How often have you had to deliver elements of your project or an entire project “in partnership” with another organisation? I’m certain you had a fun time doing it!
I’m also certain you faced a barrage of unique challenges. In an effort to get the project across the finish line you’ll have had to overcome seemingly endless numbers of difficulties, maybe the odd dispute and no doubt a sleepless night or two.
Why partner? There are abundant benefits of working in partnership. That is why so many organisations do it. Many benefits are specific to the type of partnership and the types of organisations making up the partnership. Other benefits are more generic, such as the greater potential to add value, extend your existing capabilities, opportunities for shared knowledge and skills, provide new ways of working, deliver into new regions and countries, etc.
At the end of the day partnerships are about delivering projects (or activities) which benefit those involved. But all too often that intent gets lost.
Over the years I have been challenged with leading partnerships, from project based endeavours through to strategic partner alliances. Although seemingly similar situations it has been necessary adopt (and where applicable adapt) approaches essential to working effectively “in partnership”.
Probably the most extreme example I encountered was a programme I ran over the millenium (1999-2000). This convoluted six month-long programme involved the following:
- A virtual part-time team of approximately 40 people, encompassed resources from,
- Two separate multinational public limited companies (PLCs), spread across,
- Three Western European countries (each country had a separate subsidiary companies for each partner company).
Although I was accountable for the programme of work, the team was seconded onto the initiative and still had other commitments (typically their “day job” to perform). This was challenging enough. I reported directly into the US arm of one of the firms, but was based out of the London HQ and the resources were coming from regional subsidiaries (separate legal entities) along with country counterpart partnership companies. So effectively the resources belonged to six separate companies excluding my own. The only saving grace was that I held a budget to pay for their efforts. I hope this paints a rosy picture!
I adopted an agile three and a half themed approach, in a nutshell Communicate, Collaborate and Execute. I’ll come to the extra “half” in a moment.
- Communicate. Critical to the success of the endeavour, it’s the “life blood” that holds it all together. Clear and effective communication is key (adopt the “Tell them, then tell them again, and if any doubt, tell them again). You must think internally and externally. What may be understood within your organisation, may be foreign to your partner. This may take on a new meaning if you’re operating in different countries. Then you must also figure out (and figure in) the cultural aspects, get to understand the nuances and impact. Encourage open communication between all those involved.
- Collaborate. Aim “to work jointly in a united effort to realize, in a determined manner, an identical shared goal”. So you must facilitate an outcome oriented culture across the partners. Along with open communication between all those involved. Also encourage constructive conflict as this will facilitate a stronger bond between the parties.
- Execute. Foster an outcome oriented culture across the partners. Ensure the right things get done at the right time and recognise/reward that behaviour.
The extra “half” is Fun. So often these partnerships involve “effort” from team members that is in addition to their “day jobs” so it is a good thing to recognise and reward their contributions. Joint “fun” events, both recognizes contributions and rewards efforts, helps nurture relationships, improve communications and collaborations.
I will delve a little deeper into partnerships later this week. In the meantime, I would welcome any partnership stories you’d like to share.