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When a Good Alliance Hits Bad Times, an Effective Joint Working Session Can Resolve Serious Challenges

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Thursday, October 9, 2014

Any alliance can flounder despite the best intentions of each party involved, according to Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, partner at Vantage Partners. What matters is how the parties work together to uncover the causes and resolve the challenges. A joint working session—bringing together key stakeholders from both alliance members—can be a highly effective means of tacking challenges head-on and strengthening alliance relationships in the process.


Kliman discussed how to manage an effective joint working session during the Wednesday, Sept. 24 ASAP Netcast Webinar sponsored by Vantage, “We Have an Alliance Issue: How to Structure and Facilitate Joint Working Sessions Where Issues are Complex and Feelings are Raw,” available now for ASAP Members in the Member Resource Library . The alliance manager plays a crucial role, not surprisingly, because he or she must “construct and facilitate an effective working session that deals well with the challenges in a way that allows the parties to reach good, impactful, and actionable answers,” Kliman explained. The working session must meet the key interests of the parties involved, by developing “creative, value maximizing solutions.” Participants must feel that they are treated fairly—not just by the outcome, but by the process. Working relationships should be enhanced when folks have a greater understanding and acceptance of the realities of each other’s experiences and data. And there should be clarity of commitments with key next steps in place. 

Kliman’s presentation walked attendees of the webinar through a four-step process: 

  1. Define the problem. What are the observable symptoms? What does the desired future state look like?
  2. Generate possible diagnoses. What are possible underlying causes of the gap between the current state and the preferred future state? What obstacles might be preventing success?
  3. Brainstorm general approaches. What are some possible approaches to dealing with the most likely underlying causes? Which set of approaches will we pursue?
  4. Develop specific action ideas. What are the action items for the selected approaches? What are the ways to implement them? Who does what, when?

Kliman then spent the remainder of his formal presentation discussing a case example of a large biopharmaceutical company that hit a roadblock in its partnership with a small biotech company. The relationship was struggling with over-budget development costs and lagging enrollment—and a lot of finger-pointing and frustration on both sides. The four-step process uncovered specific concerns—such as the both the biotech and large pharma company feeling surprised and alarmed by each other’s decisions, and with alliance teams being concerned about upper management making decisions outside of the alliance governance structure.

The process ultimately guided the partners to redefine and augment their communications pathways and protocols while institutionalizing relationship checkpoint and a cadence of informal and formal assessments and health checks for the partnership. An archive of all ASAP Netcast Webinars is available to members as a benefit of membership in the ASAP Member Resource Library. An overview of all previous webinars can be found on ASAP’s public facing website.

Tags:  alliance manager  effective joint working session  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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