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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

288 posts

It is important to measure collaboration as a means to understand capabilities and document success.  There are two types of indicators to measure the success of your collaboration; financial and service levels.  In the past I discussed the importance and methods for measuring financial success.  In this discussion I will cover the service level measurements.  The service level measurements are the lifeblood of your collaborative partnership, these measurements provide the basis to measure the heartbeat of both your partnerships and your performance, both inward looking and outward looking.  As an added benefit, the service level measurements provide the framework for your collaborative partnerships continuous improvement program.


Your performance service levels must be carefully defined and regularly reviewed to ensure they provide value.  The challenge with performance service levels is that your performance indicators have a tendency to change and even if they don’t change, they require regular adjustments and revisions to incorporate your general performance improvements.  Your continued performance improvements are a base assumption of my because, after all, if your performance does not improve then you have other issues you must address.  Performance service levels can be difficult to define in your collaborative partnership because they must be meaningful across the partnerships.  This is a similar type of discussion as performance tuning your extended supply chain.  Sometimes a performance service level that is meaningful and helpful for one partner is not necessarily meaningful or helpful for another.  The point and key objective is to define the performance service levels that are meaningful to the entire collaborative partnership, for instance, response time of the individual activities performed by each partner is a great performance service level but don’t forget that the key service level is the response time of the entire extended collaborative partnership and this performance must also be measured.


Performance service levels should include two types or services or performance indicators; internal performance indicators that measure your organization’s performance and then the group performance indicators.  All of these performance indicators are related and they also all support each other.  These relationships between the internal and external relationships create a web of dependencies that will both drive improvements and also echo failures.  This web of dependencies will also clearly identify the importance of the partnership and encourage the continuous improvements across the partnerships that will also encourage the strengthening of the partnerships. 


The performance service level review is the final and perhaps the most critical aspect of these measurements.  Again, the review must be performed from two aspects, internal review of your own organization’s performance and then the group review that includes all of your collaborative partners.  The value proposition of this review process depends on open and honest communications regarding the performance of both the individual partners and also the entire partnership as a whole.  I’m not suggesting any earth shattering changes to support and encourage the development of your collaborative partnerships, I am, however, suggesting a method for you to incorporate the tools that have always been successful into the framework of your collaborative partnerships.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What are your communications practices with internal and external customers?  Are these practices the same for internal and external customers?

The collaborative partnership can provide a foundation for a powerful continuous improvement program.  Your collaborative partners can provide not only the framework but the fuel to drive the continuous improvement program to great heights.  The expansion and of the continuous improvement program to include your collaborative partners provides the opportunity to take advantage of the capabilities and concepts already in place with your partners to build and simplify the business and services across the partnership.  This expansion truly does provide a win-win situation for our entire collaborative partnership.


I’ve discussed previously the importance of open and honest communications and these open and honest communications provide the foundation for building a robust continuous improvement program.  Remember, a very large aspect of open and honest communications is sharing challenges and opportunities.  This sharing of challenges and opportunities provides one of the foundational basis for continuous improvement.  The next foundational aspect of building a robust continuous improvement program is the regular review and planning activities.  This is another aspect of open and honest communications that I’ve discussed in the past. 


As you can see, I am not suggesting that you implement new actions or functions to support and extend your continuous improvement process, I am suggesting that you focus the key building blocks of your collaborative partnership to support the continuous service program.  In addition, implementing a formal continuous improvement program across your extended collaborative partnerships will increase the benefits across all of your collaborative partners.  Finally a key benefit resulting from the continuous improvement program implementation is an increased strength in the partnerships.  This increased strength will come as a direct result of developing and implementing the improvements identified as a result of the continuous improvement program, many of these improvements would only be possible as a result of the partnerships.


An interesting challenge to the implementation of this continuous improvement program across your collaborative partnership is accepting the concept that benefits to the partnerships can be greater than benefits to any one partner.  What I mean by this is that it is not unusual that the entire partnership can sometimes gain a greater benefit when some of the partners’ services are optimized for the group rather than their own interest.  This is a difficult concept to accept and in order to be successful, you must adjust for the sub-optimal performance or costs of one partner through sharing the optimized performance or costs of the other partners.  This is exactly where the collaborative partnership comes into play and strengthens your relationships.  You will build the strength of your partnerships by committing to the benefits of the partnership as a whole rather than the benefits of any one individual.


