Lessons for behavioural assessment.

Weighing the pig doesn’t make it grow any fatter!

What can The Swine World Journal (July 5th 1919), teach us about the procurement of strategic delivery partners?

The journal tells a story of a farmer preparing a pig for market. The story goes on to use the old adage about how just weighing the pig won’t fatten it up – it needs to be fed. So where does procurement and partner selection come in you ask?

It’s well-known that in major projects, (particularly those involving multiple organisations), that the competence of key personnel in areas such as leadership, collaboration, change management and team working etc are critical to successful delivery.

In previous blogs, we have shown how organisations such as the London Olympic Delivery Authority, Network Rail and the Ministry of Defence amongst others, when procuring their partners have tested their competences through behavioural assessments. This approach can answer important questions before the partner is selected – ‘do they have the right ‘soft skills’ and behaviours’, ‘will our organisational cultures–fit’, ‘how do they really operate as a team’ or ‘how will they collaborate with us when they are under pressure’?

Behavioural assessment results then usually go on to inform decisions for contract award, which in some cases has accounted for some of the largest value contracts in the World.

Assessing key competences through behavioural assessment is important where behaviour’s underpin successful project delivery. In my experience over 15 years, it has been rare even for a winning team not to have some developmental needs and the majority would certainly have benefitted from a targeted programme of development.

It is for these reasons that The Swine World journal advice is important – ‘weighing the pig does not make it any fatter’. Assessment, though it meets a procurement decision need, by itself it is not enough. Only a planned development process that reacts to the specific assessment results will improve competence in the team and/or with individuals.

Looking back on a decade of behavioural assessments, most only used the results to inform an award decision and did not use them as part of a planned programme of development – still less to re-assess the competence results at a later date.

So what’s the point?
Although some procurement practices are starting to leverage assessment results it is still not common. But things may start to change!

BS11000 – the Standard for collaborative business relationships – recognises the importance of behavioural assessment and positively recommends it as an approach in its guidance. The Standard acknowledges that just ‘weighing the pig’, (assessing and evaluating the behaviour of potential partners), by itself is not enough and in various parts of the Standard it requires processes to ensure the client team is fit to collaborate and that behavioural assessment results are used to ensure that the competences of the partners are also fit for the contract in hand.

Lessons learned on major contracts show that high performing collaborative relationships don’t just evolve. Critical relationships need to be designed and implemented just like any other structure. When it comes to making the best use of partner selection results another old saying comes to mind….’If you do what you always did you will get what you always got’!

It’s time that assessment results were leveraged to impact project performance.
John Doyle is Director of Collaboration and Alliancing with B2Bppm Ltd