The Human Side of Partnerships - Pharmaceutical Executive


The Human Side of Partnerships
Successfully managing strategic alliances means putting people first.


Perhaps more important is the diminished quality of their working relationship that results. The sisters remain angry and frustrated, each feeling she didn't get all that she wanted. They may even hold grudges and try to "even the score" later. Had the sisters shared their underlying interests, they would have understood each other's true needs more clearly. Such understanding would create empathy, build trust, facilitate communication, and expand the possible solution set, eventually creating greater value for both.

The same lesson applies to alliance managers. When dealing with a demand, they should separate positions from interests and work toward mutual understanding.

Joint contribution, not blame. The concept of "joint contribution" is founded on two premises: situations are rarely black and white; and alliance relationships exist within a system of actions and reactions. In other words, actions are generally reactions—responses to actions taken by others.

Troubled Relationship Lead To Alliance Failure.
The upshot is that each party is likely to have played a role in creating a situation. This does not mean they are equally culpable or legally responsible—merely contributory. A person mugged walking across a poorly lit park at night has done nothing to deserve punishment, but the route chosen was nonetheless a factor in that person's misfortune.

Breaking down a situation's causes from a joint-contribution perspective allows alliance partners to see how different people, groups, and systems together produced unwanted results. This expansive examination of causes generates better problem-solving options and helps avoid a repetition of the pattern of interaction that created it in the first place.

An organization may even gain from looking at its own actions in isolation from within a joint-contribution stance by helping it identify unilateral changes that might improve or remedy systemic or recurring problems.

Merit-based decision making. If alliance partners are to successfully overcome their differences and consistently make good decisions, they must try to persuade, not bulldoze or coerce. Each side needs to make its case "on the merits." If the alliance is to last, the companies must share a belief that resolutions are legitimate and based on standards that both accept as reasonable. If not, the relationship will deteriorate, decision-making quality will decline, and the partnership's life expectancy will be diminished.

Keep the Change
Alliance partners must therefore be prepared to implement the behaviors associated with "on the merit" decision making. This means partners have to explicitly commit to this kind of decision making as a matter of principle. They have to articulate and agree on what the appropriate standards of decision making are. They have to be open to the possibility that they might be wrong at any stage of discussion on any point, and be equipped to engage in conversations about metacriteria—the standards used to evaluate the appropriateness of other standards. By so doing, partners are likely to arrive at joint decisions both believe in; both feel were fairly made; both can accept, understand, and trust; and both can carry out.

Collaborative Behaviors Collaborative behaviors are fundamental to overcoming any differences in pharma-biopharma alliances and a key to preventing them from occurring at all. But they won't happen if firms do not have the organizational capability to implement them in a systematic, ongoing way. Companies need to develop and institutionalize ways of managing alliances that have these collaborative behaviors at their core. Indeed, many organizations engage in multiple alliances and therefore must manage several relationships concurrently, a significant managerial challenge. Seen in this context, an organization that fails to focus on how it can support collaboration puts all its alliance-dependent strategies at tremendous risk.


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Source: Biopartnerships,
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