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2014
tbrouill

Partnership Agreements

Posted by tbrouill 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?

tbrouill

Open Communications

Posted by tbrouill 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?

tbrouill

Trust Hurdles

Posted by tbrouill 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?

tbrouill

Collaboration Hurdles

Posted by tbrouill 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?

tbrouill

Trust Factor

Posted by tbrouill 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?

It seems to me that collaboration and trust go together like peanut butter and jelly, or spaghetti and meatballs, you really can’t have one without the other.  This may be the most important and yet the hardest concept of collaboration to embrace.  We have been brought up to ‘be careful’ with people companies and even concepts, ‘be careful’ that your don’t get taken advantage of, ‘be careful’ that someone doesn’t steal from you, ‘be careful’ that a company doesn’t rip you off.  It seems that ‘be careful’ is just another way of saying that I don’t trust you. This is now where the concept of assume innocence should be introduced again.  This is exactly why I spoke of the concept of assume innocence earlier in my discussions on collaboration.  Now this can be tied together to help you to build a truly valuable collaborative partnership. 


I’ve also spoken earlier about ‘the leap of faith’, this is where you have evaluated all of your reasons and potential risks and you decide that for this one time you are going to take that risk.  Taking that risk, or taking that leap of faith is very scary and I don’t suggest that you do this lightly.  Taking that leap of faith does not mean go out and be foolish; taking that leap of faith means that you have performed a careful evaluation and there are an even amount of pros and cons that you have identified, there are no clear deciding factors and yet you feel that the benefits are worth the risks.  You can always talk yourself out of a decision, that’s not what this is about, this is about asking another question - ‘why not?’


You may be saying to yourself that I have not introduced any life altering new concepts and you would be absolutely correct!  Moving forward is not always new concepts, that killer app is not always a brand new concept.  I have come to realize that the vast majority of time, the breakthrough or the killer app is the result of a journey made up of many trials and revisions along the way.  You should always move forward in a thoughtful manner but don’t let your thoughtful manner box you in and box you out of the next new breakthrough.


These discussions on collaboration and building a collaborative partnership have helped me to verbalize the the risks and rewards.  These discussions have also helped me to investigate and also embrace important concepts that I feel must be evaluated in order to develop a robust collaborative partnership.  These discussions have also helped me to reevaluate some concepts that I may have played lip service in the past only to come to realize how important and beneficial these concepts are. 


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?

An interesting by-product of a strong collaborative security framework is the high level of trust and openness that develops across your partners.  The simple reason for this is that when you provide a safe environment for sharing, your partners will embrace the opportunity to share openly. This open sharing will provide benefits across your entire collaboration chain.  The second interesting by-product of this security framework is the improved capabilities that are developed and encouraged through the exercise of developing the security framework, sharing experiences across your partners will deliver a stronger security framework.


The difficulty in developing this collaborative security framework is taking the leap to opening up to your partners.  The first thing you should think about is what are your concerns regarding sharing and opening your network to partners?  In order for you and your partners to overcome your concerns you must understand them and the reason for your concern.  One thing that you should remember is that ‘things change’ meaning you must view this as a continuous improvement exercise.  A second important thing to remember is that every major shift in business practice started with a leap of faith.  What I mean by this is that just because a practice goes against your current framework does not mean that you shouldn’t seriously evaluate the opportunities, benefits and challenges to embracing the change. 


I’ve used this example before, years ago in retail sales forecast information was considered proprietary and not shared with vendors.  Then one day a brave retailer examined the practice and decided that the benefits to their business of sharing this information would be greater than continuing to protect it.  I am suggesting that an open and secure collaborative framework is the same type of example.  What is required here is for the first group to take that leap of faith and develop a strong collaborative security framework to smash through the commonly held beliefs.  Not only must someone smash through the commonly held beliefs, they must also encourage their partners to take that same leap and then they must commit to the belief to give the time required to truly achieve the benefits that are possible.


This leads to my final recommendation; implement a robust continuous improvement program to support your collaborative security framework!  My advice to get the most out of this opportunity is that you should take advantage of the experiences and background of your partners in the continuous improvement program.  I fully understand that this exercise is probably the single most difficult aspect of developing a value added collaborative partnerships.  I also fully believe that this is a key factor to the continued long term success of your partnerships.  The benefits that can be achieved through a robust and secure collaborative environment will more than make up for the challenges and 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?

The development of your collaborative partnership security framework exercise with the other partners in the collaboration network is a critical step in developing acceptance from your partners.  As I mentioned previously, this exercise is much, much more than an exercise to create a non-disclosure agreement.  This exercise is the first exercise in developing the open sharing capabilities and framework.  This exercise must be carefully planned and executed in order to ensure that each partner has the opportunity to influence the decision and requirements.  Because of the critical nature of this exercise I also suggest that it may be beneficial to engage with a professional facilitator.  This outside facilitator will provide the example that the partnership is serious about incorporating all partner suggestions and requirements.  I mention this again to lay the groundwork for the suggestions for developing your security strategy.


I believe strongly that this exercise will influence the partners’ acceptance and participation in the collaborative partnership. There are two key points in this exercise;

  1. Build a strong security framework to protect the interests of all partners in the collaborative.
  2. Build a strong framework for open and honest sharing of information.

The point that I find most interesting is that the act of sharing security concerns and sharing security requirements and sharing security practices with your partners can be the single greatest factor in gaining acceptance from your collaborative partners.  The reason for this is simple; when you sharing your security concerns with your partners you are also sharing a high level of trust to bring them into your security circle of trust. Think about it, you and your partners would never be discussing a collaborative security framework if you did not already have a high level of trust among your partners.


