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‘Running on Ice’: Creating a Winning Partnering Team When the Odds Are Against You—Part 1

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Running on ice. That’s how Genpact’s Scott Van Valkenburgh, CSAP, vice president, global alliances leader and Donna Peek, CSAP, global alliances, described their company’s transition to a partnering mindset in their session “Cool RunningsThe Road to Building New Alliance Capability.” The session took place at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Agile Partnering in Today’s Collaborative Ecosystem” in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Despite the challenges, the transition to partnering has served them well: Genpact pulled in $47 million in business in their first year of partnering. The company brought in 8 partners and plans to add 10 more in 2019. But the process “was like running on ice to build the team,” said Van Valkenburgh during a clever retelling of their experience in a session based on the 1993 movie “Cool Runnings.”

The movie is a fictionalized account of the Jamaican bobsledding team that in real life trained for the 1988 Olympics. It was the first time Jamaica competed in the Olympics, and in a category mismatched for a country that rarely sees snow and has average temperatures hovering around 80 degrees.

So what does the Jamaican bobsledding team have to do with Genpact? For Van Valkenburgh and Peek, the process of transitioning Genpact to partnering took considerable training and a highly strategic approach. “We didn’t have the language …. We had to define what partners were,” he explained to the packed room. It was like: “You’re on a journey, we are funding you, we got you a sled. Now train people who have never run on ice before.”

Building the team was structurally challenging with the need to balance roles, weight, and speed—to name just a few of the considerations. Bobsled racing is performed with either a two- or four-person team. A team of four requires sensitive balancing in the sled at the ends and in the center. “If you have four people sprinting and one person is out of sinc, it doesn’t work,” he explained of the analogy. “You have to have people doing the right things in the right order. How do we get homegrown talent …  working well? And how do you create that culture?” he said, describing some of the problems faced.

“I build culture first and processes and goals second. If you can’t get the culture of your team right, then all the challenges happen,” he added, while also pointing out the importance of being open to the fact that the team you had before doesn’t easily fit into the new partnering structure: “You can’t have people who can’t run,” he observed.

To build a world-class team, you need to  create world-class athletes, he said. “There’s a whole reset mindset involved” just getting on the track. To make that happen, Genpact found, you need to do the following:

  • Create tipping points.
  • Build important things. “If it wasn’t going to get us on the track, it doesn’t matter.”
  • Make moments that matter. “That emotional deposit you give, that’s your bank account.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s live, onsite coverage of this session and others from 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Cynthia B. Hanson is managing editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications. 

Tags:  alliances  Donna Peek  Genpact  Global Alliance Summit  partner  partnering mindset  partners  Scott Van Valkenburgh  team 

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