Success in collaboration requires leadership without a doubt.  The leadership required though comes not from a single source, this leadership comes from many sources across the partner network.  This leadership across the network must be encouraged and nurtured so that it flourishes and delivers the objectives and benefits.  The good news regarding this direction is that this effort to nurture and encourage leaders to step up across your network will feed into the growth and engagement of your collaborative partner network as a whole and this will in turn delivery dramatic value and benefits across your network.  As I’ve said previously, I suggest that one of the most effective methods to encourage the engagement of your partners is to encourage your partners to also take a leadership role. 

Sometimes the most beneficial action you can take in a partnership is to step back and listen to your partners and this includes encouraging your partners to lead the activity.  This encouragement can come in many forms and is a critical ingredient to your successful continuous improvement program.  The successful collaborative partnership network is very similar to a federation of governments.  In order to be successful you must encourage the participation of your partners, and this participation includes leadership of initiatives by the partners.  The collaboration partnership cannot be successful if it is based solely on the direction of one partner, it requires the support and participation from all the partners in the network in order to ensure that the partnership remains engaged and provides benefits to partners across the network.  There should be a committee, or board of directors if you will, that reviews the initiatives to prioritize based on the value and benefits delivered to the network.

This board would be responsible for two network objectives; the maintenance, or care and feeding, of the partnership and the board would be responsible for the maintenance and support of the continuous improvement program.  I see these two responsibilities as related and coupled to each other, in other words, I don’t think you can be successful in one aspect and neglect the other.  The care and feeding of the network can be delivered through the encouragement and participation of the members and then the encouragement and participation of the members is supported and grown through the successful delivery of the continuous improvement initiatives. 

Regular readers have already noticed that I came back full circle to one of my foundational concepts - the continuous improvement program.  This is one of my foundational concepts because of the versatility and value that a well executed and maintained continuous improvement program can deliver to an organization, or in this case a partnership network.  In this case the continuous improvement program provides the framework for the network to identify, execute and track the progress and the benefits of the individual initiatives to the network.  The program also provides a means to identify and encourage partners to step up and lead the initiatives.  This is the key to the success of the program and the partnership and will ensure the long term success of both.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you discussed engagement and participation with your collaborative partners?  What methods have you identified and incorporated to encourage participation?  Have you incorporated a practice to encourage your partners to take a leadership role in initiatives?