Building and sustaining tailored business relationships with key customers and suppliers can lead to a competitive advantage. However, partnerships are challenging to manage. Too often, managers enter into a relationship with another member of the supply chain without either side clearly identifying their expectations. This is the primary reason why these relationships fail to meet the goals of one or both sides. With this in mind, we have developed a model that can be used to identify the business reasons for building more closeness in a relationship (these are called 'drivers' of the partnership).
In a day-and-a-half partnership meeting, a cross-functional management team from each company works separately with a facilitator to identify their firm's drivers of the partnership. After both sides have agreed on the drivers, the next step is to identify the appropriate type of partnership by considering the strength of the drivers and how well the two organizations mesh. The output of the day-and-a-half meeting is a strategy and an action plan for managing the relationship and achieving each organization's drivers.
We have conducted more than 100 partnership meetings with major corporations around the world. One example is the Wendy's and Tyson relationship, which was the basis for a 2004 article in Harvard Business Review. You can also read about the Partnership Model in Chapter 15 of the Supply Chain Management book or purchase the new Building High Performance Business Relationships book which contains an in-depth description of the model and provides details about how to use it.
For companies that don't have one and one-half days to spare, we have developed a shortened version of the model called The Collaboration Framework. The Collaboration Framework is used in a one-day meeting, again with two parties considering their relationship. It focuses on the same driver categories but this time participants identify 18-24 month performance goals for each driver and assign each driver a priority (critical, very important and important). Then, the teams decide what they can accept as joint goals and develop a plan for implementation.
Ultimately both models are about an agreed evolution in the relationship – one that is negotiated, transparent and accountable. If you get it right, you can co-create value and both sides win.
If you would like more information about our facilitation services please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Coca-Cola Company uses the Partnership Model to structure a discussion of each company's business strategies and the "drivers" of partnership as the launching point for its strategic supplier partnership process. A joint partnership plan is created as a result of this discussion at the partnership meeting. The plan includes 3-5 annual objectives and specific initiatives, which are assigned to an owner at each company. Our partnership management routines ensure that the initiatives get done and we maintain the momentum generated in the partnership meeting.
Vice President, Customer Solutions,
The Coca-Cola Company