Does your programme need a bit of oomph?

It is surprising how many people say they are collaborating when all they are doing is talking. Talking is a good start but it is not the same as true collaboration.

It is not uncommon to find that programme boards or other cross organisational forums have been talking over many months, maybe years. Some good things will have come about and relationships improved but nothing like the expected transformation.

We’ve noticed a trend in requests for our services to diagnose collaboration issues and help formalise new ways of working together. There used to be the occasional call from someone who had been part of a change programme or similar that had got stuck. Then there was a steady trickle. Now there is a flood.

Our observation is that as the reality of a proposed change gets closer, consciously or subconsciously those that stand to lose will find reasons to stall. We always advocate that you flush out those issues before you start. If there are problems then better to know at the outset then discover that later. See our case study on this.

“True collaboration is more than talking. It is about taking decisions together and committing to those decisions and the follow through”

We may sound like a broken record in banging on about alignment when setting up an alliance or any form of collaborative working but there is good reason. If true alignment between each party and what you are trying to achieve is lacking then as night follows day, you will not get there.

Real alignment is not just signing up to a vision statement that nobody can refute. It is about checking and rechecking ‘If we achieve this, what does it mean for me, for my staff, for my organisation?’ It’s about being honest about ‘Does our ambition as an organisation fit with this vision for the whole system?’ and being prepared to say that you are misaligned.

If this stage was missed or done superficially at the outset and there is now a loss of momentum and progress, then you might want to consider doing it now.

True collaboration is more than talking. It is about taking decisions together and committing to those decisions and the follow through.  Alliancing goes another stage further, it formalises collaboration. A written agreement signed by all, stating what you are seeking to achieve together and how you will work together to achieve it, is a powerful symbol of commitment.

It moves people from seeing the discussions as voluntary, where they can watch and wait or dip in and out. Now they are signed up and responsible and have to play an active part.

A stalled or slow moving programme can be refreshed. It is helpful to pause and restate the vision and clarify purpose, scope and timelines. Then have the honest conversations about alignment with these and each party. Those who are aligned and genuinely committed can then be invited to sign a Programme Agreement or Charter. Unlike a full alliance contract a commercial framework is not necessary for this kind of alliance.

Each party is signing up their commitment to the vision and to seeing it enabled. As long as you have already had the hard and difficult conversations, demonstrating that there is enough trust between you to do so, then you will find progress thereafter much easier.

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