Dealing with the risk inherent in complex supply chains with high degrees of interdependence is the meat and potatoes of a project managers life.
Clearly its imperative all parties subscribe to a set of common procedures and standards. At an organisational level, the recent trend has been to invest in a new management systems often centred on BS11000, which addresses the practicalities involved in establishing collaborative business relationships. Clients demand evidence of BS11000 compliance so suppliers jump through the necessary hoops to get their internal systems up to scratch.
Thats all fine when things are working well, but as with most process based approaches, it only goes so far agreed systems and paperwork count for very little when the going gets tough and a project turns sour.
What really matters is having project managers who can pick up the phone and call their opposite number, knowing their call will be answered and their arguments will be listened too.
Procedural competence must be complemented by a genuine commitment to working collaboratively.
Project managers need the skills to build trusting relationships and the confidence to handle the conflict that will inevitably arise when organisations with different priorities and perspectives have to work together.
More than ever project managers are expected to deliver results across organisational boundaries and, ultimately, that means being able to share control. Managing risk successfully in this environment relies far more on collaborative leadership behaviour than it does on standards and procedures.