Project Practitioners > Adapting to Our Partners' Perspective

Adapting to Our Partners' Perspective

By Jeff Richardson

RiffPartnering is an evolving practice that is essential for survival in our rapidly growing global economy.  On the surface the process seems simple and the savings substantial, but lying below the surface is a host of challenges and conflicts waiting to undermine good intentions.  Your NDA’s and legal contracts are the least of your problems.  When I first got involved in multi-company collaboration programs I was somewhat naive to the intricate differences in company cultures.  There are hundreds of small, seemingly insignificant ways of operating that go unnoticed when immersed in your company’s ‘business as usual’ mode. These differences become sources of conflict and mistrust as we interpret different meanings and make incorrect assumptions when the work begins.

Pink elephantTackling the “big pink elephant in the room” (aka – the issue EVERYONE sees, but nobody wants to talk about) sets a great precedence for the way the new partnership will be handled and you will lead – head on with transparency.  Individuals will be coming in with a large set of negative stereotypes and assumptions because a partnership brings a lot of unknowns.  The brain is hard wired to assess ‘friend or foe’ at the outset as a first line of defense against threats.  Is your new partner also a competitor?  Quadruple the suspicion level is what my experience tells me.  So the leaders must overcome this natural tendency mistrust upfront by acknowledging the differences and challenges up front.  There are some less obvious advantages to partnering with a more diverse set of team members, so reinforce the positive attributes of the partnership as well.  The more we work in an expanded multi-cultural setting the easier it becomes.  

 


PartneringThere is plenty of time prior to the kickoff event to set the stage and prepare key people to share their company perspective.  Begin with the executive level by better understanding the driver for the partnership.  If you’re the one championing the new collaboration, get sponsors onboard first.  Their support and guidance will be paramount as the project builds momentum.  Despite all the differences, there are more things in common than you imagine.  Start building the relationships with members from the other group to start uncovering some of these similarities before a more cautious look at the differences.  Help reframe the differences by identifying positive attributes it brings to the project.  Say their company prefers using a structured processes and being detailed-oriented is part of the company culture.  Highlight how this will make the risk management plan more robust and assign team roles to leverage these strengths..  Call out areas of potential conflict in working styles, goals and processes so that team agreements can be established upfront to head off issues before they negatively impact the project.  Continue to build trust between organizations at each team meeting, especially if you’re constantly adding more people to the joint venture.  Celebrate success stories and small wins to keep the focus on what’s working instead of what’s not.



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