Partnership Working – What habits really work? - Dil Sidhu
‘the whole really can be better than the sum of its parts’.
However overuse of the term ‘partnership’ has damaged its image and pushed it into cliché status. This is because partnership arrangements inevitably end up in a ‘win-lose’ scenario rather than the coveted ‘win-win’. The irony is that organisations are looking more and more towards establishing partnerships and so need to be more cautious about seeking and announcing partnerships. Business activities like; outsourcing, co-development, supplier integration, shared-services and even ‘trusted advisor’ status all require a thorough understanding of what attributes make for a successful partnership – for both parties.
Recent research (based on interviews with senior management involved with partnership working in the public and private sector and conducted by the global resourcing firm Hay Group) shows that there are 6 partnership habits which provide for a better ‘win’ for both sides and significantly improves the probability of the partnership lasting and thriving.
The research highlighted that a ‘win-win’ partnership is both an Attitude and a Process. The attitude translates into caring about what is important to the partner in terms of benefits, shared risks, reward sharing mechanism and creating and aligning incentives. The process defines the contributions each side needs to make along with developing partner insights, making commitments to the right people and securing those commitments.
The 6 partnership habits are;
- Transparent – Find out what the partner really wants, not what you might think they want. This may take a number of conversations to tease out the ‘root cause’ of their business issue. Partners also don’t like surprises so keeping them close with ongoing communications allows them to anticipate what is going to change.
- Insightful - Partner understanding is gained by ‘walking in their shoes’ and fully understanding their business. Rather than going straight to the solution be sure you understand the full context of the problem. Everyone also has an ego – hard messages can be given in a way that helps the partner save face, especially in front of their team.
- Determined - If you use the word ‘trust’ be aware that it raises expectations to deliver. Breaking trust is deemed to be more emotionally sensitive than breaking a delivery promise. Find the people, in both organisations, who can help assure delivery deadlines and expectations are made.
- Passionate – Being an advocate for your partner’s needs within your own organisation is vital to ensure your joint rewards are going to be achieved. Internal visibility of the partner’s needs also ensures it stays on the agenda and others can learn from your success.
- Inclusive – Sit with your partner’s team, not facing them off across a table. Include your partner’s people in activities within your own organisation that will help them understand your processes and approach to business. Always respond to their initiatives taking the time to work through the ‘pros’, ‘cons’ and asking lots of questions.
- Generous – Be as enthusiastic about your partner when you start working with them as you were during the proposal process. Show your partner you are excited by the deal even after you have won it. You don’t save money with overly binding contracts, you save it by sharing insights and expertise and finding new ways of doing things – a great way to be invited to do more business together!
At BDO we actively work to establish good working partnerships that are underpinned through delivery of exceptional client service. Being aware of what the ‘research’ shows, about the things that are really important in establishing a partnership, can only be beneficial to ensuring our business development and client account management activities are mutually value-adding.