- On May 10, 2016
I want to share an incredibly powerful concept with you, something I was first exposed to when I readIntegration: the Power of Being Co-Active in Work and Life by Ann Betz and Karen Kimsey-House.
It’s called ‘designing the alliance’ and it is the joining of the ‘doing’ and the ‘being,’ the ‘what’ and the ‘how.’
We spend a lot of our time, our thoughts, our collaborative effort on ‘what to do’–the To Do list, the project plan, the contract which lays out responsibilities.
How much time do we ever spend deciding how we want to be when we are doing those things? The ‘how do we want to be’ as we are taking care of the ‘what do we do’?
Let’s apply ‘designing the alliance’ to a situation between two companies. These two companies are teamed together in providing an IT operations center for a large client. Alicia is the project manager for the operations management company. Ryan is the project manager for the network service provider.
Alicia is the taking over as project manager and is having her first meeting with Ryan. The relationship between the two companies in the past has been rocky. Alicia enters the picture, a picture that has distrust already woven into it.
Alicia wants to show they are starting with a clean slate and lays out the list of activities, talking points, and highlights of what the two teams are going to do together in this collaboration. Ryan and his team listens politely and has no issues with the specified tasks.
Alicia leaves thinking, “Well that went well. They agreed to everything I laid out.”
Ryan leaves the room with the same skepticism he arrived with, that things really haven’t changed—the responsibilities are basically the same as before–and they will experience the same difficulties, even if it there is a different face at the helm.
Instead of just focusing on the ‘what to do,’ how would this be different if Alicia also initiated a conversation around ‘how do we want to be?’
She could start by naming the elephant in the room:
I have heard that our past collaboration didn’t go as well as either side hoped. I’d like to change that going forward. We’re going to talk about what we need to do together to serve our customer.
Before we get to that, I propose we talk about what would make this relationship work best for both of us–not the tasks but the expectations of how we want to show up and work together.”
My team has told me that you felt that we did not give timely feedback on status to you. Maybe our ideas of timely feedback are different. What does timely feedback look like for you?
Ryan: We need the information on problems the same time you get it so we can start the troubleshooting process. Right now, your operations team gets it, processes it, and then turns it over to us. This could take several hours—time we could spend on starting to resolve the problem.
Alicia: Ok, so what I’m hearing is for us to be effective in this project you need to have feedback right away? What if we add your network team to the distribution list for that trouble ticket so you get the notice the same time it goes into our system?
Ryan: Yes I think that will work. It’s a start.
Alicia: Ok we’ve settled on one thing we are going to do.
Now how do we want to be–what happens if we are late getting the trouble ticket out or if you don’t respond according to the Service Level Agreement?
What usually happens is we point fingers at each other and build up a story defending our position. This happens on both sides.
Instead, how do we agree to act to resolve this problem?
Ryan: Well…if we are not responding well or if we feel you are not giving us sufficient information, then I propose the two of us agree to get involved and figure out where the hold-up is. What happens now is each side hunkers down and we run it up the chain on our side and eventually the COO gets involved and the whole thing gets blown way out of proportion.
Alicia: I agree. We have to be the first ones to be involved if our teams can’t work it out.
And we have to come at it from a place of joint problem solving not laying blame.
If we can show that we are cooperating instead of pointing fingers maybe that will get our teams to start working together more proactively.
Ryan: Good, and if this is how we agree to come together to work out problems, the other thing we both have to do is make sure that shows up in our procedures and our teams are briefed.
Alicia: Good point. So we have decided on what to do when there is an outage– joint access to the trouble ticket and respond on both sides via the standards in the SLA?
And we’ve also agreed that we are going to treat each incident as a joint problem with no blame laid to either side.
Do you agree that the important thing is to join together to provide the best customer service? And if either of us feels that is not what is being done, the first thing we will do is call each other and find out what is going on.
B: Yes! Except for the tasks that are already laid out in the SLA contract; we had never worked on how we would actually work with each other so I think this new approach can alleviate a lot of the pain we felt in the last contract.
‘Designing the Alliance’ works in any relationship. My husband and I are going to Spain for a few days. We have the train tickets, the hotel reservations, the weather forecasts, the cat sitter all lined up–all the TO DOs covered.
Now to consider–how do we want to BE while we are travelling in Spain?
We want to be present with each more; busy schedules make us feel sometimes like ships passing in the night. We want to hold hands more. We want to be open with curious minds to new experiences—octopus, flamenco dancing, art and architecture.
If you focused on the BE as well as the DO, how would that change your relationships?
Photo credit: JMaliszewski, 2015, Sand Dune in Namibia