Managing Vendors – Articles by Jim Everett

Tips on managing vendors, skills and competencies required

The Problem With Ego

Posted on | May 30, 2008 | CLICK HERE TO COMMENT OR ASK QUESTION

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In this post, I look at the role that ego plays when managing outsourced work, and how it affects whether we get the best from a vendor. Also watch out for an audio post coming soon, where I go into more detail and give some tips. 

OK, if we were totally rational in our dealings with others, versus being driven by ego and emotions, then all we would care about would be the project outcomes. We would do what it takes to get those results.

But we are not always rational. We often have underlying agendas – some may be conscious, and some that we don’t even realize ourselves. Often, other people can spot our hidden agenda before we do.  

I’m going to share a little story with you – one that I call “Jake and the Renderers”. The point of this story is whether it is more important to get the best results quickly by doing whatever it takes, or to be right and to stand by a principle at all costs.  

Jake works for an architectural firm.  On one of his projects, the graphic rendering has been outsourced to a company in India.  When Jake received the file from the vendor with the first set of renderings for him to approve, there were quite a few corrections and changes to be made.  

So Jake printed out the rendered drawings, drew a number of hand notes around the changes, and then faxed the pages back to the Indian graphics vendor.  Presumably, they implemented the changes as they interpreted them from his notes, and sent him back the updated files.  Based on Jake’s comments and complaints around the office, many of the changes were not done correctly or to his satisfaction.  

His reaction, “They need to learn to speak English! Why should I go out of my way to have to tell them how do their job properly?” 

Clearly, Jake’s was ego involved. Maybe the vendor’s ego too, in not asking for clarification.

The issue is around where the responsibility lies for making sure that the communication has been understood.  In this case, Jake was prepared only to make quick rough notes of the changes required, and expected that these would be carried out exactly to his wishes.  

The bottom line is the job ended up taking more time all round, and was delayed by having to go through several iterations to get it right.  

Rationally, Jake would have been better off spending more time making very clear instructions, and even going through the required changes on the phone with the vendor.  His view was that he should not have to do that.  

Ego can be a strong energizer to drive projects through.  It can also help you take a strong position when required.  In the right dose, it can give you confidence, and engender respect on the part of the other person.  In excess, it can get in the way of achieving the best solution and outcome you want.  

The next post will be an audio, where I’ll go into aspects of ego on the client side and on the vendor side.  I’ll also give a deeper analysis of this little case study, with some tips to help could of been more effectively handled. 

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