Discovery Leadership Masterclass Series: LEADERSHIP INCLUSION (Part II)

  • …..leveraging the impacts of collaborative partnership for value creation and sustainable development

The systemic “silo” of leadership action and its fragmented organizational landscape has been steadily giving way to working partnerships and collaborations. Leaders have no choice if they are to succeed in addressing the mounting challenges and expectations of crisis response and objectives than to practice inclusivity through partnerships and collaborations. Unleashing the impacts of collaborative partnerships in essence brings together the cutting-edge thinking from beyond organizations of what an organizations needs to do in practice to partner effectively and combine it with the latest thinking of sustainable leadership development and inclusion.

However, establishing the reasons behind why leaders and organizations have to work with partners across countries, businesses or within their value chain is the desire to expand or the need to cut down costs. Whichever way necessary, the growth of partnerships and collaborations in recent years have accelerated, driven by the benefits of risk and resource pooling, technology convergence, industry value networks and knowledge diffusion.

Meanwhile, given the significant investment of both time and resources required to develop and manage collaborative partnerships, it is crucial to access the genuine potential to create value for partners, evaluate the impacts and inputs for common leverage. Therefore, ‘leveraging the impacts of collaborative partnerships for value creation’ as a leadership inclusion subject in this article would attempt to address the need for strategic partnerships and collaboration efforts and how to build leadership and institutional capacities for partnership success. Let’s talk collaborative partnership through inclusive leadership.

Partnerships

Key areas of partnership and collaboration agreements involve major decision by organizations in creating relationship through an expressed or implied commitment to satisfy a common goal. Partnerships must be viewed as more than a contractual division of responsibilities and resources for tackling a common goal. Much more, it touches on the power of relationships, leadership and organizational culture which predominantly aims to help organizations to understand the degree to which they are currently set up to be institutionally fit for partnering.

Every partnership would require that parties have in place the right strategies, systems and process, culture, capacity and networks to be able to partner effectively and better contribute to the sustainability of the partnership agreement for the benefit of the organizations or parties involved.

The resource sets out to support companies in understanding the potential of optimized collaborative partnering lays out how to undertake a diagnostic on the degree they are set up and operating to be institutionally fit for partnering. Meanwhile, while it may seem obvious that the creation of value should be the basis for all partnerships, the issue is often confused both by a lack of definition of what we mean by value and by the related question, value to whom?

Value Creation:

Today’s critique in leadership discourse includes a call on companies to include a broader set of stakeholders in their decision making beyond just their shareholders. It is a view that has long been influential in organizational build up, where it is frequently embedded in corporate governance structures.

The approach is gaining traction especially when organizations consider to travel the trajectory of collaborative partnership agreement where Value creation is the primary aim of defining the agreement and the entire business goal. Value creation for customers for instance help sell products and services, while creating value for shareholders, insures the future availability of investment capital to fund operations. Moreover, understanding what creates value will help leaders focus capital and talent on the, cost and profitable opportunities for partnerships growth and sustainability.

The question however is how well enough is? Value creation is inclusive for organizations anywhere in the world, that is creating long-term shareholder value requires satisfying other stakeholders as well. You cannot create long-term value by ignoring the needs of your customers, suppliers, employees and partners. Investing for sustainable growth should and often does result in stronger economies, higher living standards and more opportunities for individuals. Value creating companies and agreements create opportunities for job creation and stakeholder satisfaction.

Inevitably, there will also be times when the interest of a company’s stakeholders are not complementary. In this context, it is advised that strategic leadership decisions of all kinds consider trade-offs to satisfy inclusivity and mutually exclusive benefits.

Collaborations:

Collaborative partnerships speaks to agreements and actions made by consenting organizations to share resources to accomplish a mutual goal. Here, collaborative partnerships rely on participation by at least two parties who agree to share resources as finances, knowledge and people. The essence of collaborative partnerships for all parties is to mutually benefit from working together.

