Special thanks to Source One Management Services for this guest post
On paper, the sourcing process is very straightforward – collect your information/data, analyze it, develop a competent strategy to achieve targeted savings, have your stakeholders agree to said strategy, and work with your supply base to come up with a competitive agreement that is mutually beneficial to both parties involved. Sounds easy enough!
What we also know is that this process is far from as simple as it sounds. Collecting all the necessary information can be a challenge depending on the size of the project, and number of locations the respective client has to source. All that being said, further complicating things are stakeholders who are unwilling to help the cause, and effectively serve as another hurdle to tackle during the sourcing process. Not sure if your stakeholder falls in to the difficult category? Here are a few telltale signs that you’ve got a difficult stakeholder on your hands:
Lack of consistent (or any) communication
Regardless of your industry, clear and open communication is essential to an efficient organization. Stakeholders that do not return your calls, emails, or requests for information in a timely manner are certainly not making your life easier. According to an April 2015 article on businessemailetiquette.com the sooner you are able the respond the better. However, the longer you go without receiving feedback or a response, the stronger the message “This is not high on my priority list” comes across.
Terse, Rude, and Critical Remarks
Piggybacking off of the sign above, when you do finally get in your troublesome stakeholder on the phone he/she is rude, unwilling to cooperate, or just simply doesn’t think you know what you are talking about. Nobody is perfect, and constructive criticism is often encouraged during the sourcing process in order to maximize the efficiency and make sure everyone is on the same page moving forward. At the end of the day you are there to help THEM, and if they are not acting like it, chances are they are more of a detriment than asset in the process. Simply being rude and not adding any value to the project is not the way an actively engaged stakeholder should act.
Not Sharing Urgency
For those heavily involved in a sourcing project, the timelines and due dates are very important. They are the lifeline of the project. It may be the difference between awarding a contract and starting to collect on contingency fees, or being delayed a month and leaving money on the table. Stakeholders that hire procurement consultants should share the same sense of urgency for obvious reasons – the sooner we finish the sooner they start to recognize hard dollar savings! Stakeholders that convey no sense of urgency should throw up a red flag. Why aren’t they as eager to complete this project as you are? Do they have a different vision of what this timeline should look like? This impacts them just as much (if not more) as it does you.
If you have experienced any of the three warning signs mentioned above, then chances are you have a difficult stakeholder on your hands. Unfortunately, most of us cannot switch out stakeholders on our projects, and we must learn to cope with this issue just like any other problem we face throughout the sourcing process. Here are a few ways to counter these difficult stakeholders and their warning signs:
Get It in Writing
As highlighted above – one of the key warning signs of a difficult stakeholder is one that does not communicate. What better way to counter this roadblock than to over communicate! With every voicemail you leave or deadline that passes, send the respective stakeholder an email to recap the nature of your message, and highlight key action items/dates that are exposed due to a lack of action on their behalf. This way if you need to escalate this stakeholder, you have proper supporting documentation showcasing the lack of responses and/or urgency from your stakeholder. If you do not document your issues and lack of communication it will become their word against yours, and that is not a battle you will win very often.
Kill Them with Kindness
What may sound like common professional courtesy is something that you can use to help diffuse a rude stakeholder. Always thank them for their help and support of the initiative you are working on – especially when you are the only two parties on the phone or in the room. This shows the stakeholder that you are not just playing nice in front of executive management or to make them look bad on group emails. Personalized engagements really hit home and are a very effective way to chip away at a potentially tumultuous working relationship.
Hold Up Your End
Sourcing projects are a two way street. If you hold your stakeholders accountable for deadlines, you need to hold up your end and hit the deadlines that apply directly to you. If you get frustrated that your stakeholder is tardy, causing delays, or not responding to your emails, you need to make sure you are doing your part before casting the spotlight on them. If you don’t hit your deadlines then you immediately lose credibility, and could cause a stakeholder to feel like they are not a priority, or (even worse) reinforce their already difficult behavior. What you ask of them you must expect of yourself, or else you’ll find yourself on a slippery slope.
Any project that deals with various locations and complex components is no easy task. Throw multiple personalities and preferences and you have a whole other set of variables to face. Nobody is perfect, and there is not one correct way to handle difficult stakeholders, but keeping well documented engagements, maintaining professional courtesy, and holding yourself to the same standards are a good foundation to help guide you through these challenging obstacles.