In closing, implementing a collaborative partnership continuous improvement program is simply an extension and a focus of the collaborative foundation and a method to drive the benefits across the partnership.  This continuous improvement program will provide the methods to ensure that your collaborative partnership is focused on delivering benefits across the collaborative partnership.  This delivery of benefits will also result in a greater acceptance across the partners of the collaborative partnership.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What are your communications practices with internal and external customers?  Are these practices the same for internal and external customers?

Tom Brouillette

Overcoming Obstacles

Posted by Tom Brouillette Apr 20, 2014

In my experience obstacles can see to appear out of thin air and in the extended supply chain the weather can have a very large impact on the obstacles appearing out of thin are. In fact, the weather more often than not has a very large impact on the obstacles.  Also, in my experience obstacles can be much easier to overcome with a little help from your friends, and this is a key aspect and key benefit to building your extended collaborative partnership.  We all have a tendency to focus on the positive aspect of developing the collaborative partnership, by this I mean we focus on building a stronger extended supply chain through harnessing strengths of the partners.  I suggest that a key to the success of the collaborative partnership is the ability to quickly and efficiently overcome obstacles through the collaborative efforts of your partners.


In a previous discussion I focused on the positive side of negative information.  This concept can be addressed and turned into a positive through your collaborative partnerships.  A key aspect to mutually beneficial is helping your partners to overcome the obstacles that arise in daily business cycles.  Your obstacles can be one of your partners’ strengths.  For instance, lets take an example of the obstacles that can be caused from this recent winter weather challenges.  Across the United States the most recent winter weather has caused challenges and thrown up obstacles that challenged to the most resilient supply chains.  Through the strength of your partners you were able to overcome and re-direct your supplies to meet your objectives.  The sooner you focused on the challenges, the sooner you and your partners could develop a plan to overcome the obstacle. 


This attitude should be harness into a standard practice or process supporting your extended supply chain.  These practices should be harnessed and presented in a dashboard concept to measure the pulse of your extended supply chain and the partners abilities to support the needs of the partners.  This is where the rubber meets the road and the benefits of your collaborative partnership will shine and grow.  This is where you must implement a continuous improvement evaluation process to help you to measure your historical capabilities and identify how to support your near future requirements.  To clearly spell it out, you should measure the actual activities of the previous period (day, week, month) along with and against your future plans (day, week, month) as a means to identify and overcome any potential obstacles. 


As you have probably noticed, I have come full circle to the basic concept that I believe brings the strength and resilience to your extended supply chain; a robust continuous improvement program.  In this case, your continuous improvement program is focused on addressing and turning negative obstacles into positive actions that overcome the obstacles.  The strength and benefit that your collaborative partnership brings to the challenge is the breadth of the capabilities and choices to overcome your extended supply chain’s obstacles.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What are your communications practices with internal and external customers?  Are these practices the same for internal and external customers?

One of the most difficult aspects of a successful and long term collaborative partnership is creating and maintaining transparency.  In fairness, I should take a step back here to state that simply maintaining your collaborative partnership is a difficult activity that requires constant support and commitment.  Maintaining transparency, though, I think is one of, if not the single most important aspect of maintaining your partnerships.  Maintaining transparency provides a method and a foundation for the success of your partnerships and will result in building a strong and flexible collaborative partnership.


Transparency is built on two concepts, or practices; open and honest communications, along with a healthy dose of what I’ve called assuming innocence.  Transparency is founded on these two concepts and these two concepts in turn support and feed into the benefits of transparency.  One result of transparency is trust and without trust you will never maintain a collaborative partnership.  I believe that the importance of transparency is based on the simple factor that transparency has a tendency to encourage trust and the expansion of transparency. 


Transparency is built in a cyclical manner.  What I mean by this is that transparency starts with assuming innocency and a willingness to begin to trust.  The cycle continues with the beginning of open and honest communications that includes two-way communications with your partners.  As the communications continues, including the confirmation that the open and honest communications brings value to the partnerships, the level of trust increases across the partners.  This increase of trust across the partners will encourage expansion of the communications thereby expanding the foundation and increasing the benefits. 


A critical aspect of transparency is sharing what you and your partners would consider both positive and negative information.  The interesting point that I want to make here is that negative information truly is in the eye of the beholder.  In my last discussion I explained that information that may be considered negative by one party can be used to help another party, and in this I don’t mean that the negative information would be used as a weapon, I mean that the negative information can be used by your partners to help recover.  This is where trust and the practice of assuming innocence come into play.  This is where your commitment to the partnership will be tested.  In order for the partnership to be considered successful for all partners all partners must experience a benefit and in order for all partners to experience a benefit, the partnership must maintain and encourage transparency in communications and actions. 


