Trust and Communication...Important in Football and Outsourcing

I'll admit it. I was pulling for the Broncos. I know there are two sides to every story, and something preceded Richard Sherman's less-than-gracious on-screen comments in his interview with Erin Andrews after the 49ers playoff game...but all I heard were HIS comments, and they were enough to turn me into a Broncos fan for the Super Bowl. Of course, the fact that Seattle beat my home team to GET to the Super Bowl was also a contributing factor...but I digress. The real reason I bring up yesterday's lopsided game, was that in a very strange way, it made me think about governance and supplier relationships. Why, you ask? Well, it's simple. If you don't set out the terms of a relationship and have a proper governance plan in place, you can end up with a very imbalanced set of understandings, which can have a disastrous result. In a blog posting on governance several months ago, I spelled out my thoughts in a detailed manner, including organizational structure, stakeholder involvement, cultural alignment, milestones, deliverables and goal linkage. Without a doubt, those are all critical, but for the purpose of this "post game report" I'd like to focus on what I consider to be two of the most important components in just about anything.

  • Trust. Good governance requires trust...but it is not a right — it has to be earned. You can have all the rules, stipulations, escalation processes, service delivery meetings and authorities in place, but unless all parties stick to the commitments, consistently follow through and hold each other accountable, it's difficult to be truly successful. In yesterday's game, it was evident that one team was doing all the right things. Their follow-through was impeccable and each member of the team was not only doing their own job, but were backing up their teammates as well. The level of trust was high. Conversely, it seemed like the wheels fell off the Broncos team, and when trust is gone, well, you know what they say.
  • Communication, communication, communication. Sounds like three things, but in fact it just happens to be, in my opinion, the single most important thing. Good, consistent communication is important in any relationship and with the long-term nature of outsourcing contracts, it is especially critical. At a formal level, it includes scheduling meetings with key stakeholders, outlining escalation processes for potential service delivery issues, and ensuring proper feedback mechanisms for effective communications between all involved parties. Informally, if you communicate changes to the outsourcing contract and are transparent and direct, it goes a long way in helping people feel good about change, and therefore buy-into it, accept it and support it. I hardly need to mention the communication issues in yesterday's games. It started with the very first play of the game. Peyton Manning had the authority to go to the line and communicate any play change, but somewhere in those few seconds, the communication channels completely broke down. What transpired after that was, quite simply, a train wreck.

It is so unfortunate to see a game like that. We all know that the Broncos are a much better team than what they showed on the field yesterday. There is no doubt that if they could start the game all over, they would be much better to watch than the commercials (which weren't, in my opinion, all that great). So the short lesson is this...when you are working on an outsourcing contract and relationship, don't forget the "touchy-feely" aspects to it. If you do, you risk a lopsided relationship with no accountability and follow-through. Trust and communication are critical success factors both on and off the field.

Sarah Holliman, Vice President of Marketing, SIG