Alliance Governance; Embrace the Diversity

By guest author Ed Rigsbee, CSP

I like to call alliance success, “Partnering for Profits.” Unfortunately, a frequent alliance success pitfall is attempting to make your partner in your image—do things the way you do, think the way you think, and follow the same methodology. While it may appear in the short-term, to ease the rocky road of alliance governance, what it really does is minimize the value your partner delivers in the alliance relationship. What it was that attracted you to your alliance partner in the first place were their core competencies and the belief that together, value added synergies would be created and deliver benefit to both; and now you want them to change? How much sense does that make?

First the Process of Working Together

When you set up your alliance expectations in your alliance agreement, the first success should be successful organizational alliance integration—a strategy to collaborate in developing a cooperative process with which both organizations can successfully implement and integrate into their current processes and methodology. First you have to successfully cooperate and collaborate before you can implement the actual stated alliance function.

Cultural, Strategic, and Operational Fit

For any alliance to be successful there is the need for a reasonable cultural, strategic, and operational fit. However, there is not a need for exact cultural, strategic, and operational duplication. The cultural fit is about how compatible the management teams and corporate cultures overlap. The important question is can they successfully work together? The strategic fit is determining how well aligned are the objectives of the participating partners. Opposing corporate strategies can greatly handicap, even a well implemented alliance. Operational fit is the tricky one. How complementary are the business models, processes, and methodology? Notice I stated aligned, and not, the same? With alignment there can be differences, yet cooperation and collaboration.

Partner Due Diligence

I truly believe that due diligence is the “Achilles heal” for most organizations in the alliance development process. During this very important alliance development step, you really do need to be honest with yourself and your potential partner(s) as to your partnering expectations, your own capabilities, and the partner capabilities you seek. For years I have been saying, “People do not change after marriage.” What I mean by this in the partnering arena is the, all too frequent, misguided belief that one’s partner will get better after the alliance is implemented. How wrong can a person, committee, or organization be? Pick the correct alliance partner from the beginning. Trying to change them after is a fool’s errand.

New Alliance Tools for Smaller Organizations

When I first started writing about alliance development, many of the tools were financially only available to the larger corporations. However, with the preponderance of today’s social networking capabilities, many savvy smaller companies are using Facebook and Linkedin for alliance success, especially in the areas of governance and implementation capabilities. As the social networking sites are now allowing greater control over privacy, they become even better alliance tools for smaller business alliance success. You will find that with a small amount of creativity, social networking sites can truly be a boon to alliance governance, implementation, and success.

Copyright © 2010 Ed Rigsbee

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Ed Rigsbee, Certified Speaking Professional, travels internationally to deliver keynote presentations and workshops on effective and profitable alliance and partnering relationships. In addition to serving as the president of Rigsbee Research Consulting Group, Ed also serves as the CEO and Executive Director of a (501 c 3) public, non-profit charity. Ed has authored three books and over 1,500 articles to help organizations to take full advantage of their potential. While Ed has been fumbling, bumbling, and stumbling his way through the organizational mazes of for-profits and non-profits for over four decades, he has been an observer, researcher, and teacher; helping organizations of all sizes to build successful internal and external collaborative relationships. Contact Ed, get additional (no charge) resources, sign up for his complimentary weekly Effective Executive eLetter, or to view Ed’s videos, please visit

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