Your objective in transparency is to provide the level and types of information that can be used to support the success of all partners.  A critical aspect to the success of all partners is the ability to overcome hurdles and obstacles.  A critical aspect of overcoming obstacles is sharing the issues in order to obtain the support of your partners.  Finally, a critical aspect of sharing the issues is sharing negative information.  In order for the collaborative partnership to be successful, all partners must feel safe to share information that could be used to hurt one of the partners.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What are your communications practices with internal and external customers?  Are these practices the same for internal and external customers?

Its not uncommon for people and even organizations to try to hide information they deem to be negative.  The challenge you are provided is how do you overcome this common practice and show the positive side of delivering negative information.  There are many examples of this and I’m sure that everyone has their favorite, my favorite is the freight forwarder who does not want to tell the customer that their shipments are delayed by some days due to delays encountered in the transportation route.  In this example the freight forwarder will tend to extend their delivery times simply to hide the potential delays.  You see this same example from many ecommerce retailers; you make your selection and get to the checkout process where you find that ominous phrase ‘you will receive your package in 7 - 10 business days’.


I use these examples because they are easy to show that what one person considers negative information another considers positive information.  Let me demonstrate this with a comparison of two side to my ecommerce example;

  • One generic ecommerce (I do not use a name in order to protect the uninformed) retailer wants to be sure that they will always be able to deliver in the promised time-frame and so they promise standard delivery of 7 - 10 business days.  In addition, they also offer special or expedited service for an additional fee.  In addition to these broad service standards, the generic ecommerce retailer also does not provide the fulfillment event notifications to their customers.  This is generally done for a couple of reasons; the cost and the fear of providing interim information to their customers.
  • A second generic ecommerce (I do not use a name because this practice is becoming the common practice.) retailer tightens their delivery schedules because of their confidence in both their abilities to fulfill and the standards of the carriers that they use.  This ecommerce retailer also offers expedited delivery services and some even offer subscriptions for special delivery services for the frequent shopper.  This retailer provides updates via email or text to the customer at key points in the fulfillment and delivery process.  This is done for a couple of reasons; they believe in the importance of transparency with their customers and they have confidence in their process and their carriers.


The above practices are all well and good during times of stability, however during times of high volume and challenges the practice that will stand out with the customers is the open transparency.  When you think about this it is obvious why customers will flock to transparency; they want to be provided with early visibility to the retailer’s ability to deliver so they can make an informed decision.  They understand there may be failures along the way and if they are provided with the information at the time of the failure they can change their plans in time to recover.


In relationship building, the key to success is open communications, and a critical piece to open communications is transparency.  It is absolutely wrong to hide information because it may upset the customer, or partner, this practice will only lead to lost trust and eventually a loss of the relationship.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What are your communications practices with internal and external customers?  Are these practices the same for internal and external customers?

While developing your collaborative partnerships there are some important question that you must ask yourself and your partners.   Can you hope to survive as a growing and thriving organization without embracing collaborative innovation?  How does collaboration and collaborative innovation fit into your mission and vision statements?  You can see that these questions are not only critical to the success of your collaborative partnerships.  These questions are also critical to developing your business case defining the approach, deliverables and benefits expected for your collaborative partnership initiative. 


I believe that the more you investigate and flesh out the development of your collaborative partnership business case, the stronger the connection between the success and growth of your organization to the collaborative partnerships will be defined.  I also believe that as you develop your business case, you will also further define and better understand the relationships between collaboration and the innovation, growth and success capabilities of your organization and the organizations of your partners.  The concept of vested collaborative relationships provides the foundation ‘glue’ that will bring these foundational concepts to success.  The question that must be answered in this situation is simply how do you clearly define thes capabilities and in addition to that, how do you define the benefits and opportunities that can be delivered through  the collaborative partnerships.


Now we must get back to the original questions I raised at the beginning of this discussion.  Let me get to the first question - Can you hope to survive as a growing and thriving organization without embracing collaborative innovation?  The answer to that question is - Yes, but the effort to continue to grow and thrive will be much greater without collaboration than with collaboration.  Once you understand and embrace this foundational belief I think you will find it much easier to define these objectives and arguments in your business case value proposition.  Once you embrace these foundational beliefs your justifications can become focused to support the business case. 


