Last week I attended a birthday barbecue party where the obvious question came up again: “What do you do?”. Often I face blank stares as people don’t know about alliances and they may even respond with a “You do what …..?”, until you explain it based on the popular products they use. Then people see what an alliance is and start to understand that an alliance needs attention.

This time the conversation went into an interesting direction. The gentleman I spoke with was a retired executive of a large corporation who had worked across the globe in several roles and countries. He had never worked in alliances though as the company he worked for was one of the old style, very much suffering from the “not invented here” syndrome. However, this gentleman immediately recognized the benefits of two or more organizations working together and the need to apply a structured approach to such a collaboration (have you downloaded my new ebook yet?). He asked me if the principles used in creating alliances can also be used for creating internal collaborations between departments or divisions of organizations.

Now that is an interesting question:

Can the principles used for creating alliances also be applied to enhance internal collaboration between departments or divisions in organizations?

TeamworkEven though there may be as many differences as similarities, I would be inclined to say “yes” to this question. Applying an alliance lifecycle framework can potentially increase internal collaboration and enhance overall company effectiveness. Some of the steps in the lifecycle will need to be adjusted to the particular situation. Following the partner selection step might feel as an overkill, but it is still very valid to do. You can probably skip the long list-part of the selection, but it will be good to make the fit analysis. This will make you aware of potential differences between your department and the partner department. There is a high risk of easily making assumptions, after all our partner is from the same company, so we share the same values and culture, don’t we? It is good to check though: you are from a different department, or maybe even a different division and your department will have a different micro culture and set of believes than the other department has. Doing a proper fit analysis even for inter-department collaborations will make clear where to focus during the alliance management phase.

Looking back to my time in the corporate world and the internal collaborations we had, I realize now that in some cases following a more structured approach towards our collaboration would have been very beneficial. It would have made clear what the needs and contributions of our colleagues really were and in some projects we could have been probably more effective.

The gentleman at the barbecue was very enthusiastic and wished he could go back into business to try these principles internally.

How about you, do you apply alliance management principles to your internal collaborations? Or do you think it makes sense to do so in your upcoming collaborations? Share it and join the conversation below.

One Response to “Are internal alliances different than external alliances?”

  1. Had to chuckle when I read your lead-in to this blog. Two-thirds of the job in managing an alliance IS managing internal collaboration, getting your company team aligned to the objectives, visions, values, understanding their roles and accountabilities, etc, etc. As you note many of the tools would be applied a little differently when there is only one company involved, but many of the challenges are the same.