may not cover all details at the time of signing,” indicating that another best practice might be to clarify and resolve the situation by bringing the other empowered individuals into the dialogue as quickly as possible. Although there may be a place for unilateral escalation, in my own work at Buckingham Alliance Partners I have found it useful to employ a best practice of involving both sides in producing a single, but jointly produced, document that articulates the disagreement and the potential solutions considered together with the problems either partner has with each of these. This method ensures that the nature of the disagreement is clarified and often illuminates paths to resolution before going to senior management.
Bridging the Gap Finally, the panel tackled the importance of purposefully fostering a working relationship between the partner companies’ CEOs or other key executives with responsibility for the success of the collaboration, in advance of having to work through a difficult issue or dispute. Difficulties exist when such a senior-level, peer-to-peer relationship is lacking, and can impact the effectiveness of an alliance manager for the project who may be at a (much) lower level. MacLaughlan observed that “the CEO’s relationships are important, but the sponsor of the relationship may also come from other senior leaders such as R&D and/or marketing, or even a country manager. The organizational level is not as important in an alliance as is the ability to get things done.” He pointed out that “competence and incompetence can occur at all levels, so developing the right relationships is key in multiple functional areas.” According to Williams, although the CEO relationship may or may not be critical, “senior executive” relationships are. “Periodic check-ins, even if the partner company senior exec is not directly involved in the alliance operations, are critical to send the message to the team that the alliance is important,” he said. Khan summarized her viewpoint on connections with the partner another way. “Developing multiple relationships is also key, as individuals do tend to move around, especially in large organizations,” she said. “So not only alliance managers but the management team involved should bear in mind that they should invest in developing multiple working relationships.” Quarter 3, 2011
In the end, senior executive maintenance of bonds with the partner are critical at any level. They can be built and maintained even if there is an intimidating distance in seniority between alliance managers of large and small partners, and best practices can be
The CEO’s relationships are important, but the sponsor of the relationship may also come from other senior leaders such as R&D and/or marketing, or even a country manager. The organizational level is not as important in an alliance as is the ability to get things done. Competence and incompetence can occur at all levels, so developing the right relationships is key in multiple functional areas. readily identified. For example, develop a working relationship before you need to test it on the firing line of dispute resolution by establishing and maintaining backup relationships at many levels and across many functions. Try to determine, in advance, who is likely to succeed the current C-level “champion” for the alliance, so as not to be blindsided when he or she moves out of that role. Finally, look for opportunities to connect with partner senior executives at least once per quarter at industry conferences or during trips for unrelated reasons that take you nearby the partner’s site. The end result should be continuity, mutual respect, and transparency in spite of what may have been seen as intimidating gaps in seniority. n John Buckingham, CSAP, is founder of Buckingham Alliance Partners (www.BuckinghamAP.com), which works with clients to establish and maintain effective external partnering to help companies achieve better business results, with reduced use of internal resources and with lower business risk. He can be contacted at JohnB@BuckinghamAP.com.
Non ASAP Member Limited Edition, Q3, 2011