Previously I discussed the challenges of prioritizing and delivering continuous improvement initiatives due to the fact that your partners do not directly report into your organization and management chain for the most part.  This challenge requires that you convince your partners of the importance of an initiative that is important to you based on factors that will resonate with your partners; factors such as benefit to the partners within the partner through increased value or reduction in costs.  This is a very similar process that you would go through internally when you are requesting budget funding.  This type of influencing extends through your collaborative partnership network however for all activities.

A result of the fluid nature of the collaborative partnership network with partners joining and leaving and participation of partners increasing as their collaborative maturity level grows it requires a different type of leadership, or probably more appropriately guidance than is required in your own and other partners’ organizations.  The leadership model is more like a parliamentary democracy or the United Nations where partner members participate and vote on initiatives presented by members.  These partners may even elect a leader, similar to a prime minister, that would provide the guidance as long as the members agree.  I would expect the partnership network to require a great deal of maturity however to reach the point where there would elect a leader of the network.

Due to the social aspect of the collaborative partnership network I would expect the leadership to be based on a conscientious decision based on the votes of the participating partners.  In this case the participating partners, or key stakeholders, would be the partners directly involved in the initiative or the proposal.  Any partner participating in the discussion would be able to vote and provide input and the partners directly involved in funding and implementing the initiative would have the decision making authority.

I would suggest that a monthly meeting to review performance indicators, discuss direction and opportunities for new initiatives would be a minimum schedule and the partners involved in an initiative would meet much more frequently while executing the initiative.  You must have a regular schedule for these meeting so that your network partners can coordinate their schedule for attending.  These meetings in most cases would not require an entire day they are meant to promote communication and collaboration across the network.  The working sessions would be part of the project initiatives and involve specific partners.  Then on a quarterly basis you should schedule a full day session to review the performance of the network and the expectations and general requests for improvements.  Out of this session you would kick off specific improvement initiatives based on the priorities and vote of the partners.

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?