In addition to the business case, I believe that once you embrace these foundational beliefs, you must also evaluate and incorporate these beliefs in your mission and vision.  To put this bluntly, your collaborative partnerships and the power of collaborative innovations will never be realized until you fully embrace the concepts, privately and publicly.  In addition to that, your collaborative partnerships and power of collaborative innovations will never be incorporated into the culture of your organization until you embrace and incorporate the concepts into your mission and vision statements.


Let me go back to reiterate and even reinforce now - Can you hope to survive as a growing and thriving organization without embracing collaborative innovation?  As I stated the answer I believe you will also find is critical to embracing this concept - ‘Yes, but’.  The ‘but’ in this response is critical to this discussion and will be foundational to your business case and the eventual acceptance of the business case by your leadership.  The ‘but’ in this response is also critical to the understanding and incorporation of these foundational concepts in your mission and vision. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of developing the win-win partnerships?  Where do you see the benefits to the collaborative partnerships?  Where do you see the challenges in developing the collaborative partnership?

A reader provided some information regarding research they were involved in at the University of Tennessee demonstrating how companies can break new ground with highly collaborative relationships. In fact this reader described their opportunity to study some of the world's best buyer-supplier relationships to develop a concept of "Vested" relationships.  This “Vested” relationship describes a relationship where the buyer and supplier TRULY create a win-win solution where the buyer and supplier are vested in each others success; the more successful the buyer - the more successful the supplier.


The finding that I find especially interesting is that the studies performed at the University of Tennessee found that the Vested Collaborative Relationship model, or methodology works in any size companies successfully.  Sometimes I know that when I read about studies and the methodologies developed out of these studies I take a hesitant attitude towards the findings.  The key reason why I take this attitude is because its easy to find a fit to a study concept to prove your hypothesis, however, I think its very hard to find the examples that prove the methodologies works across all examples.  The Vested Collaborative Relationship concept seems to fit that very broad model based on the examples and case studies in the research.  The examples in the research has shown that win-win think can and does work - even for small businesses. In fact, the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece a while back stating that the Vested methodology was one of six ways small businesses could improve their business!


I was very pleased to be provided with this research as proof of the benefits and opportunities that can be provided as a result of shared collaborative partnerships.  The concept of Vested Collaborative Relationships provides a great method to develop the mutually beneficial relationships across a collaborative partnership that will bring lasting benefits and a shared value stream.  In addition, the fact that this research has shown that these concepts work just equally as well in large companies or small companies also provides the foundation for extending these relationships across all partners without limitations based on size.  This vested relationship methodology or framework provides the concepts to develop the mutually beneficial, or win-win, relationships.  The research that you can find from the University of Tennessee along with articles in the Wall Street Journal provide the background and basis to support your business case proposals to your senior leadership to encourage the buy-in. 


I was very encouraged when the reader provided this research background in support of the benefits of developing a collaborative partnership.  In fact, I present this discussion as an example of the power of social collaboration to develop and enhance the collaborative practice necessary to move businesses and relationships forward.  Someone reading an earlier discussion found it interesting enough to provide examples of the benefits that they identified in their research.  This participation provided a method to prove the benefits of the concept to organizations in the beginning stages of collaboration and also extended interest in that research, win-win!


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of developing the win-win partnerships?  Where do you see the benefits to the collaborative partnerships?  Where do you see the challenges in developing the collaborative partnership?

The final factor to promoting the success of your collaborative partnership is the adoption and buy-in of the team members. Even with the adoption of your leadership and your efforts to eliminate misconceptions and unclear objectives are successful, your collaborative partnership will not be successful  without the buy-in of the team members, both internal team members and external partner team members.  In fact, I think of this factor as the bookend of the first factor discussed earlier that is related to leadership adoption.  Once your senior leadership has adopted the initiative it is important to gain the buy-in of the team members.  I suggest that you ‘seed’ the initiative with first adopters that quickly understand and buy into the collaboration partnership.  It is much easier to start with the team members that already have an understanding and acceptance than to try to prove out the initiative concepts to naysayers.


Achieving the adoption and buy-in from your team members can be a very difficult objective but when achieved can provide the continued momentum that will drive the success of your partnership.  You must have the buy-in from the leadership in your collaboration network in order to begin the the partnerships and you must have the buy-in and adoption of the team members in order to maintain and expand the growth and success of your collaborative network.  In order to gain the acceptance and support of the team members you must focus on two approaches;

  • Open and honest explanation of the collaborative partnership objectives.
  • Encouragement to participate and implement suggested improvements from the team.


