The way we traditionally approach major changes in our organisations seems to make sense:

  1. We write down what (we think) we want.
  2. We ask our colleagues what (they think) we want.
  3. We then go to the market and ask 3rd parties if they can do what we want. Unsurprisingly, many say they can.
  4. We ask them for written proposals.
  5. We meet them once (maybe twice) along the way to hear them say what they wrote.
  6. We evaluate their responses on paper, we rate them relative to each other, and ask our colleagues what they think of them.
  7. We select the one that scores highest.
  8. We negotiate a contract.
  9. Then we (finally) get on with doing something together.

Only now do we find out if the contracted party can do what what we said we wanted.

More importantly, only now do we find out if what we said we wanted is really what we want.

Why do we do it this way?

Looking at this in a different context, the early stages of the process seem very similar to how someone may use online dating to find a partner (Think Match.com, not Tinder!).

Except..

  • They will spend very little time on steps 1 to 2 (“what do I want”), in the knowledge it’s likely to change anyway
  • They will spend far more time going through steps 4 to 7 (evaluation and selection).
  • And hopefully step 8 (formal contracts) is not even considered until they’re damn sure! It will certainly only happen after step 9 (doing stuff together).

When it comes to major decisions in our personal lives, we know it is insane to get into contract negotiations before we are confident this is going to work out.

We seem to lose that sanity when making similar decisions at work.

When selecting a new partner (or technology), see if you’re a good match before deciding to get hooked (contractually!).

Small bets. Small risks. Small costs.