We all contract with people every day as we depend on others to help us achieve our goals. This includes asking an employee to do something, contracting with a service provider to deliver goods or services, or asking colleagues to make a decision. What do you need to know about contracting in order to manage expectations?
The following seven questions can help you to gain clarity:
What are the roles and who is responsible for what? I am the client and I will clearly define my requirements. You are the service provider and I will expect a realistic estimate and proactive communication from you.
What is the output/product and in what format should it be delivered? The output can be a product, service or outcome, which can be delivered as something tangible or intangible. Examples include programming software, recruiting staff, drafting a proposal or making a decision.
By when is it needed? I require this to be completed by 30 November but would like to have monthly status updates on whether this is still on track.
What processes are involved to achieve the output and what will impact delivery? The furniture needs to be ordered from the supplier and delivered to the office. At the same time, the telephone and PC have to be ordered and delivered. Once the furniture has been delivered, the telephone and PC can be installed. Finishing touches, like cleaning the office, need to be done before the office is available.
What are the costs and how should it be paid? The cost is R3 000, with 50% upfront payment and the remainder by completion. If the cost is an estimation, agree on a date for final figures.
How will changes to the original contract be dealt with? Agree on how changes will be communicated. Who decides about the changes?
What else can impact the quality and delivery of the product? This is the industry knowledge or experience that each party knows will impact the quality and delivery of the product. For example: The type of product is no longer available, or labour strikes in the fuel industry change delivery times. Or your dependable key person has resigned.
A tip: It is good practice to confirm the agreement in writing, even if it is just an e-mail summarising these points.
The value of explicit contracting is that it makes everyone’s expectations clear upfront and helps to minimise potential conflict later.
This is one of the practices that help to build and maintain healthy relationships.