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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

283 Posts

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?

It is exciting to see how collaboration has been embraced by the industry as a movement more than simply a strategy.  I believe strongly that this is a key factor to the ability of a supply chain to survive and flourish in an environment of discontinuous change.  From its most simplistic perspective, for each partner in your collaborative supply chain you gain at least a percentage of additional experience that you would not have had without the relationship.  It would not be accurate to say that you would achieve a 100% gain in experience because frankly there is cross-over of experience within your partner group.  I think though that you would gain 25% of additional experience that you would not have had without your partners.


This estimate is based on the assumption that you collaborate with your partners on objectives and strategy, as I’ve discussed previously.  I understand, however, that this type of collaboration is something that is initially defined as one of the first objectives of your partnerships.  In other words, one of the key benefits of developing a robust collaborative partnership is the benefits you will achieve by sharing experience when defining and developing improvements.  The simple fact of the matter is that the more varied the input to developing and implementing your strategic objectives and improvements, the more value these objectives and improvements will be delivered.


We are surrounded by an environment and culture, both professional and personal,  that is driving discontinuous change at an ever increasing rate.  I suggest that developing a robust collaborative partnership is a key ingredient to the continued success of your organization.  When I think about reasons why Amazon or Google is so successful, one thing that comes to mind is their focus on developing collaborative partnerships.  This focus allows them two key benefits; they gain additional services and / or products while they expand and extend to marketplace.  The collaboration allows them to add to their offering without the effort and time that would be required to develop the services and market themselves.  From the Google or Amazon collaborative partners’ perspective they gain an immediate increase to an expanded customer base, they gain the prestige of the partnership with an industry leader and they gain the benefits of the experience that Amazon or Google bring to the partnership.


The value add to this collaborative partnership arrangement is the sum of the experience and the capabilities of the partners as a whole.provide a greater value proposition than the sum of the individual partners.  This value add is where you must focus and it is where you will obviously gain the greatest value.  In these times of discontinuous change in an ever increasing rate no one can hope to achieve the capabilities and the experience without engaging a robust collaborative partnership across business partners, consumers and the service providers that provide the integration across the partners.


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 Factor

Posted by Tom Brouillette Mar 17, 2014

The key ingredient to successful collaboration is trust and unfortunately the most difficult factor to generate is trust.  As with most concepts, whether personal or professional, trust is a concept that is easy to broadcast acceptance and it is extremely difficult to reach the level where trust becomes a foundational factor.Trust is a factor that must be embraced, accepted and displayed both privately and publicly in order to be successful in collaboration.  I think that most people understand this inherently and honestly believe that most people want to trust, however the challenge to overcome is the acceptance both privately and publicly.  This can feel like a constant struggle initially until you reach a point of acceptance across your partners and suddenly the sun will come through the clouds.


A key to trust I think is to genuinely embrace the mutually benefits value proposition.  This proposition is critical to the success of trust and it is sometimes hard to continually embrace.  Like trust, the mutual benefits concept is easy to broadcast acceptance and it is difficult to maintain a continuous focus. Like trust, an approach that focuses on mutual benefits must continuously support mutual benefits for each of the partners in the relationship.  Trust on the other hand requires a leap of faith in order to achieve.  Trust overcomes the proprietary information hurdle to deliver value.


Trust can provide some of the most powerful and long lasting benefit in your extended partner relationship.  Trust however also requires measurement regular evaluation to maintain the value.  In this respect, trust is very much like all of the other objectives to a value added collaborative partnership.  Trust is another one of the secret sauce ingredients that bring value to your collaborative partnership.  Trust will grow with the value of your partnerships and trust drives the value into your partnerships.  You must continuously feed trust on a steady diet of open and honest sharing of information.  Remember in a collaborative partnership built on trust you can feel safe in sharing proprietary information.


One of the key tests of a partnership built on trust is evaluating the comfort you have in sharing information and the willingness to share information.  One of the key ingredients to developing a strong partnership built on trust is the assume innocence concept.  Trust is hard to develop and easy to tear down.  This is why the assume innocence concept is so important.  The test of trust in your partnership I believe is your willingness to assume innocence in response to a potential infraction to your trust.  Then the follow on to the assume innocence concept is open and honest communications.  In this case I suggest a process that follows this procedure; assume the infraction is innocent and then follow with a frank discussion to communicate your issues.  I think this process can actually help improve almost any relationship and should be the foundation for a collaborative partnership.


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?

There is an additional factor that is pushing the acceptance of collaboration, this is the convergence of all of these factors that are now driving the culture to embrace collaboration.  Additional contemplation has brought me to the point of believing that the convergence of all of the factors mentioned in earlier discussions may really be the key factor to attaining critical mass or mass acceptance of collaboration.  In other words, I think that we have reached a point where all of the ingredients have reached the point of capabilities and acceptance in the culture, both professional and personal to push collaboration into generally accepted practice.


In looking back I think that this convergence is another example of the power of continuous improvement to create a game changing technology or in this case a game changing practice or method.  These conceptions have been simmering for a long time through the natural human nature to develop communities.  Then, since the 1990’s when the World Wide Web gained general acceptance, the technology ingredient began to add heat to the recipe.  This heat applied to the personal side of the recipe generated new found interest in the potential of social connectivity and then the potential of social connectivity applied heat to the professional side of the recipe.  This is only one ingredient to the recipe however and there were many other ingredients in various levels of capabilities.


