Alliance Stakeholder Alignment

Posted: 6/8/2011 by Norma Watenpaugh

Do you have champions in your alliance? or do you have snipers and hostages? 

When I teach alliance skills mastery workshops, I often ask how much time managers spend on internal alignment.  That is winning the hearts and minds of the internal alliance stakeholders to gain their buy-in and cooperation.  I hear answers from 30% to sometimes a frustrated 100%.  Most commonly, I hear on the order of 70% of an alliance managers day is spent in gaining and maintaining alignment within the company to the goals and objectives of an alliance and solciting support from the stakeholders to execute on alliance projects.  

That is a lot of time!  Time that could be spent on more productive activities that create value; activities that create innovative products or generate revenue!  

When an organization is not internally aligned, there is friction in the operations.  Friction is costly! Just ask any mechanical engineer.  It wears people down, causes operations to grind to a halt.  Then it takes an inordinate amount of energy to start the process up again.  Even in a well managed alliance, energy has to be continually injected to keep operations going forward to overcome friction. 

There's got to be a better way!  No promising miracles, but here is a tool that will help you understand where those points of friction are and to help you oil the machine.

By positionng alliance stakeholders on this matrix, you will begin to see the work cut out for you.  On the X axis is commitment. Think of this in terms of how these stakeholders perceive the value of the alliance. Do they believe it is a positive strategy for the company? 

On the Y axis is accountability. What do these people have at stake in the success of the partnership? Do they have a bonus on the line, a quarterly objective, personal reputation, a positive review from their manager?

4X4 matrix of stakeholder postioning based on accountablility and commitment

You will be able to anticipate the behaviors and attiftudes of the stakeholders by where they fall in the matrix.  These quadrants are colorfully named, but the names imply some of the behaviors you should expect. Understanding the motivations of stakeholders by commitment and accountability will enable you to develop strategies and tactics to address behavior and attitudes.

Champions are highly committed and highly accountable.  What behaviors would you expect from your champions?  You would expect them to evangelize the value of the partnership to others and to go the extra mile to meet their commitments. If you are the alliance manager, you should be in this quadrant! and so should your executive sponsor.

Cheerleaders are true believers, but are not accountable for the success of the alliance.  They may have other priorities so they may not be as dependable as those who are accountable. But they are people you want on your team and people you might recruit nto the Champion quadrant by giving them a stake in successful outcomes. 

Hostages aren't committed to the partnership. They would rather be working on something else, but since they are accountable in some way, they feel stuck.  They will do the bare minimum but no more. 

Snipers. Who doesn't have a few of these.  Snipers may actually have an incentive see an alliance fail. Their goals and accountabilities might be in direct conflict. Address these folks early or they will spread discontent. 

I have been invited to join the Asian Collaborative Business Relationship Community  for a free webinar to discuss alliance stakeholder alignment. We will be discussing how to use this tool to help grease the machine as you launch an alliance and how to maintain alignment through on going operations. If you are interested in learning more please join us on June 21.  Register here.

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