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The ‘Boundary Bridger’: How Leadership Style Drives Alliance Team Performance

Posted By John W. DeWitt , Tuesday, March 12, 2019

“The alignment challenge is not unique to strategic alliances,” commented veteran alliance manager Timothy B. Steele, president of ARM Partners in Leesburg, Virginia, as he kicked off the closed-door, invitation-only ASAP Leadership Forum on Monday, March 11—opening day of the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Indeed, leadership teams typically are aligned only 17 percent on any given topic, according to research by SchellingPoint that builds upon the work of Thomas Schelling, the late behavioral economist who (with Robert J. Aumann) received the 2005 Nobel Prize in economic sciences “for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis.”

SchellingPoint’s “analysis of 230 collaborations uncovered that teams are aligned on only 17 percent of their peer’s views of their collaboration,” according to Michael Taylor, SchellingPoint’s chief executive. Research further indicates that about 60 percent of senior leaders’ time is spent securing alignment across the leadership team.

Steele and his co-facilitator, Loyola University Maryland professor Dave Luvison, CSAP, PhD, described this aspect of leadership as “a boundary-bridging role.” Alternating between presentation and robust discussion with the group of veteran alliance leaders, Steele and Luvison presented leadership models and emerging research identifying the critical role of boundary bridging and other key leadership behaviors.

“When we look at the job of alliance leadership, we talk a lot about focus on the customer, Steele said, “but if you don’t have this boundary-bridging role,” instead of being a chief alliance officer (CAO) with a seat at the CXO table, you might end up on the menu. Your alliance skills might make you able to cope with ambiguity, but “don’t be ambiguous about having clear mission and mandate, because [building alignment] is one area of alliances where you don’t want to deal with ambiguity. Get it crisp and clear—the less ambiguity you have the better off you are.”

Research into leadership styles of product management teams—according to Luvison, an excellent analog for alliance management—supports the notion that you should “push alliance metrics to the CXO suite [so that it is] leveraged across the business,” Steele continued, adding that that boundary bridgers integrate the alliance agenda into annual corporate planning and involve business P&L owners into key partnering dynamics and decisions.

The science indicates that boundary bridger CAOs establish a “North Star” to guide their teams, a concept advanced by The Rhythm of Business and McKinsey, Steele noted. Furthermore, boundary bridgers demonstrate high emotional intelligence and are able to “feel the headwinds and tailwinds happening in your business,” Steele said. “Think about being up on the balcony, watching yourself dance, anticipating what your partner’s next move is.”

Fundamentally, Luvison said, boundary bridgers understand that just doing a good job does not alone drive success. Research exploring how particular leadership styles improve performance of teams has identified three types of leaders. The first type of leadership style describes leaders primarily engaged in task-focused behavior, “managing and driving the team to perform, making sure every executional aspect of the alliance is done properly. The second type are scouts, who see themselves as responsible for bringing resources to the team. The third type are ambassadors focused on dialoguing with superiors and other stakeholders, proactively putting themselves on the agenda of their leaders, and managing behaviors.”

According to preliminary research findings, Luvison said, “ambassador-led teams outperformed [the two others], especially when combined with task behaviors.” Interestingly, he continued, “Frequency of communications was less important than the nature of the boundary-bridging activities. Ambassadors created the opportunity to promote the team, secure resources, and protect it from interference.”

In other words, successful boundary bridgers also demonstrated traits of the other two types of leaders.

The facilitators then asked the two-dozen or so senior alliance execs in the room how they would describe their leadership style and how much time they spend on boundary bridging. General consensus in the room: 50 percent, if not more, of their time is spent on internal alignment across boundaries.

“It’s a full-time challenge to do this. It’s not just something you can do and be done,” commented one pharmaceutical alliance leader.

“I find I have to be task-oriented even when being ambassador,” said another senior pharma business development and alliance leader.

