The continuous improvement process can be one of the most important tools, or practices, supporting your collaborative partnership network.  The continuous improvement process puts a method into place with accepted  practices, processes and procedures to evaluate the network, promote and agree to the improvement initiatives and deliver the improvements.  This process also puts into place procedures and measurement of performance indicators to define and incorporate the management requirements.  As I discussed previously, the success of the collaboration partnerships requires additional focus and management and this additional focus and management will be provided by the continuous improvement process and procedures.

Let me lay the foundation here for expectations from the continuous improvement process as it relates to the collaborative partnership.  First of all, this should be focused on your closest partners.  These would be the partners that you interact with on a near continuous basis and these are the partners that have achieved your highest level of collaboration.  Through your incorporation of partners with the closest relationship you will have the greatest potential opportunity for success because these are the partners that share the same or similar practices and the practices are as important to their business as to yours.

Second, remember that the partners engaged in this continuous improvement process have engaged to bring value and return to their business in addition to the partnerships.  This means that you the initiatives and the return from the initiative must be clearly defined in order to prioritize and schedule across the partnership.  This will help to focus the initiatives on the results that will be realized by the partners.  This focus on the potential results and gains will help to enforce and highlight the initiative and also prioritize the scheduled efforts to implement the initiatives.

Third, and probably most important, is that you must remember that while you can influence decisions and support, you cannot order or force your partners to accept your own priorities.  This is the linchpin to the success, or failure, of your continuous improvement efforts and initiatives.  While this is the most important foundation cornerstone, it will also be straightforward, manageable and fair to the partners if and because you incorporate the first two points that I cover above.  This third foundation cornerstone is also a cornerstone to the success of your collaborative relationships.  It requires that you invest time and management focus to succeed in your collaborative partnerships.

The strategy guiding my suggestions in these discussions is to provide a method and guidance to allow you to incorporate your standard practices into processes and procedures that will bring value to your partnerships.  This strategy allows you to extend the value of the standard collaboration practices so that the become incorporated and ingrained into your daily activities and practices.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?