General Colin Powel was quoted “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. Well, in our experience no plan survives contact with the partner either, nor should it! We’ve conducted and attended many partner planning exercises that did not include the partner. Not surprisingly when our Magnum Opus was presented to the partner, it didn’t resonate or at the very least didn’t survive unchanged as the partner proclaimed “What a great starting point!”
Human nature, I suppose, and to be fair it is valuable to think through the issues before meeting with your partner. However often as not you will find that your partner has different objectives, is measured by different criteria and has a different approach to – well everything. And this is good. In the case of warfare, advanced planning means that you are better prepared to adjust, to change tactics and understand the likely consequences of those actions. In partnering, you have the opportunity to enrich and refine your plan leveraging the creativity arising from different perspectives, incorporating the best of both.
Creating value from diversity is ultimately the goal and frankly the definition of alliances. Doing so is a skill set and a mind set that distinguishes successful collaboration managers. Approach these planning sessions not as a contest to get your partner to see things your way or to rubber stamp your plan. Approach these sessions as an opportunity to learn, to gain strategic insight, to build resiliency to changing conditions, ultimately to strengthen your joint plan. One of the greatest assets in business is a friendly critic. A partner can be that asset if at the end of the day, they are dedicated to your mutual success, will challenge your assumptions and openly contribute to a shared vision of that success.