4 Steps to Create Partnerships That Deliver Results

collaboration discovery outcomes strategic planning

By Ryan Fullmer

July 12, 2022

When You Need a Partner

There are times when you are going to need help to deliver on your customer’s needs. You might not have the skills, experience or time needed to deliver the solution. Finding the right partner can provide you what you need.

Too often we see friction in these partnerships. The relationships are more contractual than collaborative. The interactions are tactical and focused on activities, dependencies, and target dates.

When things are not going well, it’s hard to gain momentum. The schedule slips and frustration builds. There is finger pointing when challenges arise. It can seem like you are not on the same page, at all.

Take an Outcome-Driven Approach

Applying our Outcome-Driven Planning approach can make a big difference. It is a great way to get the partnership off on the right foot. It also an effective way to get struggling partnerships back on track.

Outcome-Driven Planning provides clarity to what each partner wants to achieve. Through the approach, you develop a common understanding of the following items: 

  • Problems to solve
  • What each partner needs
  • What each partner can contribute
  • Desired outcomes
  • Success measures

One of the keys to success with this approach is to make it a collaborative process. Bring together leaders, stakeholders and team members. Use tools and collaborative meetings to get everyone engaged.

Make sure everyone's voice is heard to build buy-in. Visualize the discussions with maps and canvases to build common understanding. We find that it is critical to have a skilled facilitator to guide the discussions.

Four Steps to Success

Follow these four steps to create successful outcome-driven partnerships:

Step 1: Get clear on why you want to engage a partner

Conduct a discovery session to get clear on why you want to engage a partner. Invite leaders, stakeholders and team members that have important perspectives and information. In this session, answer the following questions:

  • What problem are you trying to solve by engaging the partner?
  • Who are the primary customers?
  • Why is it important to solve this now?
  • What is the current situation related to this problem?
  • What outcomes do you want to achieve?
  • How will success be measured?
  • What challenges are preventing you from achieving the outcomes?
  • How can the partner help you address those challenges?

 Tip: Make sure your discovery sessions are well planned, facilitated, collaborative and visual. Click here to learn more.

Step 2 - Validate interest in the partnership

Conduct an initial meeting with the partner to validate interest and alignment. Review the information you developed during the discovery session. Engage the partner to understand what outcomes they would like to achieve through a partnership. If there is agreement and buy-in, schedule follow-up meetings to complete the next two steps.

Tip: Make it collaborative. Update the discovery information during the meeting and capture insights based on what you are learning.

Step 3 - Develop a partnership proposition

In this step, develop a lightweight and visual partnership proposition. Each partner shares their ideas for the purpose and value of the partnership. Identify the following information:

  • Value desired from each partner
  • Contributions that each partner will make to the partnership
  • Collaboration that the partners can engage in to integrate the value each provides
  • New, innovative value created through the partnership

Tip: Use the Partnership Proposition Canvas and process developed by Bart Doorneweert. Click here to learn more.

Step 4 - Create Partnership Outcomes

Based on what you learned in the prior steps, define a small set of meaningful outcomes. Identify what will be achieved through the partnership in the next year.

Narrow that list down to a few, important outcomes.  For each of those outcomes, develop success measures. Success measures make it clear what achieving the outcome means.

 Tip: Develop outcomes for each quarter. These near-term outcomes will help prioritize and focus the partnership's activities.

Move To Action

Now it's time to move to action. Establish your partnership agreement and decide on how you will work together. Brainstorm options to address the challenges preventing you from reaching your outcomes. Use an Agile approach to deliver quick value and get fast feedback.

Using this approach gives your partnership the clarity, alignment and focus to deliver real results.

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Start by downloading the guide: How to Use Discovery to Focus Your Agile Teams on Solving the Right Problems and gain free access to powerful resources, delivered to your inbox every week. 

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