Converting knowledge into sustainable action by Andy Akrouche

I recently came across an interesting article which talked about the fact that businesses spend far more time and money on training programs that do not ultimately “deliver, develop or demonstrate long-term results.”

The article then went on to say that “to make new behaviors sustaining,” you have to “translate knowledge into committed action.”   In short, if there is truly to be an investment payback, training “must endure beyond a moment in time insight,” and “inspire and empower ongoing action through practical application.”

The above sums up perfectly the enduring principles behind the creation and operationalization of the Relationship Charter.

As a key tenet of the Relationship-based Model (Relational Model), the Relationship Charter  provides a collaborative framework that defines the relationship, its method of planning, implementing and operational management activities.  At its core, it is a living document.

The focus of this third post in the Are You Ready To Become Relational series will provide you with the tools to both establish and operationalize your Relationship Charter.

Establishing the Relationship Charter foundation for success

When I talk about establishing the Relationship Charter, I am referring to its development and finalization.

Establishing the charter is reflective of a collaborative process in which this foundation for the post- contract award relationship is co-developed during the procurement or sourcing stage of a complex acquisition.  Specifically, once a short list of vendors has been established they would, as part of the proposal submission and evaluation phase, be provided with a charter straw model template that reflects relational principles, values, joint governance, and open book framework.

The information that is gained from the template’s completion will serve as a means of soliciting initial partner input as well as determining the relational fit between a prospective vendor and the buying organization.

This is a critical element of the complex acquisition process in that it will either confirm the relational compatibility between the buyer and vendor or, identify potential areas of possible disconnect that require further clarification and a corrective course of action.

Once the areas of disconnect are addressed, and a partner is selected, the cooperative charter development process is then transitioned to the negotiation phase.  It is at this next stage, that a joint collaborative engagement is undertaken to complete or finalize the charter’s components and operational management structures, taking into account stakeholder capacities and abilities.

For many, the proactive and forward looking identification of potential issues that can negatively impact the success of the initiative in a truly probative manner, is both new and somewhat revolutionary.  However, and once again calling upon the “long Journey” analogy I had used in a previous post, while it is important to make certain that your car is in tip top shape before you take to the road, thereby reducing the risk of a breakdown, you also need a contingency capability should something unexpected happen.

In this context, the charter template exercise serves two important purposes; 1) to make certain that you select the right partner based on what you know today and, 2) to make sure you have the right partner in terms of their ability to work collaboratively with you to adapt to an unforeseen situation that neither buyer or vendor could have reasonably anticipated.

Operationalizing the Relationship Charter

When I talk about Operationalizing, what I am really referring to is bringing the charter itself to life through a broader engagement of all stakeholders.  This includes everyone who will be involved in the management and operational processes associated with the initiative both from a big picture as well as daily standpoint.  To be clear, “operationalization” is the step that transforms the Relationship Charter from being a paper model to one that orchestrates a series of coordinated human interactions that are channeled towards achieving relationship objectives.

Generally speaking, the operationalization process involves three major steps:

Orientation – introduce stakeholder  teams and all those who are affected by the relationship, to the relationship based model, including: defining the relationship, charter components, and how to work in teams. This usually involves team exercises in charter development, team relationships strengthening and working collaboratively;

Joint Workshops –  understand, internalize and further refine the charter components including mission, vision, values, goals, joint governance primary and tertiary structures, and the financial management framework.  Strategic and operational planning teams and processes are “kicked-off” at this stage.

Validation and Learning –summarize the results of the operationalization process as a means of verifying learning, commitments and collaborative behaviours.  This step also involves lessons learned sessions, as well as improvement plan design for future implementations.


Notwithstanding the above, and referencing my first “Are You Ready To Become Relational?” post, I had indicated that everyone’s model contains some relational elements.  In other words, we all need to manage a relationship or relationships regardless of the original framework through which the participating stakeholders came together and the corresponding objectives established.

This being said, whether your present model is transactional, performance-based or a derivative of the two, you need to operationalize your relationships using the same steps I have outlined above, especially within the context of your present deal or transaction.

As previously stressed it is obviously more advantageous to establish the Relationship Charter through the planning and procurement or sourcing stage.  However, if you are working with an existing contract, operationalization becomes even more critical.  My experience over the past 20 years has clearly demonstrated that the failure to operationalize a relationship, will almost always lead to an adversarial culture that will manifest itself in one form or another between the buyer and vendor(s).  This will ultimately result in what I have commonly referred to as being the contract divide, in which individual stakeholders begin focusing on a self-serving agenda.

In my next and final post in this series, I will talk about the steps you will have to take to ensure that your organization is ready to be part of a collaborative relationship.


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