Communication is the key to successful partnerships

Informal communication and personal relationships can ‘make or break’ partnerships such as joint ventures and Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects, experts have warned.

When managing partnerships and alliances, organisations tend to concentrate on formal processes relating to governance and the monitoring of work. But, according to a new report from executive education provider Roffey Park, working relationships and other informal processes at each level are equally important.

“Formal processes may be the backbone of alliances/partnerships, but effective personal relationships provide the flesh on the bones that maintains the spirit of the alliance and enables people to work together as colleagues,” said report authors Wendy Hirsh, Valerie Garrow and Linda Holbeche.

The report identifies the HR processes that must be in place to support partnership working, including job design, work allocation, deployment, performance management and career development.

“Collaborative working creates extra challenges for staff at all levels, and HR practitioners must provide support to help people work in a new way,” said the report authors. “This support may involve joint HR interventions, such as shared training for those working in the alliance/partnership.”

The report warned that cultural differences between the partner organisations – such as the speed of decision making, the degree of bureaucracy/hierarchy, and attitudes to quality – can cause frustration, as can individual differences of work styles and personality.

“People have to be realistic that different cultures may exist between the organisations, and they have to work across these,” said the authors.

“It can be especially difficult for managers when your quality of service depends on staff employed by the partner organisation, which is outside of your direct control.”

To be effective, there should be clarity from the outset about what will be done, who will do it, what information will be shared, the standards of work expected, and how charging regimes will work, the report said.


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