In a study conducted by Deloitte (1) on the top five success factors for strategic alliances and partnerships, “Mutual Trust” came out on top. Unfortunately, research indicate that most companies under-invest in the human relation aspect of alliances, seldomly investing sufficiently in establishing, maintaining and growing mutual trust.
You cannot have open dialogue and value creation without trust. Essentially, incremental value creation in an alliance or partnership is entirely dependent on fostering an environment of trust combined with a distinct ability to manage expectations in reference to the individual and combined contributions by each partner.
In fact, the bulk of strategic alliances - also in Life Sciences - do not achieve the incremental value that management expects. Often alliance failures can be traced to lack of respect, confidence and trust in the other partner or the alliance itself. Trust is affected by the degree of openness in communication; adversely a lack in trust is also a root cause for poor communication (2).
Consequently, trust is a fundamental issue, being both cause and effect.
This root cause relationship is often what triggers a positive or negative value creation within an alliance. Here ‘chemistry’ seems to be a key driver – and in the absence of good ‘chemistry’ the motivation to collaborate and go the extra mile for the good of the entire alliance is simply not present.
The best of alliances reap huge rewards for customers, employees, partners and stakeholders; the worst of alliances foster individual and organizational frustration, unproductive resource investment and are typically emotionally draining for both parties of the alliance (2).
So, what can alliance partners do to build and operate a healthy alliance? Well, it all starts with both parties choosing to look at differences or problems from a positive perspective – nurturing openness and respect and putting aside blame, judgment, shame or guilt. The key to achieving this is trust. Paradoxically, as open communications occurs, especially discussions focused on the most challenging problems, trust grows. As trust grows discussions become healthier, and less loaded with counterproductive emotion (2).
(1): Deloitte Consulting AG, Switzerland, 2014
(2) Gerlach, Porst & Steiner: “Building Trust in Strategic Alliances: enabling greater value”., 2007