How Do You Strengthen and Optimize Partnerships?
Nicole Duffey
Nicole Duffey
Senior Vice President, Strategic Solutions

Partnerships can strengthen and enhance all partners, creating opportunities for superb collaboration and growth. But like any relationship, a partnership takes a strong start, continued investment to strengthen, and an ongoing commitment toward sustainability.

Our Nicole Duffey explores some of the nuances of partnerships:

Catch Nicole discussing partnerships in more detail with our Alliance Management Podcast.

What are the top toughest challenges you face when initiating a partnership?

Partnerships are designed to be mutually beneficial, but do not always seem to start off smoothly.

Some of the toughest challenges that I’ve faced when initiating a partnership are resistance to change, poor communication, and lack of clarity in roles. With much experience in managing partnerships, I have learned that these cannot be avoided, but can be proactively managed in such a way as to minimize potential risk to the relationship.

Resistance to change: It is important that the partnership have a strong foundation inclusive of clear goals that are shared with the relevant stakeholders, and that they have executive support backing them. With these components in place, the stakeholders will understand the purpose of the change, recognize that it is supported by their own senior leadership and may even become early adopters.

Poor communication: As simple as it sounds, it is not always easy to ensure clear communication when initiating a partnership, notably since partnerships are often large, include various functional areas with many interworking pieces that need to work like cogs in a wheel to be successful. I have found that initiating partnerships requires a solid communication plan which outlines the expectations for communication as it relates to each of the key components within the initiation.

Lack of clarity in roles: This can be avoided with a clear, comprehensive RACI document which outlines the expectations for all of the key roles within the partnership. When all parties are clear on what is expected of them and others, everyone can effectively do their part to ensure success.

What can a sponsor expect when working through the first stage of partnership development?

A sponsor should expect their partner to have the experience and know-how to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, and to drive the necessary components; however, a sponsor should expect to make an investment of time and resource, notably in the early stages. This early investment should yield effective communication, continued alignment of goals, and ultimately set the stage for a successful partnership.

How critical is it to develop an effective and sustainable mission statement?

A mission statement for a partnership is not effective nor sustainable if it is simply words on paper, or if it is one-sided. To gain effectiveness and sustainability with a mission statement requires collaboration to create the statement and regularly revisiting the mission statement throughout the course of the relationship to ensure it remains relevant to the evolving goals.

What are some of the benefits?

Mutual alignment of goals; measuring the partnership relative to its mission provides objective feedback as to the partnership health; revisiting the statement to ground and/or reset the relationship regularly

What can you expect if a mission statement isn’t developed?

The stakeholders are unclear as to the goals of the partnership, and no one know what success looks like or how it is defined.

What are some unexpected benefits you’ve seen the role of culture play in a long-term successful partnership?

When a partnership is founded with cultural alignment, it makes working through difficult times more manageable. I have seen synergies of culture that have led to industry awards for partnerships.