When to Put Your Partner Hat On

I received a ‘Client in Distress’ call a few weeks ago.  The  triage sponsor calling ‘Mayday!, Mayday!” had been a successful host of a previous triage a year or so ago.

They had contracted with a the top tier telecommunications company to handle some network equipment upgrades and, along with their subcontractor, decreed a ‘freeze all work’ time out period because initial attempts had adversely impacted the telco’s network.

So we triaged some high-rick equipment scenarios with about 20 of the various experts — engineers and field technicians. They nominated and ranked a dozen Small Now’s (action item-size) and Big Now’s (project-size) proposals.  The program mangers (the triage hosts) baked the triage results into decision brief to report out to the telco — their customer.

This conversation with their telco customer was successful, reflecting completed staff work, great solutions, and an action plan to execute immediately.   The customer – supplier relationship is crystal clear in these kind of ‘How we’re going to pick up and wash off the candy we dropped in the dirt.’ encounters.

But what the triage revealed was the customer performed certain tasks in the equipment upgrade process they could not delegate, using equipment databases the supplier could not steward.  In other words, to process of upgrading the network required the customer to remove their customer hat and exchange it for a partner — team member hat.  This necessity was made obvious by the points-of-pain in the triage and the solutions that only the Customer could resolve.

Lesson Learned:  If you subcontract work out to a supplier, but the business process your suppler must manage requires deliverables only you can provide — your subcontracting orientation ends where process execution begins.  At that point, you need and must be a partner.

One of the triage exhibits was the triage / process map with the deliverables the Customer was responsible for, noting the business risks of failure to do so.