Relationships are often taken for granted. We expect relationships to run by themselves without really a need for management, but successful relationships are hard work, regardless of the type of relationships. Supplier-customer, strategic alliance relationships, even personal relationships: they all demand a lot of attention, communication and work to stay healthy.

There are many tools to support you in managing your strategic relationships. The functional mapping tool is a simple tool that will help you create clarity in the roles and responsibilities in both your own and your partners organization. In the basics the functional mapping tool is a very simple tool, but the simplicity of the tool once again is a proof point that “less is more”.

The idea behind the tool is that you use it to map out the functional relationships between your organization and your partners organization. Functional mapping is based on the fact that organizations are different and hence your peer may be on a different organizational level than at first would be expected. The obvious example to explain this is the example of a partnership between a large multinational and a small local firm. The functional peer of the CEO of the local firm may very well be the General Manager of a business unit in the multinational rather than the CEO of the multinational.

The functional mapping tool will help you to define day to day interactions and map escalation paths where peers meet peers to resolve issues or guide strategy for the alliance. It is highly recommended to do the mapping in the preparation phase, actually even before the alliance starts. You don’t want to find out who the right peer is in the middle of an crisis that requires escalation!

The model used can be quite simple, like in the table. You map your people to your partners people. Describing functional role, names, titles and responsibilities in the relationship. The third column in the table often is the most interesting one. When using the status column in a simple color code in red, yellow and green you will be able to provide a status traffic light to the relation.

Red for instance can mean that the two people are identified but have never met. Interesting element in the use of this mapping and color coding, is that when you discuss the mapping in your own organization and an executive sees a red mark behind his name, you will immediately have his attention: in general nobody likes a red mark behind their name and will have the desire to do something about it!

Yellow in the model can mean that they are aware of each other, perhaps met a few times, but there is no working relationship. Green is good and means that there is a strong working relationship and a high level of trust.

It appears that many organizations do not use this basic yet powerful tool, hence the sometimes surprising discussions in the workshops.

Read more about the functional mapping tool

This article is part of a series of articles extending upon the 25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances article.  These 25 tips have been rewritten and published in the eBook “25 tips for successful partnerships & alliances“. See this page to purchase your own copy of the ebook in Kindle, PDF and ePub format.