Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Managing the paradoxes that lie at the heart of partnership working

Here is a very interesting article about how Unilever is transforming its relationships with suppliers to create a web of partners who can work together to create, enhance (and share the benefits of) sustainable business practices.

Unilever transforming its supply base into a web of partners working together to share the benefits of sustainability

For me, what are particularly interesting are the paradoxes Pier Luigi Sigismondi (Unilever's Chief Supply Chain Officer) identifies as particularly challenging and, if a partnership is to achieve its potential, crucial to manage well. These are:
  • The ability to retain local integrity and solve local issues whilst operating at a global scale.
  • The need to be both structured and open to achieve real change.  
The latter paradox is similar to another paradox: the need to be both predictable and unpredictable. The effective management of this paradox is often crucial to partnerships tasked with identifying and implementing creative and innovative solutions to difficult and complex problems. I explore this paradox and give an example of its effective management here:

Partnerships must be both predictable and unpredictable

In fact, there are a good number of other paradoxes that partnerships must manage well if they are to realise their potential and achieve, or even better exceed, their goals. Some of the most crucial ones are:
  • A partnership must focus on short and long-term issues at the same time.
  • A partnership must be both open and closed.
  • Partners must act both separately and together.
  • Partnerships and partners are both powerful and powerless.
  • Partnerships and partners need to be both directive and reflexive.    
  
I explore these paradoxes and give real life examples of their effective management in Chapter 7 of my book 'Sleeping with the Enemy - Achieving Collaborative Success', which is available from Amazon. Just click on the cover to your right to get it.

Have you come across any other paradoxes that partnerships need to manage well?

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