Many organizations struggle with partnership execution because of their flawed assumptions, says Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, partner, alliance practice head at Vantage Partners. They need to replace those limited assumptions with more progressive ones, he emphasized in his session “Winning Through Partnering” at the March 1-4 2016 Global Alliance Summit, “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.
“If you think about how organizations are built, where they come from, organizations—even big old ones—start with the founders’ strategic assumptions of how you win. Those assumptions permeate the building of the organization. The strategic assumption of how you win drives your focus, leadership, structure, incentives, tools, skills, and how you ask people to think. All of this leads to results,” added the Harvard University faculty member, who has led international conflict resolution through CMG (now part of Mercy Corps), and whose session is a spin-off from the Harvard Negotiation Project. Kliman helps clients maximize the value from partnerships through effective conflict management, negotiation, and relationship management.
“You can’t bolt an alliance onto an organization that is not built for partnering—trying to execute partnerships in a world that has not been built for partnership execution,” he said. “We see more and more organizations coming to us to solve that problem.”
He then highlighted the difference between organizations designed to succeed at external partnering and those that are not. “How do you know that an organization has been built with partnering at its core? And how do you create an organization that is built for partnering versus individual alliances?” he asked. Partnering success depends on these critical components, he pointed out:
- Organization is not self-centric
- Mission statement is partner-oriented
- Executives and senior leadership looks to alliance management in their options
- Company has a reputation as a partner of choice
- Website shows partnering and partnering solutions
- Leadership does not cascade down
- Completely flexible
- Right mix of skills and employees doing the partnering
- Core competencies training
Organizations should analyze the difference between a progressive partnering stance and one with poor assumptions, he told the audience. “You start with an assumption, and you build on that, and then you break it down into component parts,” he instructed. “You can then map how that strategic assumption drives culture, leadership, focus, organizational structure, incentives, processes and tools, mindset, and skills,” he said, while showing a complex deck slide.
These lead to good or flawed behaviors, such as the attitude “make them come to us” or the de-prioritization of partner meetings, which all lead to bad results, he added.
“You are saying on the one hand that your goal is to be a world-class partnering organization, but your language says something else.”
While showing a deck slide on a vicious cycle that threatens partnering success, he provided an example of a CEO who was calling the company partners “gap fillers.” The beginning and ending of the cycle was “We will win through out own expertise.”
When designing the internal organization, ask these questions: “How is this going to work in alliances? How do we structure this to be externally facing or centric?” he advised. “Without collaboration and negotiation skills, we are likely to fail. By comparison, when we start building with creativity and clear communication, and we launch partnerships with a focus on effective execution, we get this,” he said, flashing a slide with a reversal of the problematic cycle to a virtuous one that ends with “Our company is successful given the value and competitive edge that we get from partnering—partners bring their best opportunities to us.”
“If you think of the mission of the typical alliance organization, there is a mission statement that says ‘Put alliance managers on alliances to ensure individual alliance support.’ The second aspect of the mission is to ensure that the company is the best possible partnering organization it can be and ensure that it’s a partner of choice. Far too often, we in alliance management have not focused in on the second aspect of the mission,” he concluded. “We see this more and more—a key role for alliance management is embedding the partnering capability deep into the organization—because it’s in your mission statement.”