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‘Collaboration Is Not a Natural Phenomenon’: Mapping a TE-AM Road to Successful Alliances, Part Two

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 14, 2017

“Study after study has shown that collaboration is not a natural phenomenon. It’s more normal to be competitive or to work within your team (tribe),” according to Lynda McDermott, (CA-AM), president of EquiPro International, Ltd., an international management consulting firm which specializes in leadership, team and business development for the Fortune 500, midsized companies, and professional services firms. McDermott made this assertion during her pre-conference workshop, “Next Gen Alliance Management: Moving your Organization to Ecosystem Performance Excellence,” one of the sessions on opening day of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA. (See Part One of ASAP Media’s two-part blog coverage of the workshop, a highly abbreviated version of the customized all-day ASAP TE-AM Training course McDermott offers to alliance professionals.)

 

The purpose of the all-day workshop McDermott teaches is to make alliances future proof. Based on exhaustive research, the ASAP TE-AM Training is designed to help put that structure in place so that teams that undergo the training can become a preferred alliance partner. The question is, how do we get from a non-collaborative group to one that effectively functions as a team and actively collaborates with partners?

 

McDermott took a head count of how many attendees considered themselves to be alliance professionals, regardless of their title. Most in the room raised their hand, except for one man who is involved in creating a start-up. She then asked, as alliance professionals, what skills or knowledge do they need? The responses ranged from the ability to communicate, having an awareness of resources, and seeing the overall picture, to understanding their roles and learning “what can be shared and what can’t, and when to share.”  

 

Even if people are not in an official role, they need to be on board with creating and sustaining an alliance, McDermott asserted. They need to know what the best practices are as well as which skills are needed.  But even after acquiring the needed skills, rarely might individuals be truthfully assessed as being part of a partnership, even an informal one. Partners need to do more than exchange business cards and talk on the phone periodically. For many, despite their training, nothing further happens because their training was geared toward individuals and a development of their unique skills. It is not targeted to acquiring group skills with a team that can then move on to build an effective alliance.

To address this oversight, ASAP applied mapping to figure out which techniques might work and which might not.  The result was an approach to creating better alliance teams—an approach intended to be customized to individual organizations.

 

The mapping involves the creation of three benchmark assessments with corresponding questions. The questions are grouped around a Framework assessment, Team Dynamics assessment and a Lean and Agile assessment. Based on responses to the questions, teams can assess what works and where they were most weak. Following the assessments, a road map can be based on areas that need the most development. This roadmap is a work plan that requires team action—which requires achieving a buy-in specific to that team.

“It’s important to get them on the same page,” McDermott explained. “The point is to teach people collaborate skills that involve skill-building exercises and debriefings. Sometimes, these assessments need to be refreshed every six months or so to keep the team on track,” she added.

 

“It’s also important to build a network that respects differences. There will always be cultural differences. The dynamic of adversarial conflict vs. building trust is always present. If a team isn’t having conflict, they will not be able to effectively organize,” she cautioned. (Be sure to read the Q3 2017 Strategic Alliance Magazine’s in-depth coverage of the topic of conflict management—which includes insights from McDermott and other experts on how to use creative conflict to advantage.) “Ask, how can we work together? The degree to which this can be accomplished improves the efficiency of an alliance, despite conflict. Truthfully, there will always be conflict, but you learn to manage it.”

 

Additional words of advice McDermott offered include:

  • Never believe that people naturally behave collaboratively.
  • Remember, you are not a therapist but a facilitator.
  • You must talk at deep level when something’s not right—for instance, there may be power issues, gender issues, etc.

Finally, McDermott noted, the TE-AM workshop is fast. It helps to focus on the strategic side of alliance management. It provides a process to uncover the gaps. “It allows the group to discover the group,” she said.

Tags:  alliance  alliance manager  Framework assessment  Lean and Agile  Lynda McDermott  partner  Strategic Alliance Magazine  Team Dynamics assessment  TE-AM Training  training 

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