I have seen many relationships that profess to be partnerships that are not based on the accepted definition of partnership.  The accepted definition of partnership from wikipedia is an arrangement in which parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.  The key in the partnership is the simple phrase ‘to cooperate to advance their mutual interests’.  In many and possibly the majority of relationships I see this phrase to be the most difficult to implement and actually embrace.  I think that may in not most relationships profess to be partnerships and when you compare the actual relationship to the accepted definition you will find that the relationship actually leans towards an outsourcing for services relationship.

The acceptance and implementation of a partnership model really is what I believe defines the maturity level of an organization.  This is the single greatest factor to the acceptance and implementation of a true partnership that embraces the need for mutual benefits to gain the greatest success.  This single factor drives the greatest level of benefits and yet is the most difficult to maintain due to the historical practice of command and control.  Many relationships and participants pay lip service to partnership and yet when you honestly evaluate the relationship and especially the key points of cooperation and mutual interests or benefits the result is a realization that most relationships mistakenly are referred to as partnerships.

It is easy to understand this misunderstanding and I think that many people and organizations truly believe that they are engaged with a partner, or have developed a partnership when in actuality they are engaged in outsourcing for services.  A partnership can be difficult to develop and even more difficult to maintain and grow.  It requires overcoming some business practices that have been embraced and encouraged over the years until they are part of the culture of business practices and relationships.  This competitive approach to business relationships however will hold the organizations back from even greater accomplishments form partnerships and especially collaborative partnerships.

The accepted definition of collaboration is working with each other to do a task and to achieve shared goals.  I think that you can see that collaboration and partnership is a natural combination or more accurately they enhance each other.  However they are at odds with the generally accepted practice of business which is competition.  This is exactly the reason why collaborative partnerships are so difficult to achieve and maintain.  This is exactly why I suggest that the relationships must be regularly evaluated for both adherence to the definition of the model and also for areas to improve and extend the partnership.  The regular evaluation will allow the partners to ensure that they are adhering to the concepts and that they do not stray from the concepts.  I am afraid that without this regular evaluation and resetting of priorities that the partnership will drift into the outsourcing model without realizing it.


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?