Open and honest communications, you will see, is the common thread throughout the framework required to develop the collaborative partnership.  This must be a two week street supporting communications that flow in both directions.  It is important for leadership across the the collaborative partnership to communicate with the team and by the same token it is important for the to feel encouraged and supported to provide open and honest feedback.  This communication feedback loop is critical to feeding the continued success of your collaborative partnerships. 


Along with the open and honest communication and feedback cycle your leadership must also encourage participation and implement the suggestions and improvements identified by the team members.  The single greatest method to encourage participation is to embrace and implement suggestions from the team members.  The participation and improvements brought to the table by the team members of the partnership will drive the success of your network and provide the basis for a robust continuous improvement program. 


The trick to success in any initiative is a focus on adoption, clear objectives and participation and your collaborative partnership initiative is no different.  In fact, I think that your focus on these three key factors is most critical in a collaboration initiative because of the nature of the initiative.  This focus and participation will provide the best foundation for your collaborative partnership to grow and prosper.  An unspoken objective of your collaborative partnership is to develop a self-sustaining program and these foundational factors will help to ensure that objective is met.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


What team building exercises do you use?  How do you engage your partners to develop team work?

Elimination of misconceptions and more importantly unclear objectives is another critical factor to the success of your collaboration partnership promotion.  This factor is absolutely critical to your developing a business and value proposition proposal.  Your proposal and your communications to internal and external leaders and team members must be open and honest in setting and achieving clear and value enhancing goals.  A key goal of the successful collaborative partnership and business case is the constant fight against misconceptions and unclear objectives. 


Again, due to the nature of this initiative each partner must be sensitive to the need to overcome misconceptions and unclear objectives.  This factor can easily be overcome by the a robust communication plan that includes clear definitions and expectations.  The challenge is that the communication plan itself, while easy to define and come to an agreement with your partners, it can be difficult, especially at first, to maintain this plan.  A written aspect to your communication plan is also very important to ensure the clarifications and objectives are clearly documented.


A key foundational factor to the successful collaborative partnership is communications.  The entire framework of a successful collaborative partnership is communications, open and honest communications.  I’ve discussed this concept in the past and if you’ve followed my discussions it will come as no surprise to anyone the high level of importance that I place on this factor.  In a nutshell without this foundation of open and honest communications and the objective to eliminate misconceptions and unclear objectives any collaborative partnership is doomed to failure. 


Open and honest communications across external and internal partners requires careful coordination and definitions up front.  Again this is critical to elimination of misconceptions.  This communications plan should be documented so that all partners can review, understand, participate in developing and monitor.  However, a communications plan is a living activity, it is not as simple creating a document for all partners to review and sign and then ‘communications’ magically appear!  This requires work to ensure that the open and honest communications are nurtured and encouraged.  This requires a personal touch and dedication to the activity.


The focus and support of open and honest communications will also provide an important foundational function to maintaining the continued support and adoption of your senior leadership.  It is critical that you manage expectations and objectives of the partnership’s leadership.  I really don’t think there is anything that will kill support faster than allowing misconceptions and unclear objectives to be embraced by your leadership.  There is an old saying in project management that I think applies very nicely to this discussion, it goes something like this - it is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver.  My advice is to start with under promising your objectives and focus on the building the communications methods and practices that will support your partnerships.  You can then build on that after showing early successes.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

In order to ensure the continued support that will be required throughout the collaborative partnership you must ensure the adoption of the initiative from senior leadership.  This adoption required for collaborative partnership is a little more complicated and more difficult because the senior leadership adoption required for your initiative success is the adoption from the senior leadership of all of the partners in the initiative.  This step of definition and understanding that must be completed with your leadership is critical because they must be prepared for the setbacks and negotiations that will be required to achieve this robust partnership. This does not mean that it cannot be done, or should not be tried, it simply means that you must prepare your case carefully in order to obtain that adoption.  The simple fact of the matter is that without the adoption and acceptance from senior leadership, the likelihood of success is dramatically reduced.


