Clause 9 – Management – Managing relationships over time
Business relationships will likely change over time. This may be as a result of either internal and external factors or pressures. Even where partners have invested in creating a firm foundation and governance the people involved will develop or move on, which will change the dynamics of the relationship. This is a strong reason for embedding the collaborative practice in the operating model.
To ensure a partnership is maintained at its most effective level, a range of mutually agreed measures should be implemented to help maximise effectiveness. In this stage continuous improvement is addressed as well as developing a dispute resolution process.
Ongoing management, monitor and measure the relationship
The principle key to sustaining any relationship is to ensure there is effective joint management of the approach. This should be focused on managing the day to day activities of the relationship.
Most organisations will have established processes for monitoring performance. Frequently however these are focused on outcomes, deliverables and profitability. These are clearly important, but where collaboration is an integral part of the business, performance monitoring should also include monitoring the strength of the relationship.
It is common practice to use both service level agreements (SLA’s) and key performance indicators (KPI’s). However, these may become confused and create friction between the parties. It is important to understand and agree how the performance of the contract and the relationship will be jointly measured and to ensure appropriate reviews are undertaken.
There should be consistent monitoring of innovation and continual improvement to ensure the partnering teams are exploiting their joint knowledge and where appropriate enhancing their skills.
Maintain behaviours and trust
Developing trust in the relationships and ensuring the appropriate behaviours is a key aspect of joint management. As trust increases, the performance of the relationship should increase the value it delivers. The wrong behaviours – such as hidden agendas, opportunism, lack of responsiveness, secretiveness, dishonesty, uncommunicativeness or unwillingness to share information – will quickly undermine the situation, with the obvious impacts on output.
Manage delivery and performance
Business relationships are created to meet the challenges and demands of the market and customers, whether internal or external. Collaborative initiatives are no different in this respect. While it is important to develop the relationship, the prime objectives and contractual requirements must be met.
Manage issue resolution and monitor joint exit strategy
Inevitably concerns will arise. Too often these are left to fester until they can in some cases irreparably damage the relationship. A crucial factor for any collaborative approach is to ensure a robust approach to identifying and managing disputes. If handled well these issues are can significantly strengthen a relationship.
The final aspect of maintaining the relationship is to ensure the exit strategy is jointly developed, regularly reviewed and updated, if necessary, by the joint management team.