When colleagues are clients, everyone should adopt a vendor mindset

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When it comes to digital transformation and more generally to any change program, I’ve surprised to see to what extent the value proposition for the employee is overlooked. Would anyone have the idea of launching a product for customers without thinking of the value proposition for them ? Of course not, because purpose is to make the client buy the product. On the other hand, within the organization, this matter is quickly dealt with if not totally overlooked.The employee has no choice. He’s being paid so he’ll obey and suffer no matter what he thinks.

Employees buy change with engagement

Let me talk about something we witness every day in the workplace even everyone refuses to take it into account. Clients buy products with money, employees buy enterprise programs with engagement. Both react to the same thing : what’s in it for me, what’s the value for me. It’s as simple as that.

Employees are the first clients of internal projects and without any reflection on the value these projects have for him we should not be surprises that most change projects get no buy-in, poorly succeed when they’ don’t totally fail.

It also work for internal departments. These last years I saw many internal entities wondering about their transformation and trying to find where to start. Wondering what is their value proposition for their internal and external clients, what others expect from them instead of having a top-down approach was often a successful approach.

What are the internal and external clients of HR, Procurement, marketing, R&D etc… what do they expect ? How to make them successful. An obvious but counter-intuitive way to tackle transformation issues. It’s not only about what is offered and imposed to others, there’s also what they expect.

A couple of years ago I thought about the idea of service oriented organization. Behind the buzzword there was the acknowledgement that the agility and collaboration imperatives made employees shifting continuously from “giver” to “taker” in an informal collaboration approach. At a given moment one is asking for a piece of information then he can be the one that provides help, then he will need an explanation, then he’ll help a colleague based on his past experience. We’re all clients of providers of our colleagues in the workspace.

Unstructured collaboration is a client-provider relationship

I insist on the informal and unstructured nature of such interaction. It’s the contrary of collaboration structured by processes and operating models no one can avoid (what makes that it’s done with very little commitment and engagement). Unstructured collaboration is the reality of work : find, at a given moment, the person or the people who know something or can do something to fix a problem or execute a task. It depends on people’s good will. We can see it every day : some receive help spontaneously, some never get hemp. Some people spontaneously help others, some never. Some understand that helping others help them to build their personal branding and increase their expertise, some don’t care.

Let’s pass over those who help only when forced to and those who prefer to fail alone rather than asking for somebody’s help to focus on “normal” behaviors.

What’s at stake ?

1°) For the taker :

  • Be able to explain is need, the “why”, and what it will contribute to. No one likes to contribute to anything without getting the big picture, all the more since the lack of context understanding causes less relevant contributions.
  • Tempt others. We know that some people will be thankful and some will never be. There are those that will give recognition, there are those who won’t. We all know that when when we help some people we’re helping ourselves and when we help other we’ll get nothing in return. It’s all about reputation and it’s important to care about that before having to ask others for help.

2°) For the taker

• Being recognized for one’s expertise or knowledge is the best way to be contacted for the right things and then be even more recognized.

Why ? Because as necessary as it may be, collaboration is rarely spontaneous, and never at the scale businesses want it to work.

Having a need is not others to make others discover it.  Making people aware of a need is not enough to make them feel like helping. Even if they feel like helping, it does not means that they really understand the big picture. On the other hand there a lots of talents that are disappointed that no one ever calls them, that they can’t show what they are capable of but who do nothing to be known and found.

If we consider that either collaboration and transformation require given/taker behaviors, it’s essential to think in terms of added value to get engagement, participation, contribution.

• What’s the added value of my project for those it impacts ?

• What’s the added value of my department, my BU for the business, others departments and employees ?

• What’s my added value for others ?

It’s impossible to put a business in motion when no one can articulate his added value and the added value of his initiatives.