There are two methods to obtaining this acceptance and buy-in from your senior leadership; initial up front adoption based on your thoughtful business case and value proposition, a trial or proof of concept.  In either case you will need to develop a business case including a strong value proposition of both hard and soft returns.  In fact you may build the one business case and the result, or the requirements from your senior leadership may be to execute an initial proof of concept in order to prove the concepts and the benefits.  This business case requires defining the leaders’ objectives and requirements in addition to defining a clear mission and strategy for developing the partnership. 


As I initially mentioned, another challenge to achieving the adoption of senior leadership and developing a robust collaborative partnership is the number of players involved in the partnership.  One significant reason for the difficulty in achieving this adoption across partners is the different cultures and practices that you will be working with, and across, in order to bring this together.  The good news is that in order to be successful, you should develop a common business case and value proposition for each of the partners.  A key aspect of this business case is the communication methods and requirements along with the approval ‘gates’ to expanding the partnerships to the next stage.


The common theme to this stage of adoption is open and honest communications across your partners at this initial stage.  Your success in gaining the adoption will depend on this open and honest communications not only between your partners but also with your senior leadership.  An essential aspect of your business case is the risk mitigation definition and plan.  This will go a long way to gaining the adoption and approval from senior leadership across all of the partners.  You must treat this as a business initiative and you cannot hope that curiosity or business publication articles will sway your leadership to adopt this initiative.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

Any major change in culture and strategy requires adoption and promotion from senior leadership and developing a collaborative partnership can be a very dramatic change.  This type of change can easily be sidetracked by three factors; lack of adoption from senior leadership, misconceptions or unclear objectives, lack of buy-in from the team.  Each one of these factors can kill the change.  However each one of these factors can also promote the change and support the adoption of the change.  The adoption, or development, of a collaborative partnership is one of the most complicated change initiatives you will undertake and it is critical that you start this initiative with your eyes wide open and your expectations realistic. 


A key factor to the promotion and success of developing your collaborative partnership is the adoption from senior leadership.  In order to ensure the continued support that will be required throughout this initiative you must inform the leadership of all aspects involved in developing the partnership.  This requires defining the leaders’ objectives and requirements in addition to defining a clear mission and strategy for developing the partnership.  Developing a robust collaborative partnership is most difficult because of the number of players involved and the different cultures and practices that you will be working with in order to bring this together.  This step of definition and understanding that must be completed with your leadership is critical because they must be prepared for the setbacks and negotiations that will be required to achieve this robust partnership. 


A second factor to the promotion and success of developing your partnerships is the elimination of misconceptions or unclear objectives.  Again, due to the nature of this initiative each partner must be sensitive to the need to overcome misconceptions and unclear objectives.  This factor can easily be overcome by the a robust communication plan that includes clear definitions and expectations.  The challenge is that the communication plan itself, while easy to define and come to an agreement with your partners, it can be difficult, especially at first, to maintain this plan.  A written aspect to your communication plan is also very important to ensure the clarifications and objectives are clearly documented.


The final factor to the promotion and success of developing your partnerships is the adoption and buy-in of the team members.  This factor is the bookend of the first factor related to leadership.  Once your senior leadership has adopted the initiative it is important to gain the buy-in of the team members.  I suggest that you ‘seed’ the initiative with first adopters that quickly understand and buy into the collaboration partnership.  It is much easier to start with the team members that already have an understanding and acceptance than to try to prove out the initiative concepts to naysayers.


The trick to success in any initiative is a focus on the above three factors and your collaborative partnership initiative is no different.  In fact, I think that your focus on the above three factors is most critical in a collaboration initiative because of the nature of the initiative.  Communication is especially important in collaboration and you must have these factors in place in order to ensure the success of your collaborative partnership initiative.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

Tom Brouillette

Partnership Agreements

Posted by Tom Brouillette Mar 28, 2014

A solid Partnership Agreement can be an incredibly powerful tool in developing and maintaining a strong collaborative partnership.  A solid partnership Agreement is much more also than a non-disclosure agreement.  I’ve been discussing many aspects that together build a great framework on which to base your collaboration partnership.  Those aspects are all extremely important and make up the execution functions of the Partnership Agreement.  The solid partnership agreement defines your relationship and expectations of that relationship. 


A solid partnership starts with a solid foundation and this solid foundation is exactly what you should be describing in your partnership agreement.  This foundation provides the basis for your interaction, communication methods, objectives and strategy for your partnership.  While this agreement is not the single most important factor to a successful agreement, it does provide a starting point and a sound outline to the partnership.  This agreement provides the basis to bring your collaborative partners together and define your ‘rules of engagement’ for interaction and expectations between partners.  This is a critical first step to building the partnership because it provides the opportunity for all partners to participate in developing the agreement.


