“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” is a quote by Peter Drucker that addresses the point that regardless of how good your strategy is, if the organisational culture isn’t set up to support it, your strategy will fail. The same applies to alliances, you can craft the most promising alliance with a partner but if the organisational culture isn’t set up to support it, your alliance is destined to fail. An alliance culture, characterised by mutual trust, shared values, and open communication, is not just beneficial but essential for the success of strategic alliances. 

Companies that understand that the future of their organisation is dependent on the  success of their alliances usually tend to have an alliance culture. Companies that are self-centred tend to be less successful, perhaps even poor at their alliances and partnering attempts. You may well note a collaborative alliance culture found in the behaviour and language people use. Collaborative cultures tend to focus on the best solution for all parties involved, and people talk in an inclusive way about their partners as if they are their direct colleagues. 

An alliance culture in your company is not something you build overnight, there is no magic button, it takes time and effort. Ideally, your collaborative culture will already be built from the first day the company was founded. This interview with Bruce Cozadd, CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals at Forbes explains why building a desired organisational culture is essential and is best done from day one. The interview also highlights why having a champion sitting at the top of an organisation is essential.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t change an existing organisation’s culture. I’ve seen examples where change has been successfully achieved. I’ve also seen at least one example where a collaborative culture has deteriorated over time in favour of a short-focused, control-driven culture. The particular company I’m referring to used to be excellent in their alliance efforts and had built up  a broad set of alliance skills and methodologies. Over the past decade, that collaborative culture completely dissolved and their alliance capabilities got lost.   

In both the situations of changing a company’s culture to a collaborative one as well as in the deterioration of a collaborative culture it is the involvement of the C-suite that drives the change. As I also mention in my contribution to this ASAP article on organisational culture and partnering, those at the top need to set the guidance, but doing so doesn’t always guarantee success. To build upon the company’s alliance culture successfully, it really comes down to the execution, right at the level where people are involved.   

There can be a lot more said about the benefits of alliance cultures than can be captured in this column and I’m curious to hear your own experiences of working in collaborative cultures (or the opposite). Share them with me in the comments or schedule a complimentary conversation to discuss the topic further.

What Have I Been Reading: Ice Cold Leader: Leading from the Inside Out”* by Errol Doebler

Why Is It Relevant? In this book Errol describes his leadership methodology that is based on creating the right culture and clarity by setting guidelines for behaviour, much like how we set values and operating principles in alliances  to create the so-called third culture. It is a collaborative leadership methodology that can benefit your work in alliances too. Errol has built the book around his own experiences and adventures as a former Navy SEAL and FBI agent and now leadership coach which enlightens the theory and makes the book a pleasure to read.