Have you ever been frustrated when trying to get a partnering initiative moving only to find that your partners are not able to make decisions or commit to anything. They act as if they are in a ‘straitjacket’ with no room to move on anything. In my experience this is not uncommon and can have major impacts on whether the partnering can actually deliver.
This type of tight management control can lead to the exact opposite of what so many partnerships are striving for today. If the partner representatives at the table do not have the freedom to create and innovate around complex issues and challenges, many of the potential opportunities from partnering will simply disappear.
So why do we see this desire to limit and restrict rather than free up and empower? What stops leaders from letting go and enabling staff to innovate and to engage with other partners in new ways?
While there can be a range of issues in play at any time depending on the organisations and personalities, there is no doubt a key factor is ‘ risk avoidance’. And in the tough economic times like we are experiencing today this issue is magnified as we try and avoid making mistakes and minimise costs.
However this is exactly the time when we need to try new things, to innovate and to explore new opportunities. This is the time where we need to free up our internal systems and enable employees to work in new ways internally and externally.
At a time where we need change in so many areas – and not incremental change but large scale transformational change – we need to ask ourselves have we the leadership and systems in place that will give us the innovation and step change we so desperately need?
One challenge in enabling this freedom and overcoming the risk aversion is the having the ability to ‘let go’ and not wanting to determine the solution up front. So many times we see programs or activities being developed by one division or one organisation so that they can maintain control over the direction and the outcome. This desire to avoid risk inevitably leads to over control and restriction.
Another way of approaching this challenge is to focus on setting the framework or boundaries for staff to work within and then enabling them to innovate and create solutions in this space. Here the focus is on co-design of a solution with others rather than imposing a solution up front. In this way staff will be empowered to participate fully in the partnering process and are able to discuss and develop innovative ideas.
This can be a liberating experience but it can also be scary for those in positions of power as the solution is not know at the start but evolves over time and this means taking risks.
But with risk come the opportunity of greater rewards if you get it right. I know which path I would rather take!!