Strategy & Leadership

How to create successful partnerships

February 23, 2016

The success rate of a partnership may be significantly increased by applying a number of best practices. Geert Heling, who teaches the master class "Working together in Networks and Alliances" has been researching the successes and failures of partnerships. He shares three best practices that increase the success rate.

A partnership has on average a 50-percent chance of being successful. I have been studying partnerships for 20 years. I am doing research into factors that determine the success of an alliance. What is interesting about these studies is that the results rarely vary. Apparently, the pitfalls and the success factors remain the same for years. That shows that my results are very robust. I can almost predict in advance what the results of a new research will be. I have collected best practices from all these studies.

1. Do not underestimate the role of the alliance manager

An alliance manager has a difficult task. He or she has to constantly negotiate a web of tensions. On the one hand, managing the relationship is very important, on the other hand, he must sort things out with a party that is not above him in hierarchy. Alliance managers are often "people persons": they are empathic and can get along with people. Making business agreements – which sometimes makes it necessary to stand on one's authority – is something alliance managers find difficult.

Research shows, however, that it is advisable to build a business relationship into a partnership. The more businesslike the agreements are from the start, the better it is for the relationship. That is the alliance manager's role.

2. Evaluate regularly

Evaluation plays an important role in assessing properly whether a partnership is successful. I recommend doing this at least four-six times a year. It is therefore important to agree in advance which measuring points will be used: when is the partnership successful and which intermediate results must be achieved when. These are SMART measuring points to keep the evaluation clear-cut for all parties.

3. Agree on an exit strategy in advance

Some companies do have partnerships, but they are no longer successful and just keep dragging on. These are zombie alliances. They waste time and energy.

In fact, a partnership is just like a relationship. Two parties fall in love with each other and want to work to create something beautiful. During the honeymoon they do not think about the consequences if things go wrong. This is often the same during the start of a partnership.

To prevent zombie-alliances, it is important to agree on an exit strategy in advance. By naming objective measurement points for when and how the partnership would end, you avoid a messy divorce.

Applying the above best practices can significantly increase the success rate of a partnership and save organizations from wasting too much time and energy on alliances that are actually not successful.

Do you want your collaborations to be successful?

The TIAS master class "Working together in Networks and Alliances" teaches in three days what to focus on if you want to achieve an optimal collaboration with your partners and how to get everyone heading in the same direction.

Read more about the master class "Working together in Networks and Alliances"

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