This is a great opportunity to develop best practices and take advantage of the experience and capabilities of your partners.  Like so many other aspects and areas of collaboration, the security framework can benefit greatly from open sharing with your collaborative partners.  I can understand that on the surface it seems odd to propose that you can improve your data and systems security by collaborating and sharing your objectives and requirements across your collaborative partners.  The simple fact of the matter however is that your technology security capabilities can be dramatically improved by sharing findings and strategies that have both worked and failed across your collaborative partners.  Why go down rabbit holes that your partners have already identified as fruitless?  Sharing findings and strategies can improve the security for all partners.


There is one more aspect that you must give serious consideration in this exercise; sharing your security objectives, requirements and findings across your collaborative partners also send a psychological message that you trust them.  This is an extremely powerful message and can go a long way to building the trust that across your partners to collaborate in an open and honest manner.  The faster you can get to a high level of trust and openness across your collaborative partners, the fast you can achieve mutual benefits across your collaborative partnerships.  This is where you are going generate benefits and this is where you are going to build the kind of strong relationships that will deliver benefits for years to come.


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?

Circles of security access helps me to understand and discuss the security framework that is an additional critical aspect of your successful collaborative partnership.  I think of this aspect in this manner; everyone in your collaborative partnership must share opening in order for the partnership to be successful and in order for everyone to share openly they must feel secure that sharing will not open the door for a security breach and compromise critical data.  This requirement must be clearly defined and understood early in order to provide the framework for secured open sharing.  This requirement must be regularly reviewed and revised in order to ensure that the secured open sharing can be maintained in changing and growing environments.


Defining the circles of security access should be first discussed within each partner organization.  This is a critical discussion to evaluate the types of access and then the requirements and level of agreement required to open the types of access to partners.  This must be an internal evaluation for each partner because it is important to define an initial framework within each partner organization that is not influenced by pressure from other partners in the collaborative network.  This private exercise will also provide a very strong basis for developing a secured environment for open sharing across your collaborative partnership.  This of it this way, bringing the individual framework developed by each partner together to form a combined framework will increase the chance of started with a robust secured framework for open sharing.


When each partner has completed the exercise of defining their own requirements and level of agreement they can then come together in a review exercise with the other partners in the collaboration network.  This exercise is much, much more than an exercise to create a non-disclosure agreement.  This exercise is the first exercise in developing the open sharing capabilities and framework.  This exercise must be carefully planned and executed in order to ensure that each partner has the opportunity to influence the decision and requirements.  Because of the critical nature of this exercise (I believe strongly that this exercise will strongly influence the partners’ acceptance and participation in the collaborative partnership.) I also suggest that it may be beneficial to engage with a professional facilitator.  This outside facilitator will provide the example that the partnership is serious about incorporating all partner suggestions and requirements.


The third leg of this tripod is the regular review and revisions to your circles of security.  This review in its base concept is the institutional incorporation of a continuous improvement program.  This review and revision process is critical to ensuring that the collaborative partnerships’ security needs are regularly reviewed and updated.  This review and revision process will ensure changes in requirements based on changes in outside attacks are understood and incorporated in your partnerships’ security strategy.  This process provides the framework to ensure that your security strategy is robust and can also provide the basis to improve the individual security capabilities of all 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?

How does security impact collaboration?  Collaboration on the surface encourages sharing and open exchanges.  However the fact of the matter is that there is always a force lurking that is trying to take advantage of these types of open exchanges to steal the information.  What we've learned time and again and across industries is that

  • These forces are always trying to infiltrate systems to steal personal and / or corporate information.
  • Every system has it inadequacies that can be used to break into and steal important personal and / or corporate information. 

Over the years we continue to see the outcome if these constant attacks with TJ Max, recently we saw the same results with Target and again with Citigroup outside of the US.  These results are the outcomes of constant targeted probes to find weaknesses in system security.  These results and penetration to steal personal and / or corporate information are also the result of complacency in security procedures.


This concern and objective to protect information must be front and center when developing your collaborative partnerships.  These concerns must be first and foremost because you must not only protect your own internal interests, you must also protect the internal interests of your partners and also the interests of the collaborative partnership as a whole.  This challenge is especially difficult because a key objective of your collaborative partnership is open and honest communications.  In order to protect the interests you must develop a collaborative partnership security strategy.  This strategy is especially critical to each partner because the partnership’s security is only as strong as it’s weakest link. 


I do not claim to be a security specialist, however security starts with some common sense and then is extended with industry best practices along with continual vigilance and improvements.  The key in developing your strategy and also in opening access to your partners is to understand that there must be ‘circles of security access’.  These ‘circles of security access’ should be defined by the level of security access that is provide to the partners within those circles.  I suggest ‘circles of security access’ because this concept aligns with the commonly accepted descriptions of the circles of your social relationships.  The innermost circle would be the highest level of trust between partners and then there would be additional security levels and protections between yourself and your partners as the circles progress in size.  The challenge is in defining a roadmap of progression through the levels of security and acceptance. 


Granted this discussion may come across as the opposite of trust and open communications, however I suggest that defining your security strategy with your collaborative partners supports a strong framework of trust across your partners.  This collaborative partnership security strategy develops and supports the trust across partners because of the fact that is shows how each of the partners’ private information and even intellectual property will be protected across the partnership.  This level of security planning provides a level of comfort and trust across the partnership.  In addition, the partnership will provide an increased level of security capabilities through a sharing of requirements, experiences and capabilities across the 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?