Global consultancy McKinsey & Company published an article in its prestigious McKinsey Quarterly in which author Marco Albani sum up to seven the number of ways to make partnerships successful. Albani’s insights refer specifically to advices to take into consideration when creating and maintaining an alliance to address social and environmental issues, but tips can be likewise applied to any kind of partnerships and all sorts of Co- initiatives.
These seven habits for a highly effective Co- are the result of a research consisting basically in the interview of dozens of business, government, and NGO leaders.
These were the seven essential principles identified for success in a Co- initiative:
01.- Identify clear reasons to collaborate
Any collaboration must make sense for all parties. Commitment can be weak if partners sign up for an alliance simply because they don’t want to say no. A nascent partnership must identify strong incentives.
02.- Find a ‘fairy godmother’
As in any other kinds of projects, first movers take the biggest risks. Behind most successful collaborations are one or a few organizations that are willing to invest more than the rest to make the effort a success. And that’s ok. For any idea of Co-, you can probably find a high-performing, credible institution that can be a fairy godmother for the project because is passionate, credible, and courageous enough about the idea. Take profit of such organizations if you find them.
03.- Set simple, credible goals
One main barrier for collaboration success is partners with different agendas. Is therefore necessary to avoid this by setting. An aspirational goal that everyone agrees on… and everyone involved can achieve.
04.- Get professional help
When organizations come together, they each could have their own incentives, biases, and organizational cultures. Odds of conflict are highest when organizations are from completely different sectors and cultures. The first few months tend to be particularly rough. Collaboration projects increase their chances of success if a “neutral” facilitator is included in the project. A professional facilitator not only has an expertise on how to implement collaboration but, more importantly, represents a common and neutral ground to work with.
05.- Dedicate good people to the cause
Successful collaborations, at least at the start, are led by senior leaders from the founding organizations. A co- project it’s usually difficult enough to need dedicate qualified staff. A co- project it’s usually strategic for organizations involved, so they should resource it like it is strategic. So not trainees or time dedicated besides business as usual. The good news are a co-project effort is like a start-up, so talented individuals will give their all if they believe in the goals and allows them to work differently as usual. Working on a major collaboration should be an exciting career builder, not a dead end.
06.- Be flexible in defining success
A Co-project if successful if it changes somehow the rules of a game in a positive way. But a Co-project (as most of any other kinds of projects) hardly will change the world. So it’s not a good idea to think so and then when it doesn’t, think that it failed. Understanding the nature of the change aimed will help not to dismay when trying to get it.
07.- Prepare to let go
No collaboration should be kept alive beyond its useful lifetime. Once set up a goal, it should be planned a process for the collaboration either wind down or become an independent entity.
The original article includes several real cases for each lesson learned.
Creating partnerships for sustainability