By Sarah Ruggless, Flexion
Part 1 of this two-part series looked at five advantages of working with a teaming partner. In Part 2, we’ll look at how to create a more effective teaming partnership once you’ve decided this is a good strategy for your organization.
1. Make sure your values align
This step could easily be skipped in the rush to find a partner, but we highly recommend that, as the primary contractor, you take the time to get to know your potential subcontractor – and vice versa.
Flexion example: We set the bar high for forming team partnerships by expecting our subcontractors to align their behavior to key aspects of our culture, including our:
- Flexion Fundamentals
We ensure our potential subcontractors understand and appreciate the benefits of integrating our Flexion Fundamentals into our teamwork. Experience tells us that a lack of mutual understanding about the nature of our fundamentals and their application in the team space can cause problems.
- “Flat” administrative structure
We want our teams to function with autonomy, so we have eliminated unnecessary layers of management to become a low bureaucracy organization without supervisors or managers on any of our self-organizing and self-managing teams. This approach supports a creative, innovative, and experimentative atmosphere for our work, including team members supplied by subcontractors.
- Devotion to optionality
We have intentionally developed our working and training methods to support the persistent generation and evaluation of diverse options. From our point of view, optionality creates the best outcomes by creating a space for the most creative solutions to emerge over time.
How do we determine if a new team member’s values align with ours? At the very least, we will converse with each person our subcontractor puts forth. More frequently, we’ll execute our entire interview process before we accept them onto the team.
If they share similar values and are comfortable taking our approach to the work, we know they will make a great addition to the team. And if they aren’t a good fit, we will have spared the individual and the team from future misery.
A cautionary tale:
Experience tells us that fostering collaboration within the combined team is challenging when our values don’t align with our teaming partners. On one project, our teaming partner used a hierarchical organizational structure, siloed their portion of the work away from Flexion, and installed a “manager” to oversee the team’s work.
Their approach was out of sync with Flexion’s efforts on the project, and there was regular friction between the teaming partner and us. It also made it harder for the client to interact with two teams that operated differently and not as a unified team. Flexion and the teaming partner eventually “agreed to disagree” and terminated the agreement before completion.
2. Get the paperwork out of the way
Prime contractors will be responsible for the workflow and delivery (on time and working correctly). They should ensure that any subcontractors have a complete understanding of the contractual requirements of the job. Remember the tips below for more effective (and amicable) working relationships.
- When entering into a relationship with a subcontractor, carefully lay out your expectations, including what to do in case your company is not pleased with the quality of your subcontractor’s work. In the spirit of goodwill and fairness, ensure that any added clauses apply to both parties whenever possible.
- Make it easy to update the legal documents. We have the overall subcontract that governs the relationship. Then, we use task orders to expand or contract the team or extend the performance period, among other vital factors that are subject to change.
- With our work, the legal paperwork covers some nitty-gritty business details between the companies involved. The contract does not dictate how we will do the work. So, the product development team (prime employees and subcontractors alike) determines and owns what work they will do and how they will do it.
- Once legal counsel reviews everything and the paperwork is signed, assume your relationship with your new subcontractor will be mutually beneficial. Stick the paperwork in a (digital) drawer. Hopefully, you’ll never have to look at it again.
Persnickety? Not at all. We know our working methods produce great results for our clients. And we won’t settle for anything less.
3. Know your strengths
Our best advice for subcontractors comes from the rules we follow when in the subcontractor position.
As subcontractors, here’s what we bring to the table:
- An ability to infuse option-enabling architecture into the system.
- A commitment to working collaboratively (using our Flexion Fundamentals as a guide).
- A shared vision (Flexion + partner) and commitment to build a great product that does what it’s supposed to–and more.
- An understanding of all aspects of our work as a team with complete transparency and collaboration.
As stated above, we expect our subcontractors to bring an equally rigorous set of aligned values to their relationship with Flexion.
Positive teaming partnerships can help improve the quality of the final product and make it a better learning and working experience for all along the way. Or, as Aesop, the ancient Greek fabulist, said, “In union, there is strength.” The point is that when people work together collaboratively, the sum of their strengths is greater than if they work alone.
If you’d like to discuss a partnership with Flexion, please contact us.
For the past 20 years, Sarah Ruggless has enjoyed building teams and fostering a company culture based on the contributions of diverse, intelligent people. For the past ten years at Flexion, she’s been working to create strong teams to help achieve better outcomes for Flexion clients as we work to improve lives and save tax dollars.