ONE GORILLA CAN BE MISSED, BUT SIX GORILLAS?
A FEW OBVIOUS THINGS WHICH ARE MISSED WHEN NEGOTIATING IT CONTRACTS
A basketball game, two teams, one ball. Your job is to count the passes between members of the same team.
How do you think, if a gorilla went through the basketball court while you’re counting, would you see him?
You are convinced that yes, right? Not necessarily.
Experiment at the Harvard University described by Professors Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, reading the book “The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitition Deceive Us” by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com and the experience gathered in technological projects show that our mind does not necessarily work in the way we think it works.
Further to Professors Christopher Chabris and Daniela Simons http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html experiment conducted at Harvard University several years ago, showed that HALF PEOPLE, WHO COUNTED THE NUMBER OF PASSES MISSED THE GORILLA. It was as though the gorilla was invisible. This is one of the best-known experiment in psychology, described in most introductory textbooks and presented in several scientific museums.
Christopher Chabris and Daniela Simons observed that experiment reveals two things:
THAT WE ARE MISSING A LOT OF WHAT GOES ON AROUND US.
WE HAVE NO IDEA THAT WE ARE MISSING SO MUCH
In negotiations on technological projects I observe the following:
GORILLA 1 – GOAL AND STRATEGY
IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU REALLY WANT, HOW WOULD YOU NEGOTIATED TO GET IT?
I often observe projects in which discussion starts with reading the contract template. INSTEAD OF FIXING THE PRINCIPLES AND EXPECTATIONS OF EACH PARTY. Expectations from the partner, my own organization and finally from each other. Principles, which will THEN be adapted to the contract.
DIFFICULT OBJECTIVES – POOR OR IN GENERALLY NO SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES is one of the major weaknesses in the negotiations. Clear goals allow us to work out a strategy not only of negotiating but also of running a project.
Before we start coloring a contract in the mode of change, it’s worth asking a few basic questions. For example, such:
- What business problem do I want to solve?
- What tools do I need to solve this problem?
- What will I consider a success?
- Why do I want to achieve this goal with this partner?
- Am I ready for changes in my organization that are related to it?
- If the contractor says that he needs to improve the system of managing the delivery of goods from warehouses, what exactly does he want? Shorter waiting time for the shipment of goods? Higher accuracy when shipping? Better picking of goods? Packaging goods in green boxes with a pink ribbon? Or delivering goods in red trucks?
GORILLA 2 – UNCERTAINTY, AND RATHER NON-ACCEPTANCE OF UNCERTAINTY
Innovative development projects can be compared to scientific rather than construction projects. The result is very uncertain, there are more hypotheses in it than it does. These are the facts. Detail specification is a great solution for finished products, but for those custom-made dynamics it is the only constant. Building and implementing information systems is not building bridges.
Therefore, at the planning and negotiation stage it is good to be aware that every complex technological undertaking involves many uncertain elements. Therefore, instead of focusing on attempts to regulate them in detail and to punish non-compliance, it is better to introduce into the contract efficient mechanisms to manage issues that are unclear or difficult to predict at the stage of contract conclusion. And maybe rewarding for achieving good results?
GORILLA 3 – INFLEXIBILITY
Flexibility might be helpful either in life or in negotiations. Stiff adherence to established patterns, corporate standards may lead the parties away from agreement. And in the future, prevent the execution of the contract.
Who remembers it?
GORILLA 4 – BUILDING WALLS INSTEAD OF BRIDGES
Negotiating contracts very often focuses on the protection of narrowly perceived private interests, instead of encouraging cooperation, agile project management and the transparency of the parties’ rights and obligations.
This is a great weakness of many agreements that are currently concluded, the structure and content of which distorts intentions and jeopardize the effectiveness of the projects concerned. They concern more „transactions” than „cooperation”. They build walls that you need to climb, instead of bridges that allow you to move between two banks.
GORILLA 5 – LEADER
That weak point often affects both contracting parties and contractors. Because of long duration of negotiation process and the increase of „specialization” within individual organizations, there is often no clear leader. You can see the interests of individual departments, often incompatible with each other and not previously agreed. Each negotiation needs support at the highest level and a clear leader.
GORILLA 6 – TRUST
LACK OF TRUST TO OWN ORGANIZATION OFTEN TRANSLATES TO UNCERTAINTY TO THE BUSINESS PARTNER. And this causes that main ideas such as „cooperation” and „partnership” are lost in the face of challenges posed by skepticism, criticism and lack of trust. Maybe it is worth remembering this instead of pointing the contractor in negotiations about the amount of contractual penalties?
Apparently, you cannot expect other results using constantly same methods. Changing methods often brings different results. Since the statistics of implementations in IT projects are so relentless, it may be better to count gorillas instead of passes?
Wishful thinking? Hope not.