The Problem With Win-Win

WP-ProbWinWinWhy the notion of ‘win-win’ in collaborative long-term buyer-supplier relationships is as misguided as it overused.

Creating mutually advantageous “win-win” outcomes is frequently considered best practice, just as partnering was a decade ago. As a result, like partnering, the win-win concept suffers from the same type of use and abuse that is likely to render it a meaningless concept.

An IIAPS White Paper challenges the view that win-win outcomes are best practice and contends that buyers seeking to achieve such outcomes are guilty of poor and misguided thinking. This is because a true win-win, in which both parties simultaneously achieve their ideal outcomes, is not feasible under any circumstances.

By its very nature, buyer and supplier exchange is always contested. Despite this, it is argued that long-term collaborative relationships are still an extremely useful tool in the armoury of a buyer seeking improved value for money.

The White Paper provides four cases which demonstrate that collaborative relationships can be highly successful for competent buyers, but a recipe for disaster for the unwary.

To some the cases may appear to be examples of win-win outcomes, but detailed analysis of these long-term collaborative relationships reveals that is not the case in practice, and that very different outcomes occur, some of which favour the buyer and some that definitely do not.

The search for a win-win is a fundamental error that can blind managers to the reality of the buyer and supplier exchange. The paper concludes by providing five steps to avoid myopia in collaborative relationships and the problems that buyers may face if they end up being taken advantage of by more commercially competent suppliers, who are maximising their own commercial and operational interests at the expense of the buyer.

All of the arguments presented in this blog are fully explained in the IIAPS Whitepaper The Problem with Win-Win.

The International Institute for Advanced Purchasing & Supply (IIAPS) is dedicated to the raising of international standards in purchasing and supply management so that real business value - improvements in the quality, cost and delivery performance of supply - is delivered to organisations.

One thought on “The Problem With Win-Win”

  1. Very interesting blog and a great whitepaper! It is good to see someone who provides content that challenges current thinking and shows the weaknesses with current approaches in the profession. I am new to a procurement role and am surprised by the general lack of quality strategic thinking in this area.

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