What is your contract management style?

The relationship between the parties to a contract is vital to the success of a deal. According to Dr. Sara Cullen (www.cullengroup.com.au), while there is a lot of advice available on how to manage relationships, it is mainly process orientated (e.g. communicate frequently, plan together, have improvement workshops, etc). But what if you genuinely do not like your counterpart on the other side? It may not be a simple personality clash. It could just be that your opposite number holds very different values to yours, when it comes to managing contracts. These underlying values represent what people believe is important when it comes to the ‘appropriate’ way to manage contracts. If you hold a certain set of values, but your colleague in the other party does not share them, or perhaps has a different set altogether, misunderstandings are inevitable. Left unresolved, these differences will fester, and conflicts are the common result. Both of you may be expecting the other person to behave in accordance with your values, and not theirs. To address these pitfalls, Dr Cullen has developed a methodology for assessing your contract management style which enables you to understand the different values present, and more importantly, recognize the strengths and weaknesses in your own style. Dr Cullen’s method identifies 6 contract management styles:

  1. Relationship Developer – facilitates trust, respect, and interpersonal relationships. Their core belief is that interpersonal relationships, not contracts, make or break deals.
  2. Problem Solver – makes things happen and fix problems. They view issues as ‘hiccups’ not obstructions, and like to break down barriers that get in the way of what they believe are real results.
  3. Organizer– maintains better records, audit trails, controls, plans, and processes than the other styles. This individual often keeps detailed records of any meetings they go to, commonly has a daily diary in which they record conversations (known as ‘file notes’), and frequently keeps hard copies of emails as well as electronic backup. They believe in good processes, systems and documentation, which is important in contract administration. However, this can be almost to a fault, holding up matters until the proper paperwork has been completed. Organizers spend a fair bit of time developing and/or getting ‘systems’ working and strongly wish that everyone were more compliant with it.
  4. Entrepreneur – seeks innovation, better ways of doing things, and long-term potential out of the relationship. This individual is a natural disruptor – always querying, “why can’t we do x?” and “why not try y?” Without an Entrepreneur pushing for change, you may find that your deals, and how they work in practice, becoming quite stagnant.
  5. Scanner – well networked/connected, a natural explorer, who may know many details of other agreements and relationships. People might be surprised as to what this individual knows, as the Scanner seems to be familiar with a lot about, say, the personal circumstances of people. To non-Scanners, this might be gossip, but to Scanners it is all part of the knowledge base.
  6. Monitor Protector – believes that their organization must be protected. They may focus on what risks the other party brings to the deal and whether the other party is conforming to the contract. If drafting the contract, they may prepare a biased agreement in favor of the party they represent. If in charge of the contract, they prefer to focus on the other party’s performance and noncompliance rather than that of their organization.

I took Dr Cullen’s Contract Management Style Assessment and found that my key strengths are Entrepreneur and Problem Solver. These strengths stand out well ahead of the population and for different party types as shown in the two diagrams below:

While these strengths are good to have as an individual, negotiation teams that have a blend of the six management styles will have a greater likelihood of achieving successful outcomes between parties.