I have discussed previously the types of relationships that you will encounter and develop between and across your network as they relate to the types of information shared and level of participation.  It is also important to take into account the effort necessary to maintain and even grow the relationships based on the communication methods you are incorporating.  It is all well and good to understand and incorporate the tools to support the communication methods, however these tools will not magically make the relationship materialize and grow.  Making the relationship grow requires effort over  a long period of time.

This effort can be compared to learning any new skill, you must consciously engage and even schedule the activities until they become second nature to your everyday activities.  I believe that these activities are not standard operating procedures for most people.  The need must be recognized and then you must practice until it becomes second nature, at which point you will begin to enjoy both the effort and the results of the effort.  Relationships are difficult things to develop in both your personal and professional lives and they require start up effort and regular maintenance.

Once you have developed the relationship though the time and involvement does not stop.  You must continue to maintain these relationships to ensure they flourish and do not die off.  Collaboration and relationships require additional investments in both time and effort to maintain the relationships.  One additional point that is important to remember and account for is that these relationships and involvement will fluctuate based on the the availability and the value gained from the relationships.

It is important that the relationships deliver value to all involved parties.  This value generation is the driving factor to developing and maintaining the relationship.  Collaboration relationships require developing and maintaining a ‘win-win’ framework to encourage the long term participation of partners.  Your network partnerships will dry up and die if all partners involved do not perceive and realize a value.  In the beginning of the relationship development everyone involved is excited about developing new relationships and it is fun to learn about your partners and share experiences.  This will only carry the relationship so far and the factor that will encourage maintaining the relationship is the value that you and your partners will gain from the relationships.

The importance of developing and maintaining these relationships can and will be dramatic.  The effort you put into developing these relationships will be minor when you begin to realize the benefits of the relationships.  There is a increased start-up effort required though and this must be taken into account and accepted in the relationship development.  Then you must be prepared and plan to support the on going regular relationship management efforts.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you incorporate the different methods of communication to support your collaborative network needs and objectives?  Do you have a formal maintenance communication plan that your partners have participated in developing?  How does the informal communications methods impact and support the formal communications?  Have you developed an evaluation plan for your communications methods, a type of continuous improvement process for your communication methods and communications plans?