3 Keys to Effective Inter-Organizational Partnerships

As children, our parents imposed a lot of boundaries upon us. The boundaries were meant to keep us safe, to give us structured responsibilities and to help us learn the ways of respectful communication. We all like boundaries as they help us enable and govern effective relationships, both personal and professional.

TransformationIn business, boundaries are important as well because they help us achieve focused effort and extreme productivity. But almost certainly, as beneficial as they may be, these boundaries end up thwarting efforts of much needed innovation and business transformation at times. This happens when organizational boundaries don’t change with shifts in business imperatives brought on by changes in the buying process. It’s a subtle change over time, but important to recognize and address none the less as it impacts many segments of an organization.

Various career experiences have opened my eyes to the importance of strong inter-organizational partnerships (willingness and ability to work in tandem despite being in different departments or groups) that execute within structured boundaries, especially when engaging in transformational projects. Transformation of any type involves critical business processes that traverse the organization and impact nearly every department.

In my role at ANNUITAS, I help companies transform their demand generation process. One would think that this type of transformation only touches the sales and marketing departments. However, it also significantly impacts IT, executive leadership, finance, customer service, product management and even research & development. As you can imagine, the complexity can be overwhelming, especially for larger organizations.

For transformation to really take hold, the first step is simply to enable transformation to occur. This takes effective inter-organizational partnerships, based on a change-agent mindset and a trusted and proven process. Here are three keys to developing effective inter-organizational partnerships:

1. Shared Vision & Values
Given the complex nature of transformation, the vision has to be defined and embraced at the highest levels of leadership, then cascaded down through the organization for alignment. Change management is the fundamental component with business process and organizational alignment as critical factors. The shared values of transparency, decision making and conflict resolution will help ease disruption and facilitate progress throughout the transformation. Document and share the vision and the partnership values that will ensure success.

2. Clear Expectations & Communications
Identify all the possible scenarios where inter-organizational partnerships will be needed to support the transformation. Invite department leaders into the action committee and task them to define roles/responsibilities, success path, dependencies and boundaries that will impact the project. This removes ambiguity and delivers a plan for implementation and governance that helps clarify any areas of potential risk.

3. Commitment to Timeline & Resources
One of the biggest points of failure in any initiative is in committing resources to a timeline. The right transformational process must include a timeline and resource requirements; not only from a budget perspective, but also from a human capital perspective. Gaining commitment up front will ensure after project launch, resources (or lack of) will not be the sticking point for pauses, delays and failed momentum.

These steps are important no matter the size of your company. Completing these steps prior to a transformational project kickoff will enable critical business decisions to be made before they impact the project. Waiting to execute these steps until after a project launches, puts the future of the project and ultimately, your business in jeopardy.

Author: Tracy Thayne @TracyThayne is SVP, Strategy, ANNUITAS