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If you push me for a articulation of human relationships, everything is transactional. But in a more specific way, transactional means an interchange, whether goods, money, services or favours. Whilst all is transactional at its core, from a mother’s love to an exchange of services, you would probably not characterize the former as ‘a transaction’.

When it comes to life in the organization, the transactional model dominates. Not just because the business organisation has surely something to sell, and has customers, and stakeholders, but because it has extended the transactional model to all things internal as well.  An ill-conceived concept of the ‘internal customer’ sees relationships between people, with management, within the company, between departments, as transactions.

I wrote a while ago that about this misleading language:

I am your customer, you are my customer. When I need to provide you with something, you are my customer. When you need to do the same for me, I am your customer. I am marketing, you, finance, are my customer when you ask me for data.  I am corporate finance, you, country finance, are my customers. I am R&D, my customer is marketing and sales. I am sales, my customers are the consumers. I am information management, the rest of the company is my customer. The customer-centric mantra that has been in place for many years has created this muddle. Not pronouncing the word ‘customer’ is so politically incorrect that we tend to pollinate our thinking and our language with it, to make sure we don’t miss it.

But, then I said, there is only one customer and it is the one that pays the bills.

The organization is not a Grand Bazaar, certainly not with internal buyers and sellers, with internal market transactions. It is an organism of connections and relationships, a relationship engine, a relationship factory, an instrument of collaboration that facilitates the Drucker-ite miracle of ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things together’. Drucker did not say, being pan-directional-customer-centric. A mercantile model of the internal people relationships misses the point.

As soon as you leave this Relationship Model and manage and lead instead a Grand Bazaar with give and take, quid pro quo, and internal customers and markets, you are in serious risk of ever shaping a single sense of belonging, a common purpose.

In the Grand Bazaar model, I belong to my shop, or chain or shops, and I have my goods to sell and my benefits to achieve. Employees and groups are merchants. There is nothing wrong with managing and leading a Grand Bazaar. It may even be useful if what you want is to promote ‘internal competition’, a mantra sold to us as intrinsically good, with no much critical thinking attached. Fine, is this is what you want. Please, don’t pay consultants for a big ‘One Company’ Project. There isn’t one. Nobody belongs to the Grand Bazaar, their loyalties are to the tribes, to the traders, to the stands and shops. By the way, the obsession with the internal customer mercantile and transactional operating system ends up stealing air time from the real customer, who is outside.

As for external consultants, particularly in the strategic and organizational arena, if you wear the shoes of Bazaar (goods) Provider, you will never leave those shoes and you will compete with other Bazaar Providers only on cost, unlikely on value.

I, and my company, do not work for any client that sees us as ‘vendors’, or that we see them as buyers. I deeply hate the feeling of consultants seen as the enemies, or necessary evils, working only on self interest. Granted, the industry has created this monster. It is a big one, and it is in good health. It is a self inflicted problem of very difficult solution, when fortunes have been amassed by feeding the monster.

I, for one, am out of that. Any potential client conversation that does not contain ‘We want you to help us’ at the beginning, and ‘I’d love to help you’ at the end, is out of the system. 2016 resolution. I must say, overdue. I am done with the bazaar model. Our clients pay for our expertise and unconditional commitment to  a joint cause, not for the number of pages of a PowerPoint report or the numbers of days we have showed up.

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