A leader in a large high-tech company with an immature alliance practice commented that, “since it’s a new alliance management function at our company, the ratio is much higher. We have to do the WIFM—‘what’s in it for me?’—lots of meetings, lots of time spent,” the exec explained. Her boss “spends 90 percent of his time as ambassador and is more networked than most senior leaders at company,” she continued, adding, “But we do split duty—you can evangelize, but you can’t deliver the goods if you’re not executing.”

Another leader commented that “it’s a fallacy that software will solve the problem, that [you can]manage by software, manage by milestones, and forget about alignment. Then you are managing instead of leading. And if leaders are not leading, managers default to tactical.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s coverage of the Leadership Forum and other seminal leadership discussions at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

Tags:  ARM Partners  boundary bridgers  communication  Dave Luvison  McKinsey  stakeholders  strategic alliances  The Rhythm of Business  Timothy B. Steele 

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The Modeling and Management of Alliances: Workshop Takes Deep Dive into Three Models for Collaborative Business

Posted By Noel B. Richards, Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A preconference workshop delving into three different alliance models caught the attention of over a dozen pre-conference attendees at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Co-facilitators Ard-Pieter de Man, CSAP, PhD, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Dave Luvison, CSAP, PhD, Loyola University Maryland, instructed on the horizontal “sharing” model, the diagonal “specialization” model, and the vertical “allocation” model in the session “Building Your Collaborative Business Model.”

The two discussed how the sharing model is an alliance focused on sharing customers and information in order to generate more revenue for each partner, typically with a 50-50 split of this revenue. The specialization model is more about leveraging certain strengths or unique skills of each partner so that each can gain something they did not have before, resulting in the ability to increase revenue with new or improved products. Lastly, the allocation model works to reduce risk by delegating tasks that are a weakness for one company to a partner that expresses excellence in that specific area.

Once the co-facilitators established a baseline understanding of these alliance models, best management practices for each model and the hybridizations between them became apparent. “The bigger question is how you should manage these models, as not every model should be managed the same way,” Luvison pointed out.

The workshop co-facilitators also instructed on how to determine which specific framework is right for your alliance, based on the goals and purpose. The specific models are incredibly fluidconstantly moving, changing, and molding to specific needs, they said. Luvison and De Man then brought up the three things that need management across the boardincentives, relationships, and accountability. Additionally, they shared the idea that 70 percent to 80 percent of the problem in alliances is convincing people internal to the company rather than the partner.

After examining various methods of managing each type of alliance model, they encouraged the audience to split into groups and discuss best management practices. Though these practices may differ across alliance types, all group participants agreed upon the importance of consistent, fluid, and open communication among partner.

Also central to the discussion: as models adjust and change over the lifespan of the alliance, it is critically important that the alliance ensure that the partners are aligned and “on the same page.” Recognizing the scope and scale of each partnership and communicating about the alliance with the appropriate groups of people, notably the C-suite, is also fundamental to success. If one partner sees the alliance following a sharing model while the other recognizes it more as an allocation model, problems will arise. Ensuring and maintaining a mutual understanding of what model the alliance takes is vitally important.

“You’re half the battle. Getting your own organization on board with the alliance is quite important, so do this first, then get the partner on board,” said Luvison.

Once there is a clear mutual understanding of the model the alliance is founded upon, partners must turn inward and ensure consistency understanding within the company. This helps empower teams to deal with issues as they arise, they concluded. Though there are additional complexities in managing each model an alliance assumes, if self-awareness and open communication is pursued, the alliance and the companies involved will benefit across the board.

Noel B. Richards is a staff writer for ASAP Media. Stay tuned for more of the ASAP Media team’s comprehensive on-site coverage of 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit sessions on this blog, and in the weekly, monthly, and quarterly Strategic Alliance publications. 

Tags:  alliance  alliance model  allocation model  Ard-Pieter de Man  Dave Luvison  Loyola University Maryland  partner  sharing model  specialization  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

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