That strategy simply no longer works for the long-term. And it never worked very well for the short-term, either.
But if you buy into The Getting to We premise—that highly collaborative agreements are possible by applying Vested’s “What’s In It For We” (WIIFWe) business relationship approach—then the question is: How do you get there?
What Collaborative Relationships Look Like
Remember, in the Getting to We approach, the relationship becomes the focus of the deal, throughout the life of the deal. This is done by basing the relationship on a foundation of common social norms. Getting to We outlines six social norms, or core guiding principles, based on trust and describes a five-step process that will make establishing highly collaborative relationships a reality.
Negotiating the true nature of the relationship under the Getting to We mindset means the parties move away from the usual tit-for-tat cycle of actions and reactions. Instead, they create a negotiation atmosphere that depends on cooperation. Three things about a WIIFWe relationship alter the conventional tit-for-tat strategy:
- The players turn into partners for success through a long-term relationship where each partner strives to preserve the partnership rather than intimidate their partner (for example, by moving to another supplier or customer). The old-school transaction-based business relationship becomes a strategic partnership.
- The relationship adheres to a common set of principles—reciprocity, autonomy, honesty, equity, loyalty and integrity—that drive cooperative behavior.
- The partners live the WIIFWe approach in their daily interactions and use a formal governance structure to ensure compliance with cooperative behavior.
So yes, there is a definite transformation that occurs on the road to Getting to We. While it’s a powerful transformation, it’s not magic! There is a prescribed process that companies follow.
The 5 Steps of Getting to We
Five steps drive collaborative relationships and make them real:
- Getting ready for WIIFWe. This step looks at three foundational elements for a successful collaborative relationship: trust, transparency and compatibility. When the parties complete this step, they will have a good idea whether they have a solid enough foundation to move on to the next step. If they don’t, they can work on solidifying the relationship and then continue. Completing this step enables partners to determine whether a WIIFWe mindset has merit for them and whether they are willing to explore establishing or renegotiating a highly collaborative relationship.
- Jointly agreeing on a shared vision for the partnership. Each party will enter this discussion with their own vision, of course. But they must then transform their separate visions into a shared vision, giving the partnership its purpose (beyond a series of transactions). This shared purpose will also guide the partners—not only throughout the negotiation process, but throughout the term of the relationship.
- Collaboratively negotiating the guiding principles for the partnership. The Getting to We process demands that partners not only improve the relationship, but also abide by a set of principles to drive highly collaborative behavior. This is the critical step that distinguishes highly collaborative relationships from average functioning relationships. These principles provide the mindset to support the partners on their journey to live We. Without guiding principles to prevent opportunism and competitive tit-for-tat moves, partners will not behave in a collaborative manner with each other.
- Negotiating as We. It is now time to begin to negotiate the deal. Partners following the Getting to We process must not start by negotiating the details of the deal, such as the scope of work, pricing and terms and conditions. Rather, they must first establish the mechanisms they will use as they negotiate the details. This includes agreeing on the “negotiation rules,” the strategies and tactics, and the methods for ensuring the deal is fair and balanced, especially when it comes to how the parties deal with risk allocation and creating value. Once the partners have agreed to these details, they will use them to achieve a consensus on the deal’s specifics.
- Living as We. At this point, the partners have reached the final stage of the journey: living as We, which occurs when they maintain a focus on the shared vision and guiding principles throughout the life of the relationship. Because relationships are dynamic, the partners choose to focus on relationship management by taking actions and measures required to keep it highly collaborative.
This is how companies create and nurture a partnership entity based on the WIIFWe mindset.
Image: Step Pyramid by Ed Yourdon via Flickr CC