The next group of ingredients is the tools available to support the collaboration.  Again, pre-convergence, these tools started with private commercial networks.  The increase in use of the Internet and the World Wide Web again began adding the heat to the collaboration convergence recipe.  This shift from private commercial networks to a public and low cost network brang the push of the personal culture to the recipe.  In the early days of the 1990’s this started with email and instant messaging and over the years it heated up with web capabilities and social networks. 


You may be wondering why I refer to the Internet and the World Wide Web separately in this discussion.   The reason is that until the tool was developed to create web pages, there was no World Wide Web.  Until there was a WWW type address and interface capability the Internet was a text based network.  Emails and instant messaging can only go so far to support the type of capabilities that were required to put this convergence in motion.  There are hundreds of tools, networks and people involved in the tools, concepts and cultural acceptance that came together in this convergence that I am suggesting.


I think there is one final ingredient to this recipe and that is a dash of ‘why not?’.  As I’ve discussed in the past, the simple question ‘why not?’ is the secret sauce of many new concepts.  I think there is a very strong possibility that without each of these ingredients involved in this recipe the convergence, or the critical mass, would never be achieved.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is just a random development that suddenly materialized, I am saying though that it took many people with patience and a belief in the potential and value of these capabilities. 


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?

I think that we are finally reaching a point of critical mass, or general acceptance of collaboration in the marketplace and the business world.  How did I come to this conclusion?  In general observations, conversations with colleagues and also the increased number of articles in trade magazines I think that its safe to say that collaboration is reaching critical mass.  As further example of the acceptance, when I perform a Google search on collaboration and collaborate I get over 100 million hits!  The combination of this evidence leads me to believe that if we haven’t reached the point of critical mass, or mass acceptance, then we are very close to that point. 


Let me do a little recap here of the reason and and evidence that I believe show we have reached this point of acceptance.  To start with let’s lay the foundation of areas of collaboration; personal and professional.  Personal collaboration has been fueled through technology and the influence of newer generations on the habits and practices of the culture.  Professional collaboration has been fueled by the acceptance and influence of personal collaboration.  These influences and resulting acceptance have been driven by a cross over of tools and practices.  The personal and professional aspects of peoples’ lives are no longer separated, instead people today have broken down the barriers and look to utilize tools across these aspects. 


There are two factors that have influenced this cross over, the tools available and the increased acceptance of the concepts.  Lets talk about the tools first.  This factor started to have an increased influence starting in the 90’s when personal computers and the Internet increased their acceptance and influence.  At that point in time it became possible for people to obtain computers for their personal use that were at least as powerful, if not more powerful than the tools used on their job.  The rise of the Internet during this period started to show people the capabilities that could be achieved through the connectivity provided through the internet, beginning with email and instant messaging.  The rise of the Internet also generated the increased acceptance of the concepts that drive collaboration.  Starting with email and instant messaging the Internet has been eliminating barriers to collaboration since the beginning.  There is one additional aspect that is a by product of the improved tools and connectivity through the Internet and that is a decrease in the cost.  The cost of entry for collaboration utilizing these tools is now negligible and basically simply the cost of your Internet service.


These tools and concepts acceptance and embrace across personal and professional aspects of our lives and our culture have resulted in a convergence that both supports and drives collaboration.  These changes have reached a level a while back where they are self-sustaining and now the professional world is struggling to maintain their capabilities while technology and accepted practices are in a state of discontinuous change. 


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 success of your collaborative partnership as I’ve said before depends on a continuous review process that includes all of the partners in your collaborative framework. The most difficult aspect is building a mutually beneficial framework that maintains the interest and benefits of all partners is maintaining the focus and the continuous improvements that will ensure that your partnership does not wither away.  The challenge with a continuous improvement program that supports your collaborative partnership is that you must blend your internal continuous improvement program with your collaborative continuous improvement program.  This becomes a challenge of coordination and scheduling at a minimum because of the potential conflicting internal and external priorities.


The value however of a robust collaboration continuous improvement program will be immense and worth the effort.  Once all of your partners are all rowing in the same direction, so to speak, you will be able to extend your program to provide greater value across your collaborative partnership.  Another benefit is the sharing of experience, ideas and capabilities.  A major benefit is the cost; because your continuous improvement program is supported by your partners in addition to your own efforts, I believe it is safe to say that you will achieve extensive savings to the delivery of the improvements.


Let’s look at the challenges to implementing a successful collaborative partnership continuous improvement program.  The first of the challenges is structural to your partnership; you must blend your internal continuous improvement program with your collaborative continuous improvement program.  This can be a major challenge because it is based on two factors that are also a challenge for initial collaborative partnerships; trust and sharing.  First you must trust your partners will be open to supporting publicly and privately the improvement program and schedule.  Second you must realize that the collaborative continuous improvement program will include a more comprehensive collection of functions and types; from infrastructure and hardware to security. 


This more comprehensive collection of functions included in your improvement program provides its own set of both challenges and benefits.   The challenges in coordination and prioritization should not be downplayed.  These challenges can test your commitment to embracing and continuing the collaborative partnerships.  It requires open communications and prioritization with your partners along with a commitment to collaboration.  What I mean by a commitment to collaboration is that you must take into account your partners’ priorities and be ready to prioritize your partners’ priorities over your own, if the benefit to the partner is greater that your priority’s benefits. 


The benefits can be extremely enticing; with everyone rowing in the same direction you will multiply the benefits across your partnership.  Another benefit to the collaborative program is the reduction in individual costs for the improvements, remember you will share the benefits along with the costs and this can be significant. 


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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