A valuable partnership on all counts

Making your dream team successful 

Many business-critical projects and operations depend on partnerships, companies working together on a common goal following a joint strategy and tactical planning. The deliverables are agreed upon as are the methods to measure, to govern and to steer. From a company you would expect to have a clear view on the strategy pyramid (values, vision, mission, strategy, tactics as demonstrated in a fun but powerful way in https://www.xperian.be/strategy-cards/ ), from critical partnerships you should expect nothing less. 

However, not always all strategic layers are clear to the full partner ecosystem. In good partnerships there is a clear common goal, all parties are aligned on the strategy, the different managing stakeholders know their role and responsibilities and their interaction/interdependency with the other partners. At best, all partners and stakeholders are not only fully aligned but also enthusiastic, optimistic, energized, clear-sighted and can rely on professional, competent, well balanced dream teams. 

Great, but is it enough?  

In the above listed partnership engagement elements one thing is missing. A common understanding and mutual agreement on the values which will drive the decision making is equally important: what do we stand for, what do we believe in, why is that. For instance, do we want: 

  • to be sustainable, green; 
  • to give you the best of the best and we will dare to innovate; 
  • you to be able to count on us for “100%” stability and compliance; 
  • to introduce continuous improvement of our way of working during our endeavour and/or during our service delivery; 
  • to apply fair pricing, or the lowest rates possible in the market, or the lowest rates available, or …; 
  • to choose for good enough technology; 
  • to give startups a chance when possible while respecting our risk appetite limits 

These values, these convictions, are guided by the ethical charter of the company (if available) and the ethical compass of the sponsor and the prime stakeholders. Their moral behavior and sense drive the values they esteem should be respected by the partners working together on a common goal. 

The importance of ethics is omnipresent in today’s world, more than ever before. Your partnership’s view on values and ethics is not only important in your way of working. They are the Why behind What you will do. How will you promote civility, truth (prevent disinformation), fairness (avoid algorithm bias), privacy? Burning matters influencing more partnerships than I would like to start counting today. 

On a global level but also in our immediate environment it is not exceptional that differences in opinion on a direction to take or choice to favor, arise between partners who do not share the same importance to certain ethical values. In some cases that may even result in toxic relationships. It is therefore wise to be specific about ethics and values very early in the engagement process and to communicate them, to propagate them. Dr. Celine Bilolo demonstrated that there is a connection between the fluctuation of the stock exchange rate and the public value of an organization. The higher the (perceived) public value, the lesser the fluctuation of the equity price. Putting this in a perspective of a partner ecosystem you can expect that stakeholder trust and partnership stability will benefit from clearly defined and supported ethics and values. 

If we talk about partner engagement and ethics, we are looking at working relationships from a “steering committee level”. The importance of values and ethical behavior goes further than that. It is also present within and between teams. For teams to be efficient, the members combined need to have all the skills and competencies necessary to be up to the tasks. A lot has been said and published about profiles and how persons with different styles and attitudes can find ways to work together as good as possible. Profiling techniques such as DISC and MBTI bring valuable insights in the way people act and react. It is good to know and to understand if a team member or stakeholder is by nature dominant and if so how to collaborate with such a person when you are a conscientious worker striving to know all the details yourself. 

Applying those insights will at times however be insufficient if all team members are not aligned on the values & principles of the partnership. E.g.: 

  • Differences in opinion between those opting always for the best possible solution disregarding or minimizing costs or risks and the ones opting for the most suitable solution. 
  • A common quality standard for the solution is one thing, a view on (market) quality and acceptability is another. 

Discussions can go sour because it sometimes is impossible to objectively factualize what the right answer to a dilemma is. Knowing the principles which guide the partnership is a key element to come to supported decisions. 

When talking about partnerships, we are talking about teams. When looking at teams we are looking at team members, at persons. Understanding and respecting the partnership’s ethical principles can not only lift a team to higher levels of efficiency and effectivity. It also serves as basis for more motivated, respectful and happy team members. Working hard for something we don’t believe in provokes emotional stress. Working hard for something we value contributes to happiness and leads to positive commitment (rephrasing Simon Sinek). 

It is worthwhile checking out https://zinnings.be/ where you can read something similar “Moral stress can mean that you had no autonomy to do what you thought was right “. “More and more people are looking for coherence in all aspects of their lives: work, family, friends, associative life, societal commitments, everything must be coherent with the personal framework of values. Young people, but certainly not only them, are increasingly looking for meaning in their jobs and are pushing sustainability policy in organizations.“ 

I also liked and subscribe what https://www.theschooloflife.com states: “Creating space for discussion and social discovery elevates an organization from a group of individuals to a well-integrated team”. 

Principles and ethics are both the foundation and the summit of your partnerships, the lubricants for efficiency and sustainability, the polar star for your journey together. Adding them will allow you to rise from a common goal to a shared purpose. 

Tactics without Strategy is noise before defeat (Sun Tzu), Goals without Values are fata morganas. 

Yves Danneels 
Partner Xperian 


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