Collaboration may mean engaging stakeholders, managing customer relationships, negotiation, building networks, appreciating diversity and dealing with conflicts. Collaborations are not only necessary to get things done but in most cases it provides the impetus to build a design process for support so to increase capacity for leadership sustainability and optimum performance.

The obvious questions that arise are that, does the leader or organization has the capacity to enter into a collaboration or partnership with others? What is the value addition that are being brought on board as a result of the relationship and whether there is a clear plan for the collaboration agenda? It is suggestive to admit that, every effective collaborative journey is determined by capacity, the relationship, processes and outcome expectation which would necessarily be supported by skillful abilities of the parties to make it a success.

While there is never a perfect time for leadership collaborations, it is important that every leader in the collaborative agenda be as prepared as possible and with the capacity to work with other partners. Collaboration across leadership and organizations have emerged as one of the defining concepts of organization development and leadership inclusion in the recent times. This new phenomenon serves as a response to the limitations of the traditional leadership led approach to an all-inclusive development approach, seeing an essential paradigm for sustainable development.

Collaborative advantage

Our world has limited resources whether financial, natural or human and as a society we must optimize their use. The fundamental core of good partnership and collaboration is their ability to bring together diverse resources in ways that can together achieve more, more impact, greater sustainability, increased value to all.

The importance of partnership has been recognized fully by the UN, business and all leading institutions in international development. The 2030 sustainable Development Goals (SDG’S), the blueprint for global development represent a fundamental shift in thinking explicitly acknowledging the interconnectedness of prosperous business, a thriving society and a healthy environment.

Thereforecollaborations must lead to some benefits and advantages. Collaboration between different sectors in society to achieve sustainable development goals is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon worldwide. However, cross-sector partnerships are by their nature challenging, requiring collaboration between players from diverse organizations that may have quite different priorities, values and ways of working to be effective.

These challenges are typically reflected in all aspects of communication both within and outside the partnership. It is vital therefore, to identify exactly what these challenges are and how to systematically address them so that communication becomes a part of the partnership-building process, not a cause of persistent dissent.

Consequently, Richard Sennett intimated that, cooperation oils the machinery of getting things done, make up for and sharing with others what we may individually lack”. Collaborative advantage leads to finding effective mechanisms for creating economic value and mutual support.

Why Strategic Partnerships?

Individuals or Organizations enter into partnerships to either leverage, integrate or transform. In any strategic partnership collaborations, the partners remain independent, share the benefits from, risk in and control over joint actions and make ongoing contributions in strategic areas. Partnerships take time and effort. Thoughtful relationship-building strengthens trust, compatibility and ultimately the productivity of the partnership and the impact of work together.

The hypothesis underpinning a partnership approach is that only with comprehensive and widespread cross-sector collaboration can we ensure that sustainable development initiatives are imaginative, coherent and integrated enough to tackle the most intractable problems.

Single sector approaches have been tried and have proved disappointing. Working separately, different sectors have developed activities in isolation, sometimes competing with each other and or duplicating effort and wasting valuable resources. Working separately has all too often led to the development of a “blame culture” in which chaos or neglect is always regarded as someone else’s fault.

Essentially, partnership provides a new opportunity for doing development better by recognizing the qualities and competencies of each sector and finding new ways of harnessing these for the common good. What does each sector whether the public, business or civil society bring? The “core business” of each sector leads to quite different priorities, values and attributes.

Arguably, too many partnership have been entered into on the basis that collaboration is a good thing, with insufficient attention paid to the essential questions: what is the power of partnership as a mechanism, the intrinsic added-value it brings, towards delivering on the organizational goals and expectations and how would each individual partner gain net value from its participation?

Effective Partnerships

To identify, build and maintain an effective, sustainable and impactful partnership is to have adequate resources to invest in the relationship. Effective operations to develop and manage collaborative projects or programs as well as maintaining partner agreement, skillful leadership to guide the partnership and projects are needful for sustaining effective partnerships. It is worth mentioning as well that, effective partnerships thrives on partners who have skills, resources and commitment to support the project and partnership at each phase.

