For Alliance Managers, the integration of new team members into an alliance is a critical, yet frequently underappreciated aspect of effective Alliance Management. The purpose of forming alliances between organisations is to create new value and achieve business outcomes that would otherwise be unattainable by a single entity. It’s therefore imperative to remember that the success of these alliances depends on the people involved and their interpersonal dynamics. Echoing Richard Branson’s approach of valuing employees to enhance business, a similar principle applies in alliance management, and I would say, “Take care of your alliance team members and they will take care of the alliance.”

Broaden Information Sharing Beyond Contractual Obligations

The first step in nurturing your alliance team members is through comprehensive on-boarding, particularly for those new to the team. On-boarding is more than just handing those involved the alliance contract to read! That contract (while a culmination of strategy development, partner selection and negotiations) doesn’t convey the full context. While all these steps are part of building the foundation for the alliance, the background information is equally important for new team members. When on-boarding, you don’t have to inform new team members of every little detail, but do share why particular choices were made during the preparation phase. Share the joint vision of the alliance and the reasons behind choosing the specific partnership. It’s crucial for the new member to grasp the unique qualities of the partner organisation and to be aware of any sensitive dynamics among the individuals involved.

On-board all Organisational Levels

People change roles at every organisational level and that will also influence your alliance team. Limit your on-boarding not just to the direct working teams in your alliances, but consider other functions as well. Executive sponsors, the legal function, your direct manager and other hierarchical levels all need to be on-boarded properly. This is not just for them to understand the alliance, but also to make them aware of their particular role in the alliance.   

Organise a Preliminary Meeting Before Formal On-boarding

Reflecting on my experience as a corporate alliance executive, I maintained a dynamic briefing deck (also known as a “team charter”) for each alliance, regularly updated to reflect the evolving nature of operations and personnel. Prior to formally introducing a new team member to my alliance partner, I would arrange a conversation to thoroughly integrate them into the team. The conversational aspect of on-boarding is as vital as the briefing materials. New team members often bring fresh perspectives and queries about the alliance, potentially leading to beneficial adaptations in the operational approach. Such meetings are instrumental in addressing questions and along with the briefing deck, are key to effective on-boarding.

Challenges of Time Constraints in On-boarding

A common concern might be the lack of time for thorough on-boarding for each new team member. However, consider the longer-term implications. Catching up later often requires more resources and time, and on the other hand, well-informed, engaged team members are key to elevating the success of your alliances. 

Prioritising comprehensive on-boarding can preempt many challenges and contribute significantly to the alliance’s achievements.