The governance model for your collaborative partnership network is another important aspect supporting and encouraging the engagement of the partners in your collaborative partnership network. This can be one of the most difficult and yet most important aspects to incorporate and develop in your network.  The governance must be a shared governance model in order to encourage the participation and engagement of the partners.  This shared governance model is very familiar in a social network framework, it is much less familiar and rarely supported in a business network framework.  I believe  however that the shared governance model is critical to encouraging the engagement of your collaborative partners. 

Let me start with my definition of shared governance; an open model that is based on the consensus of the partners within the network without a single continuous controlling partner.  I define the model in this manner because it is important that there is no one controlling partner and that the decisions are made by the group, in essence it creates a type of federation of partners.  Another important aspect of the shared governance model is the decision by consensus model.  Consensus is an important term in this governance model because the meaning of consensus is a type of majority rule model.  Everyone does not have to agree with the decision or the reasons for the decision, however, everyone must abide by the decision. 

I think there is an unspoken understanding for abiding by consensus and that is that while everyone does not necessarily agree to every decision, everyone must feel like they get a fair review and that they agree to many if not a majority of decisions.   In other words, the individual partners in the network must feel that their opinion and reasons are valued and taken into account in a partnership.  Without this value and consideration the partners will not be compelled to engage in the process and will leave the collaborative partner network. 

I’ve said previously that I believe the continuous improvement framework to be an ideal model for supporting and encouraging the engagement of the collaborative partnership network.  Again, as I’ve discussed this framework provides the pieces to support and encourage open communications which will also encourage the partners to engage.  The one aspect though that is required to support the shared governance model within the continuous improvement framework is instituting and formalizing a facilitator role.  The facilitator will coordinate and facilitate the continuous improvement reviews and prioritization sessions to ensure open communication and that all partner’s viewpoints, priorities and benefits are clearly understood and documented to use in prioritizing initiatives. 

I specifically identify the facilitator role for this continuous improvement framework because it is important that the person leading the discussions is not viewed as being in control of the process.  In order to enforce this role I suggest that the facilitator of the continuous improvement sessions not have a voice, or specifically a vote, in the initiative prioritization.  The facilitator should be limited to managing the sessions and encouraging communication and the engagement of the partners.  This will provide the greatest value to the partner network value and continued growth.


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?