As you start this year with high expectations from existing or new partnering initiatives it can be challenging knowing where to begin. To give you a head start we have put together some tips for how you can get the most value from your partnering.
TIP 1 – Is your ‘purpose for partnering’ agreed by all partners?
- Are all your partners on the same page or are different agendas starting to surface?
- Having a clear purpose statement agreed by all the partners is key to any successful partnering initiative. Sometimes as the partnering evolves over time we can see ‘purpose drift’ occurring. This is where some partners may want to change from the original intent without all partners agreeing. This can lead to lots of confusion around mixed objectives and potentially ongoing conflicts with resultant impacts on outcomes.
- Partners should always be keeping an eye on the purpose and intent of the partnering. Regular checks with partners to reaffirm ‘the purpose statement’ is key to achieving alignment of all partners and the ultimate objective of the partnering.
TIP 2 – What type of partnering relationship are you in?
- Relationships between partners can change as the partnering process develops. You may start out with the aim of an integrated partnership where all partners have equity in the arrangement but may find that the power balance has shifted and one partner starts to dominate.
- You may also find that the partnership has evolved and it is time to change from an integrated type of relationship to one which is more transactional and involves delivery of specific services.
- Continually checking what type of relationship you are in at any time and that all partners agree with this will ensure more sustainable outcomes.
TIP 3 – Do you have ‘buy in’ within your organisation?
- Whether you are about to start partnering with others or have been in an ongoing partnering relationship for some time, knowing the level of ‘buy in’ you need from within your organisation is essential.
- Starting out with partnering may require some clear conversations internally as to what is intended from the partnering, what type of partnering relationship you are seeking and what capacity you have to partner.
- If you have been partnering for some time the level of ‘buy in’ you have will be critical in your organisation being able to deliver on its commitments as it may involve many parts of your organisation.
- As you move through a partnering process, it is crucial to keep assessing the level of ‘buy in’ you need and what you actually have to make sure you can deliver on your partnering.
TIP 4 – Have all your partners the capacity to partner?
- When exploring partnering as an approach to solve tough problems or complex issues, we can often assume that everyone has the sufficient capacity to partner i.e. they have the skills and resources to engage effectively with each other.
- What we often find in practice is that the capacity of each partner and their partnering competencies can vary widely from one organisation to another.
- Some organisations may have developed strong internal approaches on how to partner effectively with others, including developing their internal skills while other organisations may have had little exposure to cross sector partnering.
- These wide variations in capacity and capability can impact on the partnering process particularly when it reaches the developing stage when partners are expected to deliver on their commitments.
- Check that your partners have the knowledge and skills to partner and that they have the time and resources available to match the timeframes proposed.
TIP 5 – Are there conflicts that need to be resolved?
- Partnering can be hard and challenging work and will inevitably lead to conflicts at different times in the process.
- This is particularly the case when you move from the initial creating stage of a partnering process which is more strategic and high level to the developing stage where the partnering needs to be implemented.
- Whatever the situation where these conflicts arise the way they are tackled and resolved will be crucial to your partnering process
- It is important to get the issues out on the table but do so in a respectful way that will enable you to maintain your relationships in the long term.
- In some complex and difficult conflicts it may be useful to engage an independent third party to assist you to resolve the issues and move on.
- The most important point about conflict in partnering processes is to try and resolve them as quickly as possible, and not just push them ‘under the carpet’ or they will come back to bite you later!!
We hope these few tips might get you started on how you can improve your partnering in 2018 and seek out improved value and outcomes from these processes.
Good luck and please keep in touch throughout the year with your challenges and queries.