It is important to evaluate the type of engagement model you select when developing a new relationship with a new organization.  It is also very important to reevaluate this engagement model on a regular basis, regular should be defined as a period of type, or even an event that may occur that causes the need to evaluate the engagement model. I suspect, however, that many people and organizations misunderstand the difference between the outsourcing and the collaborative partnership model.  I fear that many organizations have started to use the terms collaboration and collaborative partnership for all engagement models because it has become a popular phrase in the business trade discussions and publications.

I feel that there is a level of organization maturity that is required in order to develop a collaborative partnership that is not required for outsourcing.  The outsourcing model follows the classic customer / service provider model where the customer identifies and retains service providers that claim to provide the requested service.  This model fits in very nicely with the classic command and control practice that has been prevalent in business for generations. In this model the customer engages with a provider of the service and simply measures the quality of the service against the cost of the service.  In this model the criteria are very straight forward in a supply and demand model.  The customer engages and as long as the supplier provides the service at a cost and quality level desired by the customer both sides feel successful.

The collaborative partnership model requires a greater level of organizational maturity in order to get past the classic customer / service provider, or command and control, relationship.  The collaborative partnership requires that each partner allow and accept the leadership to be provided by the other partners based on the capabilities of the partner and the requirements of the objectives.  In addition, this leadership is not the classic command and control type of leadership but a guidance and suggestive type of leadership.  This is what I refer to as collaborative leadership, a suggestive and open type of leadership that encourages engagement and participation from the partners.  This type of leadership requires a greater level of maturity in the organizations and partners in order to accept the guidance from partners, it requires the realization and acceptance from the partners that someone else may be better able to guide the delivery of the objective.  The second trait of the collaborative partnership model is the acceptance of a mutually beneficial value model.  In other words, each partner embraces the concept that the value of the partnership is greater when all partners gain from the relationship and more importantly each partner embraces the concept that sometimes the individual must give more, or gain reduced or no benefits in order to increase the overall value of the partnership.

I view the differences in the models to come down to a simple test; a collaborative partnership encourages engagement and requests input and guidance from the partners based on their experience and capabilities.  The outsourcing model is based on the command and control model where the customer simply defines the requirements of the relationship.  The value of the collaborative partnership is much greater over the long term and also allows and encourages the growth and benefits of all partners in the relationship.   


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you discussed with your leadership how to select the type of relationship to enter into with a new potential partner?  What questions do you answer in order to determine the model?  Do you re-evaluate your relationship on a regular basis in order to revise the relationship?