There are three essential elements when it comes to successful alliance management that can be summarized in the three C’s of alliances: Collaboration, Communication and Coordination.
Collaboration may seem obvious; we need to collaborate, otherwise the alliance is practically non-existent. Still there will be forces in both your and your partners organization that will not have a collaborative mindset like you and will not be that open to working together.
There will be for instance people who are accountable based on their role in the organization and have as such a stake in the alliance, but do not believe in the alliance. They might try to slow down the alliance by showing a non-collaborative behavior. I have also seen examples of people who are quite protective to their own work and are not collaborating nor sharing information internally. It is questionable how successful these people will be in alliances. Collaboration and a collaborative mindset are essential for the success of an alliance.
The second essential C is the C of Communication. In essence without communication there will be no collaboration. But communication goes further, as an alliance manager you will need to communicate with your partners and with your internal organization. And you will need to communicate over and over again. As I often say “In alliances it is about communication, communication and communication” and then you still need to verify if the communication has been received properly.
All too often we take communication for granted; we have transmitted and expect the other party to have received the message. But only by verification can we be sure if the communication has been received as intended. Mail might be oh so comfortable, but is often not the right medium, it is easy to be explained differently than intended and often we will only know it went wrong when things go sour. Better to communicate in ways where you can also verify! Communication can make or brake an alliance.
As an alliance manager coordination will be one of your main tasks. Coordinating the cadence of governance, coordinating the project teams, coordinating the relationships. One might even argue that if something goes wrong in collaboration or communication the alliance manager is lacking in coordination. After all, as an alliance manager you will be the spider in the web coordinating the alliance. You are the lubricant that greases the alliance, the glue that holds it all together; as the alliance manager you are the conductor, coordinating the alliance orchestra.
The three C’s are essential for the success of an alliance. Without one of them the alliance will be very challenging to succeed, maybe even doomed to fail. Even though they may not be explicitly named in your job role, do focus on them when you are the alliance manager and your success will be one step closer within reach.
For additional C’s in alliances, please have a look at my article “Three more C’s for Strategic Alliances“.