At Best Practice Group, we regularly get involved in established commissioning partnerships that are in dire need of revitalisation.
More often than not, a client will seek out our services with the aim of dismantling their commissioning contract with minimum damage caused. They are typically surprised when we tell them that we can in fact repair and replenish the partnership to such an extent that it meets (and exceeds) desired outcomes.
But to be quite honest, I would much prefer that it never gets to that stage. It often does because organisations do not fully understand the two key components that ensure a successful commissioning contract – effective implementation and focused management. Both ingredients are required.
Foregoing a well-considered ongoing management process is like purchasing a car then never getting it serviced – at some point, it will break down. With that in mind, today I want to explore 5 key elements that define successful commissioning contract management.
1. Be Patient
Quick wins can happen in the early stages of a commissioning partnership, and should be encouraged. Seeing near-instant results puts both partners in the right frame of mind and can do a lot to eradicate any latent negativity regarding the chances of the partnership succeeding.
However, it is also possible that a partnership will not get off to a flying start. A service transition of in-house to commissioned is both complicated and fraught with potential unseen issues, and you must be accepting of that. Getting overly involved in the process can cause unnecessary friction, which has the potential to be disastrous at such an early stage.
Once you have entered into a commissioning agreement, you have formally entrusted your partner with the effective delivery of the outsourced service. Therefore, you must have as much faith in their abilities as in your own judgement in picking them to deliver on business outcomes. Patience is a virtue.
2. Empower Your Governance Team
If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will know how much importance we place on your Governance Team. In our opinion, it is the linchpin of any healthy commissioning partnership.
However, a Governance Team is only as useful as you allow it to be. It must be afforded with the requisite authority that will enable it to carry out its role successfully. A Governance Team that is hamstrung by bureaucracy (even if well-intended) will not be able to maintain a progressive partnership.
If you have an issue with entrusting your Governance Team with the immediate wellbeing of the commissioning partnership, the issue is with the personnel, not the entity.
3. Monitor Goals
On the topic of Governance Teams, they are only be as effective as the goals that they monitor. These goals should be well aligned with your desired outcomes, and in the majority of circumstances, should be quantifiable.
Consistent monitoring of quantifiable goals is by far the most effective way of measuring the success of a commissioning partnership. These goals must be clearly communicated at the outset and used as benchmarks for holding your partner accountable to the quality of service delivery.
Whilst you should consider less tangible goals as part of your overall analysis of a partnership’s effectiveness (as we mentioned in this article), your main focus should always be on quantifiable goals.
4. Prioritise Workflow
When it comes to commissioning services, it can be all too easy to lose focus on what is truly important. A reactionist culture amongst your management team will result in desired business outcomes slipping away from your grasp.
It takes a strong will not to attack what one might perceive to be the most urgent matter at any given moment. Stepping away from the process to analyse what is going to move your organisation closer to its business outcomes is a positive exercise that must be carried out on a regular basis. We recommend that you follow our important/urgent matrix model to help you on that front.
5. Work to Align Cultures
Many organisations that enter into commissioning partnerships fail to fully understand (or appreciate) the unfortunate culture dichotomy between commissioning partners and local authorities. Your partner is driven by profits, and ultimately is accountable to its shareholders. Meanwhile, your culture is driven by service delivery.
Whilst any savvy commissioning partner will argue strongly that there is no contradiction between your priorities, they would be mistaken. In difficult situations, your partner will always turn its focus onto profits and cash flow – not service delivery.
The first step to maintaining an effective commissioning partnership is to understand the differing priorities. Then, you must manage the partnership to ensure that both priorities are satisfied. In this way, your differing cultures can live together in harmony.
Creative Commons image courtesy of Victor1558