representing buyers AND sellers

I wrote the other day about the new SRM training initiative from State of Flux and the IACMM (International Association of Contract and Commercial Management).   We had a very interesting comment from Tim Cummins, the President and CEO of that organisation, who picked me up on a slightly throw away comment I made about the Association representing folk from both the supply side and the buy side of contracts.  I thought it was worth featuring his response in full here.  Comments welcomed - who is right?

Peter, thanks for your article. I would just like to pick up on your comment “would I want to associate professionally with the people who might be across the table from me in contractual negotiations?” I would suggest that it is this failure to associate which is one of the primary causes of relationship failure. If we want successful outcomes, we need negotiators to speak a common language, have better mutual understanding of goals and objectives, to share the way they describe and manage risks, to have an ease of communication that can only come from open conversations and a shared body of knowledge.

Are you suggesting that lawyers should go to different law schools based on whether or not they plan to represent buyers as opposed to sellers, or to prosecute rather than defend? Do you think the law profession would be strengthened and more influential if it broke into multiple groups that refused to meet and talk with each other?

IACCM is about creating a common pool of knowledge and consistent methods to address persistent problems. It is also about raising the performance from contracted deals and relationships. I would suggest to you that most successful relationships depend on the parties being prepared to be open and honest with each other and with taking a genuine interest in the perspectives, needs and concerns of the other party. If you view your negotiator counter-part as some form of untrustworthy alien, then you may find that your relationship struggles (and by the way, we also encounter many on the sell-side who have this view of Procurement, so I understand where you are coming from – even if I do not agree!)

And my response to that:

That’s a great comment and a really interesting area for debate. I do accept much of what you say about common language, mutual understanding and so on. However, I still think there are times inevitably when the contract manager is representing their company, and the ‘commercial’ manager on the supply side has a very different set of objectives, views and (probably) bonus structures! No ‘common pool of knowledge’ is going to solve that. And not every negotiation can be a nice win-win, ‘collaborative bargaining’ activity; sometimes negotiations are distributive and someone wins, someone loses.  I could also explain why I don’t think your lawyer analogy holds but I’ll save that for another time. Indeed, I may come back to this in a full post actually because it is worth some further thought.

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