3 Effective Tools on Building Collaborative Strategic Partnerships

MSME ARTICLE #2/2017 : APRIL 21st 2017

Today’s businesses are experiencing a metamorphosis where flexible collaborative networks are becoming critical for their success. One panacea for creating these collaborative networks are via Strategic Partnerships. The structure of these strategic partnerships refers to a co-operative relationship that exist between the people of two or more organisations. These partnerships hail a bundle of ‘plus’s as endorsed by a 2002 research conducted by Professors McLennand and Troutbeck. Some of the benefits embraced by the partner-organisations include; organisations become more flexibile, responsive, enjoy autonomy, enhance their interlinking “horizontal” communication, achieve consensus decision-making, leverage on their strengths, among others. Additionally, the teams within these partnership reap benefits such as; gaining new competencies, sharing risks, extending their commercial “reach” and moving quickly to take upon new commercial opportunities.

One of my clients was experiencing a lack of ‘gel’ling with their strategic partner. As a result, the team members were not able to collaborate effectively and achieve their set KPIs. This led to a lot of lost opportunities as well as lost time in moving the project forward. As their Team Coach, I shared and practiced with them 3 Effective Tools on building collaborative strategic partnerships.These were:-

Tool #1: Accepting Our Difference

Using a Gamification Activity, the participants worked in pairs using a single sheet of blank A4 paper each. Standing with their backs to each other, the team coach gave verbal instructions to fold the piece of paper, how and where to tear the paper. Upon completion of the exercise, to their amazement, nearly all of them discovered that their pieces of paper, did not match each other. Upon deeper exploration by the coach, the participants realized and drew up their key learnings, as follows:-

• People interpret and understand communication differently despite the fact they receive similar instructions, leading to different outcomes

• People make errors or mistakes. These are to be re-framed as ‘attempts’ rather mistakes, and key learning points can be drawn from these attempts

• Communication is fortified when using a multi-mode platform, viz., using email, face-to-face meets and phone-calls. The sender of information can double-check if the recipient received the right understanding of the message.

• Communication can be re-enforced on a regular pace, via lunch-meetings, webex calls, etc. Then confidence will escalate to higher levels on both sides, meaning that any disruptions that emerge along the journey can be tackled with swift speed.

Tool #2: Embracing our Similarities

Using a Gamification Activity, the participants sat in a formation called the ‘wagon-wheel’, with participants sitting in two wheels or circles, an outer and an inner circle. They took turns to share, using this phrase “JUST LIKE ME……”. Once they had completed their sharing, the team coach elicited their learnings from this activity. These were:

• Eventhough we are so different, finding similarities is not difficult as well as it generates fun

• The more similarities we find in each other, the more we tend to like the other person

• It is much easier to work and trust people whom we like

Tool #3: My Contibution and My Needs

Using the tool, the participants were given a blank A4 sheet of paper divided into two columns; my Needs and My Contribution. Individually, they wrote down two needs/expectations they would like their project partner to fulfil. In exchange, they wrote two things that they were going to contribute to make the project a success. By establishing this, both the partners realised the following;

• They gained insights into each others expectations

• They gained clarity over what they were willing to contribute to make a difference

• They realized an easy way to secure better alignment of expectations

• They received better understanding of priorities of their partners


After a year of facing challenges, my client and their teams embraced these three Tools and felt a surge of fresh energy to champion their cause. Some of their LEARNINGS were; a deeper sense of being understood; a higher level of appreciation of their pain and challenges; a broader valuation of their roles and expectations as well as how smoothly all parties expectations can be managed. They moved from a level of feeling lack of understanding to a level of HOPE!


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