A Partnership Test:
The Eleven-Point
ship. It is an opportunity to begin learning from
and communicating expectations to your poten-
tial partner. Participants can openly and candidly
explore values, attitudes, and approaches—
essential information for ensuring a smoothly
func tioning partnership. Specifics are important
throughout. “Ambiguity can mean disaster,”
says Lillian Prymak of Executive Forum in
Englewood, Colorado. “Dis cuss scenarios very
early. Take the time up front to explore all the
‘what ifs’.” Better to invest the time and effort
into firming the particulars up now than to later
find yourselves looking for a graceful way out.
Then, as Producers Livestock Association’s
Dennis Bolling sums it up: “You are ready to
begin a relationship when their need becomes
your goal and they feel the same about you.”
Point by Point
Assume now that you are
confident you have the right partner. There is an important
next step to be taken before you firm up your alliance. The
questions in this eleven-point checklist are designed to help the
two of you assess the rational side of your potential partnership.*
Although some of them may not be relevant to your
present situation, they are important considerations for audit-
ing your partnership’s potential. Reviewing them together can
reveal hazards that might later cause the partnership to stumble.
Checkpoint #1: Complementary Strategies
Are our individual marketing approaches effectively
served by this partnership?
How can this partnership enhance or improve our
If one of us is adversely affected strategically by this
partnership, are there ways to compensate or support
that partner?
Checkpoint #2: Cultural Congruence
Are our cultures (what we believe, how we live, our
norms, values, and styles) congruent, or at least
Can our incompatibilities coexist without jeopardizing
the partnership?
Are there cultural changes down the road that could
damage our partnership?
*Appreciation to Ron Zemke and Jim Kouzes for their input on these questions.
Checkpoint #3: Views of Time
Do we have similar views of the future of our partner-
ship? Have we been open about how long we expect it
to last? Do we agree on how to end it satisfactorily?
Are our philosophies on time the same? Does urgency
have the same connotation and value for both of us?
Are we equally fervent about meeting deadlines?
Have we agreed on the consequences of delays or
missed deadlines?
Checkpoint #4: Control Practices
Do we measure, monitor, and inspect in similar or
complementary ways? Do we have compatible ways
to make decisions and solve problems?
Are our record-keeping, accounting, and control
systems and practices cut from the same cloth?
Do we need to change the way we measure processes
and results in order for the partnership to verify and
gauge progress?
Checkpoint #5: Front-Line Information System
Do we communicate alike unit to unit and person
to person?
If things go wrong, are our early warning and repair
systems and skills compatible?
Are our organizations structured to support this
partnership? Have we talked about whether and how
they can be improved?
Partnership requires
full and adequate disclo-
sure. Partners must be
willing to lay all their
cards on the table—the
good cards and the bad
—Dennis Bolling,
Producers Livestock
Checkpoint #6: Shared Values
Is a win-win philosophy a normal part of the way we
do business? Do we need to create a stronger, more
obvious win-win philosophy in either of our organiza-
tions? Can we assertively talk about trust issues?
Are our views on the meaning and importance
of quality compatible? Will we approach quality
assurance with similar tools and fervor?
Are our customer service views and practices com -
patible? Will we approach understanding and meeting
customer needs with similar tools and fervor? Does
customer loyalty hold the same value for each of us?
Checkpoint #7: Goals, Roles, and Tolls
Are we of one mind on the partnership’s primary
business goals? Are we clear on what we’re trying to
achieve together?
Do we have the same view of the roles we (and our
organizations) will play in this partnership? Have we
talked about how we will handle conflict if our roles
change after the partnership is under way?
Do we have exactly the same view of the price of our
partnership time, expense, resources needed, frequency
of encounters and transactions, and other tolls?
Checkpoint #8: Compatible Intellectual Capital
Within our units or organizations, do we each have the
right skills and knowledge to manage this partnership

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