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Unusual Alliance Management Project in The Netherlands Wins ASAP Alliance Excellence Award for Model that Streamlines Government Services

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, March 2, 2017

There was plenty of celebration and even a few surprises at this year’s annual Alliance Excellence Awards that took place at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28–March 2, at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, Calif. USA. One was the presentation of the Individual Alliance Excellence Award, which recognizes organizations that have instituted practices, tools, and methodologies in support of successful formation and management for a single alliance. The award was given to Loonaangifteketen-UWV-CBS-Belastingdienst for their novel alliance created between three government agencies in The Netherlands: Belastingdienst (Dutch IRA), UWV (Dutch National Social Security Administration), and CBS (Statistics Netherlands). The agencies applied a governance model that emphasized cross-agency collaboration that generates 60 percent of the Dutch government’s revenue in an easy-to-use system for pensions and social security benefits. The alliance lowered costs while increasing convenience to the citizenry with 96 percent accuracy. After the awards ceremony, I spoke with Diantha Croese, key alliance manager at Loonaangifteketen, Menno Aardewyn, business consultant at UWV, and Paul Vincken, alliance manager at Loonaangifteketen, about their experience, roles in the transition, and how they found themselves in a problem that required alliance management skills.

Diantha: The government wanted to lower administrative and implementation costs and improve convenience for citizens, such as making it easier to request information on taxes, benefits, students grants, pensions, and social security.

Menno: Additionally, there were two streams of money. One was for taxes and wages; the other was from social security. They wanted to bring the two streams together so one organization would complete the money stream.

Paul: The politicians requested the change.

Menno: It was forced on us by the government. The main idea was to make it cheaper and less complicated. But then the problems started.  It went completely wrong in the beginning because there was no attention to the alliance. Many people had to leave our organization, and there was no will to collaborate. People in different division didn’t understand each other.

Diantha: It was almost like the different divisions spoke a different language. The systems failed.  No one had the overhead view of where the risks were. Nobody saw the big picture.

Paul: We worked for two years in a big mess, from 2007-08 until 2010.

Diantha: It required problem analysis.

Menno: The analysis was very pure and prudent. The analysis was ordered by the government and made a lot of things clear.

Diantha: The analysis found we needed to do 50 procedures to get it started again.

Diantha: An independent alliance manager then stepped in and told everyone what to do. That helped bring people together, and helped us understand our role, why things weren’t working, and what we could do to get it to work.

Menno: He was an overriding authority.

Paul: He could intervene in the processes of the partner organization. That was his power. He had an extremely powerful start.

Menno: He was one of the solutions to solve the problems after the analysis.  This was normal procedure, but the alliance management tasks started after the first big meeting we had over two days with all of the key players on all the management levels of all the organization. It included the people who had all of the systems knowledge. These 40 people reorganized the thoughts they had. The old classical management instructions that are based on a hierarchical system weren’t working. We started to think completely new again on what we needed to manage with each other, and how we should do it together. So it was collaboration from the beginning.

Diantha: Each organization had someone they reported to, and they were aligned together in relationships they had not been in before.

Menno: We noticed in the analysis there were four dimensions that needed to be addressed to solve the problems: content, procedure (how it should be done), relationship needs, and cultural difference (awareness of the collaborating partners). We evaluated with surveys on how to manage the four dimensions. These diagnostics were really important to mirror what was really happening.

Diantha: We noticed some of the problems we faced couldn’t be solved between us, so we had to find other partners who could help us and create value for each other. We had been so busy with our own process, we finally had time to look around and see what other people were doing.

Paul: So we are evolving into a new ecosystem.

Menno: There are no boundaries anymore working together.

Diantha: They feel like colleagues.

Diantha: We did a lot of trust building. There are no groups anymore.

Paul: We are one.

Menno: It was really worth it also for our personal development. We changed because the organization changed.

Diantha: We have a lot of storytelling now so people can learn from our experiences.

Menno: We wrote a little book about all of our experiences and all the experiences we had with other organizations. The resulting system is transferable to any government. We mention many more alliances than just our own alliance.

Diantha: The model can be used in public or private companies. It’s all about aligning people.

Menno: But not just in knowledge, but the way we behave, the procedures, and how to respect each other.

Diantha: You have to help others to become successful, and that needs to be in the brain of every employee. It’s important that those at the top of the organization who want a collaboration practice what they preach. If that is not in order, then you have a problem. 

Tags:  alliance  alliance manager  Belastingdienst  CBS  collaboration  Diantha Croese  ecosystem  Loonaangifteketen  Management Project  Menno Aardewyn  Netherlands  partner  Paul Vincken  UWV 

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