In a strategic alliance or partnership there are at least two different organizations working together. When you have worked for more than one organization in your career, you will have experienced that each organization has its own rhythm.
The differences might be in internal communication, in decision making, or in the way they greet each other when they come to work. As an example, I have seen organizations where they shout a loud “Good Morning!” when they arrive at work. I have also seen organizations where they go around the room for a personal greeting and shake hands. Both are different, none of them is better than the other. Although you might feel more at home with the one than with the other.
The moment you start to work together in an alliance, you need to look into the differences and adjust your habits. Shouting a loud “Good Morning!” in a silent room where everybody is used to the personal greeting might create an awkward situation. Your partner might experience you as rude. The other way around people might think you are a weirdo by going round the room in a formal way to shake hands. In such a situation it is important to be aware and to adjust to the other company.
The way we do business around here
Differences in organizational rhythms will also be found in processes and procedures. They are an essential part of “the way we do business here.” When working in a collaboration all partners need to adjust their way of working. You need to build bridges to overcome the differences with your partner.
To build bridges you sometimes need to bend the rules a bit and view the results of your internal rules through the eyes of your partner’s situation. Take for example payment terms. I remember a discussion in an Alliance Masterclass last year. It was specifically about a partnership where a payment was involved from a large to a small company. The large company mentioned that they had long discussions about their 60 days end of month payment term. It was impossible for them to adjust that, however at the same time it was impossible for the small company to accept it.
For both companies payment was essential to their cash flow. In the negotiations they failed to be able to see the view of the other company and neither of them was able to start to build creative bridges. Such a situation can potentially harm trust between the partners, if it stays like that for too long.
Understand your partner
It is essential in every stage of a partnership to try to understand your partner’s organization and why they do the things the way they do it. Understanding does not mean you have to adjust completely to the other company. Understanding will help you to build bridges and to come to a creative solution that works for both in the partnership.