Is Your Partnership Performing? 7 Signs to watch out for ....

Partnerships are becoming more common every day. But how many of these partnerships are actually working effectively and delivering on their key purpose? And how many partners are applying the necessary rigour to maximise the return on investment from their partnering?

Photo by  Austin Chan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Partnering is not easy. And with cross sector partnering that involves many actors coming together over a long period of time, often with many changes of personnel, is it any wonder that many of these partnering efforts struggle to reach their full potential.

So what can we do to make sure that our cross sector partnering stays on track and delivers results?

Partnering has many forms. From straight transactional arrangements such as sponsorships and contracts through to more integrated partnering arrangements where a number of actors from different sectors come together around a common problem or challenge. The 1+1 = 3 scenario that we often hear about when referring to partnering.

Integrated partnering offers the greatest benefits of being able to create shared value and achieve transformational change, however, it’s the hardest to do effectively and can be very resource intensive. Having a clear structured process and people skilled in cross sector partnering are crucial to creating, developing and sustaining these partnerships and achieving results.

So first we need to be clear on just what type of partnering we are involved in and then apply the appropriate frameworks, tools and processes to guide us through the partnering journey.

But as we go along this journey how can we be sure the partnership is performing well at all times?

We can conduct formal reviews and evaluations at periodic times throughout the partnering process but this may take some time and things could go off track before these are completed and acted upon.

Having some early indicators of poor performance means we can address the issues before they get out of control and take corrective action. Looking for the tell-tale signs and then acting on these will ensure you keep the partnering performing at its highest level continuously. 

Here are 7 tell-tale signs of poor partnering performance that we look for:

1.     People not turning up to meetings 

Sending proxies or just not turning up to meetings shows a clear lack of commitment to the partnering process and a lack of buy-in. For partnering to be successful it needs to be built into the core business of each of the partners and key individuals and there needs to be continuity in the partnering discussions

2.     Purpose drift

Is where the purpose for the partnering keeps changing without the agreement of all the partners. It could be that one partner is trying to skew the partnering in a particular direction to ensure they benefit most from it. Without a clear agreed purpose confusion will occur and progress will be slow

3.     A shift in power

If one partner tries to assert themselves more than the others and take control, then the equity around the partnering table can get out of balance. This can result in a very lopsided partnership which eventually may fall apart or be a partnership in name only

4.     Poor communication

If information is not being shared effectively and people are being missed out in communications then this can lead to a lack of transparency and an undermining of trust between the partners

 5.     Lots of meeting and little progress

This is a sure sign that the partnering may have become more about social interaction rather that keeping focussed on the goal. This can often happen if the partnering continues over a long period of time and relationships become very strong, but partners lose sight of what the partnering is all about. 

6.     Revisiting issues

One of the big challenges for any partnering group is being able to make decisions and move forward. Continually revisiting issues and previous agreements can be a constant frustration and result in little progress 

7.     Lack of accountability

When partners say they will do something and don't deliver this is a sure sign that there are problems emerging with the partnering. Successful partnering relies on partners being accountable to each other in delivering on their commitments. 

If you have any of these symptoms emerging in your partnering perhaps it’s time to take a step back and review what is happening and what action you need to take. It is likely that you will need to have some very honest and open conversations with the other partners and get the issues out on the table. 

In these situations partners can often find it hard to raise issues about non-performance for fear of offending the other partners. In this case you may need to have an independent facilitator assist the group to have that open discussion. Or it may be that a more fundamental review of how the partnering is working needs to be undertaken.

The important point is to act and not let issues fester. Otherwise you and the other partners risk spending considerable resources and time for little result!

Ian DixonComment