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Winning Alliances

Strategic or tactical alliances or partnerships are formed all the time. We may not formally define or design them as such but the benefits remain attractive. The key is to consciously understand how you can best determine how the relationship will be formed and attain maximum benefits to all parties. In other words, how can the relationship be built to assure profits for the long term or any of the desired results among the partners for the short term?
In her book; “Intelligent Business Alliances,” Larraine Segil describes an approach she invented called the Mindshift Method. When forming a partnership or alliance, diagnostic needs to be performed as to the stage of the business and the complimentary personalities associated with each stage. Trying to form a successful relationship without regard to these facets will be difficult at best and probably lead to a breakdown for reasons that could have been averted. The risk of not analyzing the factors can be loss of money, opportunity and continual stressful relationships in the workplace. If you have experienced any of these negative outcomes possibly there were some key points that may have been overlooked prior to forming the business entity.

Bear in mind that strategy is the process of planning and directing operations in the most advantageous way prior to entering the engagements. Tactics would be the process of organizing during the engagement and operations are the process of being in action. Take time to determine and clearly define your strategy before you begin operations. Answer the question about where the company is going now and later and how are you going to get there? Is the vision being implemented properly and if not, how can you and your team design improvement? The answers to these questions will guide the subsequent tactics and operational decisions.

As in a marriage, the concept of mutual benefit is the moving target of alliances. The flow will be positive and negative based upon changes in the lifecycle considerations of the partners. You may start out planning for a win-win set of outcomes but things changes in the environment, economy, technology and customer mix that will necessitate revisiting the benefits originally conceived. Course adjustments are necessary due to factors beyond your control. Don’t let the relationship spin out of control for lack of periodic re-examination of your purposes and progress.

Author Segil notes that when alliances failed, incompatible personality characteristics were found to be a more crucial factor in the failure than any weakness in the business rationale. This would be a reminder to take care of the organization that is taking care of the business. Perhaps some forms of personality testing should be employed to confirm that your plans are on the right track and determine areas where people need to pay attention as to how to improve communication skills and working relationships. To help you identify your corporate personality stages here’s a listing of six stages with some identifying characteristics along with the diagnostic of the managerial personality types that are typically associated with each stage:

1. Start-up: founder-driven, risk intense and energizing. The management personality would be the Adventurer type known for being a risk taker, driven and sometimes unrealistic.

2. Hockey Sticky: Aggressive, confident, but lacking management depth. The Warrior personality dominates, being results focused and resistant to process

3. Professional: known for systematic planning and being predictive. Emphasis on marketing and not just sales. The Hunter type would be the leader being a skilled team and consensus builder and systematic.

4. Mature and Consolidating: risk adverse, complacent with rigid administrative structures. The Farmer personality would be formal and risk adverse as a leader in this organizational stage.

5. Declining: known for over-planning, being hierarchical and ritualistic. The Politician dominates here being known for the “CYA” philosophy, polite but certainly self-protective and bureaucratic.

6. Sustaining: entrepreneurship, planned, controlled, structurally systematic, aggressive, flexible and proactive. The leader is a Visionary who is results oriented, assertive, confident, inspires hope and empowerment, a team builder and risk taker but flexible as well.

To employ the “Mindshift Method” using the above categories, first discover the stage of the life cycle that defines your organization. Then determine the organization’s corporate personality. Examine your own personal managerial characteristics to see how you fit within the stages of the corporate cycle of change. Some personality testing may be revealing to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You may want to test all in your team to find ways to reduce friction and increase performance among different styles of management behavior. Use these diagnostic tools to analyze your actual or prospective partners. Finally, develop strategies based upon observed personality differences that will allow you and you partners to communicate and continue to contribute toward your progress in attaining your current goals.

Use the research and tools to stay ahead of potential conflict among your associates. Avoid the pitfalls of acting without regard to normal and natural changes in your corporate lifecycle and the management styles accompanying them. When things devolve and spiral downward the costs can be devastating both financially and psychologically. By using established research you can benefit by initially making a smaller and smarter investment of time and money to assure your relationships remain on a profitable and positive track.

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