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We are who we mix with – negotiating outcomes in supply networks

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Tunnel Vision by emerille via FlickrWe are who we mix with

I am just coming to the end of a project and I find myself in a curious position. A week ago, it seemed important to write and publish a paper.  A week later, as I entertain the prospect of moving onto other work, I find myself puzzled by why I thought that important.

Simply, my audience is changing and so is my sense of priorities.

Supply networks mean a constantly changing audience

This is not rocket science but it is critically relevant to the working in a world of supply networks.  In the ‘olden days’ of supply chains, we maintained a position between some kind of supplier and some kind of customer and our audiences rarely changed.  In today’s world, our range of suppliers and customers shifts so fast that we cannot afford to ‘buy in’ to other people’s priorities. Alliances are temporary – very very temporary – and commitments need to be phrased in these terms.  Simply, customers have to learn that they don’t have massive influence unless they have massive loyalty.

We only really attend to who and what is in our bubble

Even before the days of supply networks, I had noticed how easy it is to buy into the value systems of people around us.  When we are in situation, even for a few weeks, where the views of any class of stakeholder are not represented, we start to forget about them. It is only when we step out of the bubble, that we realise what has happened.

Bubble members need to be respectful to all our stakeholders

My take from this observation is this:  we simply have to be very selective about who we work with. Any sign of disrespect early in the negotiations has to be met firmly by withdrawal.  If keeping ideas back is a condition of engaging with us,  it may be better to find other work partners.

And we need frequent points to check that our attention to other important stakeholders hasn’t drifted

Early negotiation accommodation is so common that we might feel we cannot afford to be this strict.  Perhaps not.  But then we have to build in checkpoints where we are able to withdraw if we are not being heard or some if-then – I’ll go along with this now but we want a review and if these conditions aren’t being fulfilled, then we want a rethink.

Work negotiation of the future – contingent, temporary where the links are more powerful than the customers and suppliers?

I guess we will see a lot of discussion along these lines in the next few years.  In three years, I wonder what I will think of my thought processes.

What do you think?

Published in Business & Communities

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