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.