The journey for effective partnership must focus on maximizing value for the partners as a whole and for all the partners. Good collaborative relationships are initially created by routine interactions between organizations.

It is through the interactions that potential partners learn about one another, identify each other’s expertise and interest and begin to build the essential foundation of trust and respect for one another. It is also through experiences that organizations begin to identify potential candidates for partnership when the need for collaboration arises.

Building Leadership and Institutional Partnering Capacity

How do partners help to build the capacities of those institutions involved? It is to be noted that effective partnerships do not occur overnight. It takes time to build trust and understanding of how best to work together. Developing and maintaining partnerships requires ongoing commitment and effort. It is important to choose the right partner at the right time for both your organizations.

Building an effective leadership capacity for partnership is a question of helping institutions internalize the partnership’s lessons. Sometimes it is simply a matter of time, but more often it is a case of combating active or passive resistance. There are several different approaches leaders can employ to build greater institutional capacity in the institutions and organizations involved directly or indirectly in the partnership.

These can include bringing their experiences of cross-sector collaborations into the institutions in order to build organizational culture change, human resource development, dynamic networks, better communications and opportunities for getting out of the box.

Quite essentially, strategic partnerships are formed to address the competitive threats of imitation and substitution. These fundamental reasons must be addressed in the value channel area for the imitation threats whereas the response to substitution should lie in strategies at the business model level.

Ideally, businesses that decide to pursue or build partnerships should introduce changes at the strategy level, including organizational structure, processes and most importantly ensure commitment at all levels. Companies should clearly define the areas in which the partnership should be built based on its general strategy as well as its objectives.

Once the biggest challenges of leadership and sustainability issues are resolved, Partners both individual and collectively, need to have a moving on strategy in mind possibly from the very beginning and even articulated in the initial partnering agreement.

The Partnering Processes: ‘Dixon Model’

Establishing and implementing a partnership is basically a dynamic process. Each stage has series of specific steps and activities that need to be addressed. In the early stage, potential partners come together to explore the possibilities of a partnership, the overall purpose and the value to each partner. At the creating phase of the partnering process, the activities like deciding when to partner, developing collaborative bid proposals, designing communication processes, and developing appropriate protocols among others take place.

The next stage in creating partnerships ensures that, once there is commitment to proceed a detailed strategic partnership plan is developed, resources are considered and implementation commenced. At the commitment level, resources are mapped for the partnership to commence, strategic partnership agreement is developed, engage technical expertise to inform the partnership, build capacity initiatives with partners, manage and coordinate the partnership flow.

The last stage of the partnership sustainability level encompasses the establishment and review of the partnership deal flow to assess the delivery, continuation or otherwise of all that has been planned. Under this peculiar circumstances, monitoring commitments, reviewing and evaluating of outcomes, developing new strategic directions and the capturing of the key learnings to resolve conflicts and differences are desirous.

Interestingly, every partnership agenda is to champion relationship management, coordination and administration, communications, monitoring, awareness creation, resource mobilization and planning.

Securing the commitment of a partner through interest-based negotiation and the examination of certain critical governance and accountability issues of the partnering agreement is fundamentally crucial to the partnering agreement processes.

Key Partnering Challenges:

Strategic partnerships inevitably involve challenges that have to be resolved efficiently to ensure the longevity and success of the alliance, such as isolating proprietary knowledge, processing multiple flows, creating adaptive governance and operating global virtual teams.

According to research, reasons for the success or failure of most partnerships included the importance of matching the objectives, values of relevant stakeholders, effective governance and the necessity for a strategic partnership to be mutually beneficial.

In summary, however, if leaders and organizations would create value through collaborative partnerships and supports, they need to understand how to manage creativity and know-how to manage efforts and embrace building relationships today.

Discovery….Thinking solutions, shaping visions.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Frank is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group.

Dr. Obuobi (Banker/SME Consultant and Leadership Strategist)