Organizational management of alliance differences is a complex and seemingly forbidding task. But it is actually built from
a relatively small number of essential components:
The right skills and mindset. Collaborative behaviors begin with people with the appropriate skills and orientation. Companies tend to rely on training
programs to build necessary skills. Whether it's continuing education for executives working on strategic alliances or quarterly
workshops for internal alliance teams, training though important, is not enough. Individual mindsets must be consistent with
desired behaviors if employees are to apply them for more than the few weeks that follow a training course. To instill the
desired skills and outlook in a lasting way, companies must use a three-pronged approach—training and hiring, leadership messages,
How to Grow an Alliance
- Training is necessary to teach those involved the collaboration skills needed to solve day-to-day issues (separating interests
from positions, conducting difficult conversations, negotiating, and conflict- resolution techniques). But companies must
also emphasize the ability to engage collaboratively across organizational boundaries in their recruiting efforts as well
as their employment criteria. Hiring people with the requisite technical, but not collaborative, skills will not help the
organization manage alliances.
- Even skills do not lead to the desired behaviors if leadership messages and examples are inconsistent with what management
would prefer to see. Leaders in the organization must be effective role models, supporting and demonstrating the collaborative
behavior they insist on from others. Senior alliance members should send clear, strong messages about the power of joint problem
solving and their expectations that people will engage in it without prompting whenever that is called for.
- Formal incentives (compensation structures, review criteria, and reward systems) and informal incentives (giving public accolades
to those who exemplify collaboration and telling success stories) should be established to motivate employees to exhibit collaborative
Companies with the right people still need processes and tools that support collaboration. "How to Grow an Alliance" illustrates
the alliance management lifecycle and offers examples of processes and tools that assist collaboration at each stage.
Companies should establish structures specifically designed to support collaborative behaviors. This might be either a central
alliance function, a center of alliance excellence, or an alliance manager community of practice (a cross-organizational support
mechanism that links alliance managers across the enterprise). This last structure enables people throughout the organization
to call on alliance management expertise, ensuring it is applied when and where it is needed.
Alliance Capability Model
They should also develop roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships that describe and support collaborative behaviors.
One way to foster them is by deputizing qualified people to play the role of alliance management mentor, coach, relationship
manager, and executive champion.
The "Alliance Capability Model" describes the elements of alliance management and how they inter- relate. Putting a system
like this in place allows collaborative behaviors to form, raising the likelihood of alliance success.
The main features of the model are:
Strategy. Directly linked to alliance management—both at the portfolio and individual level—strategy informs alliance choice and modification.
Results are then fed back into strategy.
Individual alliance management. The primary functions—launch, implement, review—are undertaken by participants across the alliance.
- Alliance formation. New alliances are launched with partners guided by the collaborative procedures that recognize and help both sides overcome
the differences that divide them.
Problem-solving perspective. Day-to-day conflicts are resolved collaboratively, applying concepts like joint contribution.
Metrics. Mutually agreed upon and monitored to optimize performance, measurements are essential to know what is going on and how
it varies from expectations.