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Delivering defence reform and the defence materiel strategy: establishing effective partnering in UK defence

Effective partnering between the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and defence industry, and between partners in the supply chain, remains a critical enabler for effective acquisition and the implementation of both defence reform and the defence materiel strategy. Government, industry and other private sector partners therefore need to work closely together in order to deliver future capabilities, export successfully, maintain capability and secure future revenues. 

Establishing a strategic partnering approach is widely acknowledged as a way to improve the effectiveness of relationships and generate improved long-term outcomes for all involved. However, implementing such an arrangement is often difficult: studies show that between 50%-70% of partnering relationships fail to deliver the expected benefits. Further, there is significant pressure on relationships, some of which have become transactional, as a result of the current economic context and the extreme pressures of trying to rebalance the defence budget. 

It is vital that the defence community strives to achieve effective partnering in order to realise the benefits from closer collaboration and to deliver the UK’s defence ambition. 

Based on our experience of working with both the UK MOD and defence industry, there are four key elements to a successful partnering approach.

Establish a common purpose

Both government and industry must recognise the differences between their respective organisational goals and work together to translate those goals into a common set of mutually supported objectives. The objectives must be endorsed by senior stakeholders and provide the focus for collaborative working at all levels. It is also important to recognise the differences between strategic and project partnering. Strategic partnering is often characterised by relatively ‘soft’ objectives, while project partnering typically focuses on the delivery of ‘hard’ objectives. The strategic framework must therefore be meaningful, and provide both clarity of purpose and the authority for joint working at a project level. 

Develop a performance-related regime

Reward will drive behaviour. The MOD and industry must carefully design and agree performance and commercial mechanisms that drive delivery of the desired outcomes. The aim should be to create a ‘positive sum’ game in place of a more traditional win/lose procurement model. A hard commercial edge is essential to ensure that the loss of competitive stimulus does not reduce innovation or cost efficiency. It is therefore important to agree specific, quantifiable, outcome-based performance metrics.

Build a joint management and capability framework 

Successful collaboration demands a different style of management and enhanced capabilities on both sides: people who can operate well in a collaborative environment, manage stakeholders and take a strategic view need to be identified, developed and supported. Joint governance and management processes, that promote open communications and information sharing; constant and active management of the relationship; and well-established escalation and conflict resolution are also key to long-term success.

Drive change to build a truly collaborative relationship

Ultimately, delivery of successful partnering is often down to the confidence and trust that develops between individuals. Moving from a traditional, competitive, contractual relationship to a partnering style represents a significant culture change that requires a change of attitude and approach, and also the development of new policies, procedures and working practices. Driving the change from the senior team to the middle management layers and throughout the workforce is both important and difficult, and will require sustained management effort and commitment. There is a real need to live the rhetoric at all levels throughout the life of the agreement and to constantly review and enhance collaborative working.

To find out more about establishing effective partnering in defence and delivering the defence materiel strategy, please contact us now.

Nick Newman
Defence and security
contact us now
Ritu Sharma
Defence and security
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