Design your alliance for an exit

Undoubtedly you have heard about the fact that the United Kingdom wants to exit the European Union. Long negotiations have taken place and during the last few weeks this so called “Brexit” seems to have entered a new phase.

I am not the right person to discuss any of the political aspects of this development. Instead, let’s have a look at if from an alliance perspective. We could refer to the European Union as an alliance of member states. They all remain somewhat independent and share many elements in the alliance to accomplish a goal none of the member states can do alone. That sounds pretty much like the definition of an alliance.

No alliance lasts forever and in this case one of the alliance members has the desire to leave. The scale on which this takes place and the impact it potentially has for the world, makes also that Brexit is all over the news. Hence we’ve heard about the tedious negotiations in this process and now that an agreement has finally been reached, it needs to be approved by the respective parliaments.

An exit in an alliance of companies will generally be less visible, but it will be a similar process. Exit negotiations are not the easiest ones. The love is over and the parties will mostly look for personal gain in the negotiations. It requires a very professional attitude to negotiate an exit that is beneficial for all parties involved. In a organizational alliance divorce, you will have to manage your stakeholders too. Like in the UK, there will be stakeholders that want to leave and there will be stakeholders that want to stay. Also in many cases, the board, or executive committee, of the companies will have to approve the final exit deal.

Clearly when the love is over and tension is in the air, the moment of exit is not the easiest moment to negotiate. A better moment to negotiate the exit terms, or at least a framework for an exit, is the moment of alliance creation. This is the moment when the parties are in creation mode, on speaking terms and willing to negotiate from a “we” perspective rather than an “I” perspective.

As no alliance lasts forever, it is as such very important to design the alliance for its exit. Design it tightly enough to be working as one, design it loosely enough to be able to easily part ways. Do remember though, that an alliance contract will always be an incomplete one. So refresh it during the lifetime of the alliance as you get to know the parties and understand the feasibility of the goal of the alliance better.

Besides an exit many alliances also have the option to transform into a new form or shape. In the two-day Alliance Masterclass on 6 and 7 February, 2019,  we will work through the full alliance lifecycle, and also through transforming, innovating or exiting your alliance.

Remember that when your alliance exits upon you, you will focus on exiting gracefully. An alliance exit where the press is all over your companies will hurt everyone involved.

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