Clause 5 – Strategic – Understanding your collaborative capability
Before defining what you expect of others, it’s important to understand your own capabilities. By recognising your own strengths and weaknesses you’ll ensure that you make best use of the abilities of your business partners.
Most organisations are very good at defining what they want from others but perhaps less willing to assess their own capability to meet the demands of collaboration. A collaborative relationship is a two way street and to achieve the desired goals it requires commitment on all sides.
This is not just about processes, procedures, systems and contracts (the HARD process issues). It is also a question of the people drivers (the so called SOFT issues) such as leadership, skills and motivation, which will govern the behaviours and approaches at the working level. Understanding the internal enablers that build trust between the parties based on mutual benefit and equitable reward is important.
Undertake self assessment
Organisations that want to build robust collaborative programmes need to ensure there are the appropriate rules of engagement clearly embedded in their operational approaches. This ensures that, over time, behaviours remain aligned to the agreed objectives and goals.
It is useful to take a step back and consider what, in terms of current operating practice, may constrain effective collaboration and get these issues addressed. These can vary widely but may come from programme ownership, cross functional barriers, incentive and performance measure policies, together with systems and procedures.
Establish collaborative profile
Undertake a review of your organisation’s collaborative profile to provide an external perspective on whether it would make a suitable collaborative partner.
A variety of models can be used, including the maturity matrix within BS 11000. For collaboration to work effectively, potential partners must see you as an intelligent partner they can work openly with.
Establish collaborative leadership
The key to successful collaboration comes from having the right leadership. This is a difficult role since the leaders may be required to fight the partner’s corner internally. In addition, they need to be able to engender and maintain the ethos of collaboration by both supporting and mentoring those involved.
Establish partner selection criteria
As part of the internal assessment it is also useful to establish in each case what your partner should look like. This process enables the organisation to set its agenda and also provides a basis for evaluation later in the process.
Establish and implement action plan
It is unlikely that every organisation will have an abundance of skilled professionals ready to take on a collaborative role. Recognising the gaps and building in process capability development is important.
Use the relationship aspects of standard training programmes for this – such as leadership, risk management, negotiation, dispute resolution, communications, strategy development, process development, integrated planning and contract development.
With the building blocks in place organisations can move forward with a degree of confidence to address the market.