Fighting Words

November 14, 2016

Fighting Words

Streamlining the contracting process

Your company makes women’s wear for the lower end of the market. The clothes are made off-shore but dealing with store buyers is local. The big buyers have complained that renegotiating contracts takes forever—up to six months. Finance draws up the contract. Then it needs sign-offs from Marketing, Strategy, Overseas ops, Material management, Sales, Customer relations, and again Finance. Things have come to a head because your biggest customer is threatening to use a competitor if your company can’t fix this.

Your boss has chosen you to represent Customer relations in  a cross-departmental group to streamline the process.

The first meeting

Tod (Finance): The solution is clear. Finance taking the lead will speed things up a whole lot.
Sarah (Ops): How do you figure?
Tod: We write the contract and give final approval. If we had the whole thing, it’d be done in no time.
Sarah: Without Ops input? When we have to deliver what you negotiate?
Tod: We can’t have a million approvals. We have the budget, so we have most at stake.
Sarah: So do we. If you negotiate below costs, we’re in trouble.
Tod: (face gets red) Why would we negotiate a contract that hurts the company?
Sarah: I didn’t mean—
Tod: Finance guys are killing themselves and you’re saying we’d purposely do you in.
Lilliane (Marketing): I’m sure that’s not what Sarah meant, Tod. We’d just like some input.
Tod: Marketing! Why are you even here? You’re irrelevant to this.
Lilliane: We need to know what prices we can offer clients.
Tod: No wonder we take forever when every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks they have a say.
Sarah: We have to meet everyone’s needs.
Tod: That’s how we got into this fix. We’ve got to bite the bullet and get real.
Irwin (the strategy guy): I’m sorry, I have a conflict. I’m due in another meeting in five minutes

The analysis

The meeting breaks up to meet next week. You and Lilliane are at the elevators.

YOU: Holy crow, Tod wants to steamroller the whole thing.
Lilliane: Just like him. Cross him and he goes ballistic.
YOU: But Sarah was just trying to discuss the issue.
Lilliane: I don’t think he can tell the difference.
YOU: Really?
Lilliane: (smiles) Hang on. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

What will you do?

So, lots of conflict with more to come. This doesn’t sound as if the situation is about the need for harmony, but it is. What will you do at the next meeting? Will you:

  1. Challenge Tod to ensure a good discussion?
  2. Use the need for harmony to your benefit?
  3. Keep quiet?

I’ll spend a post on each possibility.

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