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InfoQ Homepage News Successful Collaboration Doesn't Happen by Accident

Successful Collaboration Doesn't Happen by Accident

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Partnership Coach Michael Spayd has written an article for InfoQ suggesting that both contractors and permanent employees can find themselves playing a "consultant" role when working on projects, and should consider developing consulting-type contracts with their clients. This is different from the way the term "contract" is commonly used: as a legal device between a provider of services and a client. While Agile teams engaging contractors still need such agreements, Spayd's article takes contracting in a whole different direction: his "Designed Partnership Contract" is not about the exchange of money, but is used to create a good climate for collaboration with a client, while allowing the "consultant" to communicate and honor their own values and preferences.

Spayd combines Peter Block's "consulting contract" with the concept of "conscious intentional relationship" which is part of the Center for Right Relationship's "Relationship System Coaching" program. Block's idea isn't new - his book,  Flawless Consulting,  was first published in 1980 and revised in 1999. And yet, the idea seems to be new to many in the world of software. Perhaps the shift from IT as "cost center" to Agile's value-delivery model, wherein IT is seen as an partner for achieving business ROI, is allowing us to rethink these relationships so critical to our ability to deliver that value.

Block's consulting contract is, first and foremost, meant to be a social contract, providing “explicit agreement of what the consultant and client expect from each other and how they are going to work together.” Still, it seems odd to focus on the idea of contracts, when the Agile Manifesto clearly prefers "Customer collaboration over contract negotiation."

I asked Michael Spayd about this negotiation/collaboration dichotomy:
The idea of a consulting contract, as Peter Block originally wrote about it, is entirely based on the premise of collaboration between client and consultant. I wanted to go with Block's original term, despite the fact that within the Agile community it can be a loaded term, even a negative one. I'm counting on a bit of charity from my readers - I think they, and others, will find the ideas quite consistent with Agile values.
Spayd's article tells the story of how one internal team developed a contract, and lays out the key activities and benefits of this approach for both consultants and employees. Read the InfoQ article: The "Consulting" Contract - A Primer for Consultants Knowledge Workers.

Other resources: at Agile2006 Michael Spayd and his colleague Joseph Little spoke to InfoQ in an interview about the challenges of Agile Teams in Traditional Organisations: Time for Change.

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