A Business Alliance is Not a Marriage - Part 4
By Victoria Tucker, June 2007
Step 10. Speed Up Communication
This does not suggest you should just talk faster. Laurence Haughton, author of It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small… It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow makes the case for moving faster when it comes to decision making and subsequent communication and execution.
First, when considering communication ramp-up, think about whether or not you have the right people in the right place at the right time. Often in alliances, milestones run the risk of being delayed or missed because the wrong people attend decision making meetings (See Step 6). If meetings are held, but no decision makers are present, then what’s the point?
Secondly, most folks have yet to identify a way with which to organize the vast piles of electronic documentation and information being sent to them. “What attachment? No… I didn’t get it… must be the firewall.” “Oh yeah, I think you sent something, but I didn’t know you wanted me to respond to it.” “Why didn’t you copy me in on the meeting minutes? I’ll need to look that over before I can respond to you.”
What to do?
Consider enhancing and streamlining multi-media communication via a dedicated web portal. Share Point is an example of how you can build a portal site relatively quickly from templates. You’ll want to authenticate that your organization’s server is inside of security protected zones. Once done, investigate web portals. Some of the benefits you get from a dedicated portal are:
Access by Invitation Only
Alliance Artifact Archiving
Alerts Users to News; E-Updates
Provides for Message Bulletin Board/ Other Communiqué Postings
Plug and Play Video Conferencing (High Resolution Capabilities for Some Portal Features)
Step 11. Create On Site Project Alliance Office
If you find yourself in an alliance endeavor and you believe your organization has the most to win or even lose from the relationship, then consider placing a highly qualified team on site with your alliance cohort. Out of sight, out of mind is still a truism today. By placing a Project Lead and assistant on site, you have individuals there to engage in tactical day-to-day oversight of the project. They’re visible and more importantly, in the same time zone. They have faces and names. They’re available for the quick ten minute hallway conversation about the latest FDA rulings and they can grab lunch or a cup of coffee to learn more about what "John is really thinking when it comes to patient advocacy."
The individual(s) who travel and then work on site with your alliance counterpart should have exceptional interpersonal skills in addition to a high level of organizational aptitude and other project management skills.
What to do? There are of course many technical aspects to consider, but don't forget the following when giving thought to an onsite Project Alliance Office:
Can your staff address the "task" end of the project as well as the "process"; e.g. conflict resolution, decision making, etc.
Is there an ability to effectively influence those without the authority to do so.. when a direct reporting relationship does not exist?
How well can he or she facilitate groups, activities, decisions and tasks?
How well can he or she maintain neutrality so as not to appear overly biased?
Step 12. Be Respectful. Be Cool. Be Flexible.
Planning is messy. Alliance project planning can be even messier. After all, you’ve got two companies with differing views on investment, risk and reward. One of our colleagues in a life science organization says "You should never get married to an idea...just engaged." We tend to agree. The likelihood of having to change some components of your alliance project endeavor is almost certain.
Be ready for that. Know that there are probably several different ways to get to an agreed upon outcome, it doesn’t have to be your way. By maintaining a respectful demeanor in both word and more importantly, action, you will be much more likely to influence those around you during the certain to occur moments of chaos. Keep your cool and be ready to flex as needed.
The 12 Step Program to Alliance Management Recovery may not be for everyone, but we think the tenets have some merit. At the very least, it should put managing alliances in a healthier perspective.
Following a few of these steps should put you in true business alliance dating form in no time.