The partnership agreement should include communication methods and expectations, roles, responsibilities, objectives of the agreement and most important a mission.  The details of these points will vary by partners and even the market and geographic region.  I hope you can see that these points while commonplace and common to business communications it is important in developing your partnerships to be very clear and specific when you are defining them in the partnership agreement. 


Let’s discuss a little bit about how to go about developing your partnership agreement.  First of all it is important that you develop this agreement face to face.  So this means that the development of a partnership agreement should be undertaken when you have defined your key collaborative partners.  It is important to identify your key partners because these will be the partners that will achieve the greatest benefits in a robust collaborative partnership.  Second, you must provide enough time for this meeting of partners to complete the agreement, I suggest a week to start.  You must develop a detailed agenda for the week and review the agenda prior to the session with your partners to ensure everyone understands the objectives and agrees with them.  Developing this agenda is the first step to developing your collaborative partnership so it is important that you collaborate with your partners to obtain their input and suggestions, just as important as requesting the input is actually using the input.


Your meeting to develop the partnership agreement should focus on the agenda and you should also expect and encourage deviation.  This deviation is proof that your partners feel comfortable with the relationship and also are working to create the best agreement for the benefits of all partners.  You should not be surprised if the agreement requires some fine-tuning after your work session week.  In fact you should include this expectation in the agenda and initial follow-up outline.  I think that the face-to-face session will build the solid foundation that will allow you to complete the follow-up through video conference and email. 


One additional thing that you should take into account in developing your partnership agreement and that is that the agreement will be the basis for adding new partners.  You should also inclulde in the agreement how you will add new partners to the group, this will be important aspect of the agreement that ensures that all of the ground rules are clearly defined and understood.  The effective Partnership Agreement provides the basis and ground rules for open and honest communications and a foundation built on trust.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

Tom Brouillette

Open Communications

Posted by Tom Brouillette Mar 26, 2014

A second key practice that is foundational to building trust is open and honest communications.  The combination of trust and open and honest communications will provide a solid foundation for building a strong collaborative partnership.  It is important to build a strong foundation so that you can weather the ups and downs that you will encounter developing your collaborative partnership.  Open and honest communications is a key ingredient to trust and trust is a key ingredient to collaborative partnership, you cannot have one without the other.  These are foundational in my opinion because they will help overcome challenges such as passive-aggressive behavior. 


As I mentioned previously though, both of these practices however can be easily negated by passive-aggressive behavior.  Passive-aggressive behavior can be extremely hard to identify initially and then once identified it can be extremely hard to overcome.  This behavior can be a collaboration partnership killer that I think can only be overcome through open and honest communication.  Some of the activities that can be the result of passive-aggressive behavior that undermine the collaborative partnership are passing rumors and misconceptions.


Over and over through personal experience, business experience and media outlets it very often comes down to a very simple point, in most problem cases one of the key contributing factors causing the issue was a lack of open communications or outright dishonesty.  Over and over in issue after issue you can see so many issues that could have easily been overcome through open communications. The funny thing is how many times and how many situations people think that hiding information is the appropriate response. This is a challenge that seems to be relearned over and over.  This is a simple fact that goes a long way to building trust and unfortunately seems to be easy to forget.


There are many factors that seem to play into communications that it is hard to select one or two that make a difference.  One of the factors though that I think make a big difference is developing an environment that encourages communications.  Encouraging communications is a phrase that can be overused.  To me encouraging communications has two ingredients; providing a ‘safe’ environment where open communications are not discouraged, belittled, or used against the others in the future, the second ingredient is encouraging communications through open ended comments and questions.  For instance, a safe environment is one where the members understand that they can admit a mistake without fear of repercussion.


Open and honest communications is one of those soft skills that seems to be very easy to recognize and very hard to describe how to attain.  The trick is to be patient and encouraging of the conversation, it just takes one person to start the ball rolling, I encourage you to be that one person.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…


Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

Tom Brouillette

Trust Hurdles

Posted by Tom Brouillette Mar 23, 2014

I think that trust may be the most important factor, or hurdle, in developing a successful collaborative partnership.  Just to make it interesting, trust is the most difficult to develop and maintain.  There are so many factors involved in developing and maintaining trust in a relationship that it can feel a little overwhelming and lead to a lot of frustration.  It can lead to a lot of frustration simply because it can be so easy to wipe away any gains simply with an inadvertent comment or innocent act.  Trust is built slowly and can easily be impacted in the early stages by inadvertent or innocent acts.


