Tip 18: Create an Internal Strategic Alliance Definition

As mentioned in the previous post, clear communication is the cornerstone towards the success of your partnership. Part of the art of clear communication is using terms that you and your partner, in theory, both understand and have a clear definition of.

All too often, we assume that your understanding of a term is also their understanding of the same term.

Unfortunately, the world is not that simple.

You need to make sure that you are properly understood, or you need to make sure that you and your partner are both connecting the same meaning to a specific term.

For example, do you feel that a “joint venture” is a joint company with a separate legal entity that you and your partner established together and that you both have equity in? Or do you feel it’s a temporary, short-term partnership with another company that is focused on a product or a project?

These are two completely different ways to look at the term and how they are both used. They are two meanings of partnering which are both within the collaborative business spectrum, but they are also each on a different point and with different implications.

The same applies to the in-company use of terms. I have seen many organizations where one department had a different understanding of what a strategic alliance is from another department. Both meanings can still fit nicely within the collaborative business or alliance spectrum, but having a different understanding of specific terms can create undesired complications.

In one situation, a business unit of a client was working to establish a marketing alliance with a reseller. This unit was seeking support from the central strategic alliance department. This central department, on the other hand, was established to support business units that wanted to create strategic alliances. In their opinion, a strategic alliance is a partnership where a new product is being created together with a partner.

Even though the same strategic alliance principles can be applied to a marketing alliance, the expectations were not set properly as a definition. With that, the scope of their support was not made clear inside their own organization. This led to a lot of confusion and irritation that could have been prevented by establishing a clear, internal definition of the term “strategic alliance.”

As you can see, you shouldn’t make assumptions that the person you are communicating with knows exactly what you’re talking about when it comes to what strategic alliance means. Instead, you must ensure that you have one common understanding in your organization of what a partnership or strategic alliance is. Creating your own internal alliance definition helps align people and departments while going forward with the creation of the partnership or alliance.

Here is the definition I most often use for a strategic alliance: “A strategic alliance is a strategic cooperation between two or more organizations, with the aim to achieve a result one of the parties cannot achieve alone.” What definition do you use for your partnerships and alliances?

Creating a specific definition of strategic alliance that is universally understood within your organization will help align the parties involved with the goals for which the partnership or alliance will be formed.

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