Let’s start with an example to show how easy it can be to lose trust.  You are just starting a partnership and developing the basis for collaboration.  In this time one of the partners is hesitant to share some pertinent information to the partnership but doesn’t explain up front that they are holding back and the reason for holding back.  Then lets say that the partner at some point in the near future discovers that the other partner has been holding back.  This simple act, especially during the early stages of the partnership can destroy the trust.  This whole issue could have been avoided simply by each partner being up front about the information they would and would not share.


Another killer of trust is passive-aggressive behavior.  Passive-aggressive behavior is not only a killer of trust, it is also a killer of partnerships and relationships in general.  This however is much harder to overcome.  Passive-aggressive behavior is the personal reaction to the lack of trust in a relationship with a little twist.  This twist is what I think of as the ‘I told you so’ part of the reaction that I view as a foundation of the passive-aggressive behavior.  Passive-aggressive behavior can be the greatest hurdle to overcome simply because of the ‘I told you so’ behavior.  This behavior is difficult to overcome because it starts from an extreme level of distrust and then builds the case, or cases, to prove why it is appropriate not to trust. 


I think the there is a simple method to overcome these hurdles to trust and that is the practice to assume innocence.  I’ve discussed this previously and the importance to building trust is the greatest benefit this practice can bring.  There is also a second practice that is foundational to building trust, and that is open and honest communications.  Both of these practices however can be easily negated by passive-aggressive behavior.  Passive-aggressive behavior can be extremely hard to identify initially and then once identified it can be extremely hard to overcome.  This behavior can be a collaboration partnership killer that I think can only be overcome through open and honest communication.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

Tom Brouillette

Collaboration Hurdles

Posted by Tom Brouillette Mar 22, 2014

Everywhere you look you can read and hear about the benefits of collaboration and the interesting thing is that success stories do not seem so abundant.  I think the reason for this apparent disconnect is the challenge to implementing a collaborative partnership.  Everywhere you look you see and hear stories proclaiming the benefits of collaboration I happen to believe that the benefits of collaboration can be geometric rather than linear.  The reality of implementation can sometimes be overwhelming when it comes to collaboration because of the number, and relationships, of the key stakeholders.  In fact, this can be viewed as a classic example of the phrase ‘herding cats’.


I see the key challenge, or hurdle, to be aligning objectives and the key hurdle to aligning objectives is getting the objectives defined and in the open.  A second key challenge, or hurdle,  is building trust between and across the partners.  These two hurdles go hand-in-hand and must be considered together in order to achieve a successful collaborative partnership.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are dozens or hundreds of hurdles that must be overcome, the keys though are trust and aligning objectives.  The simple fact of the matter is that there are twin 800 pound gorillas in the room and those twins are trust and aligning objectives.


It seems that collaboration is at odds with the ‘classic’ business practices of intellectual property rights and ruthless competition.  Now someone comes along and says that in order to maintain and increase your success you must collaborate with your partners.  Its very easy to profess acceptance of the latest trend in trade magazines and its quite another thing to truly accept and embrace the concept.  It is very difficult to overcome decades of common practices in business just for the latest trend. 


The push back you will encounter will take many different shapes and will keep popping up many times after you believe that you have overcome the challenge.  The whole reason I bring up both trust and aligning objectives together is that they provide a back-and-forth type of a challenge, in other words in order to align your objectives you must trust your partners and in order to trust your partners you must align your objectives.  This is where communication and patience come into play to help you to overcome these hurdles.  I think that the two traits, communication and patience, also work hand-in-hand to overcome the hurdles. I believe that these two traits are the key to overcoming the hurdles, collaboration cannot be successful without open and honest communication.  The key to open and honest communication is the ability to call out discrepancies and inconsistencies.  The acceptance must be both public and private and open and honest communications requires that discrepancies between public and private acceptance be called out.


It will be extremely difficult to overcome these challenges and you must continuously fight these challenges with communication.  Don’t get me wrong just because success in collaboration is hard doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.  It simply means that you should go into this with your eyes wide open and be prepared and patient to overcome the hurdles.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture?  How do phrases and gestures add to your communications?  How do you build a cross cultural relationship?  Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider?  How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?

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