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Structuring a partnership: < 1 hour version

Aligning people around partnerships is hard. There are two parties involved, and also each party often has to deal with their own internal stakeholders. The result is often a mis-expectation about what the collaboration could bring.

To support quick, and clear alignment, or to spot misalignment, I’ve created the Partnership Canvas. The canvas contains 4 essential questions you need to ask yourself to explain your framing of the collaboration:

  1. What do I want from a partner?
  2. What can I offer them?
  3. How will we collaborate to combine our assets?
  4. What will the result be from the collaboration that I can use back in my own business?

The model is visualised below.

How does the Partnership Canvas support alignment? Well, the model is intentionally omissive, as it portrays only your half of the partnership perspective, namely your own! To align, you’ll need to seek out the other party’s perspective, and match your perspective to theirs. You do this by comparing the foundation of the triangle.

The quickest way for setting up a partnership workshop

  1. Get two or more potential partners in the room

  2. Start with understanding. Two parties have to different visions, and two different paths they’ll take. But in a partnership part of this path will be taken together. Any partnership discussion should begin with understanding visions, and paths. I get people to sketch out the landscape below, and populate it with their vision & path. Use post-its [10 mins]

    Source: Ernst Houdkamp

  3. Identify the parts of each party’s journey that is difficult for them to tackle (trigger that discussion by drawing a river, canyons, or minefields on the way). Look for issues that are bigger than just hiring in the right expertise for to solve. [5 mins]

  4. Get each party to structure their perspective on a collaboration setup with the Partnership Canvas. Frame the collaboration around what people have heard in discussing visions, paths, and challenges. Use post-its. [10 mins]

  5. Compare the canvasses in turn. See where there is alignment, or dis-alignment. Discuss those. Does it make sense to pursue the collaboration? Take pictures of the results [5 mins for each pairing of canvasses]

  6. If so, structure the collaboration in writing. Set out a timeline and tackle the biggest assumptions first. The partnership design is not done, until both parties have tested whether it is actually feasible to operate the collaboration, and whether the collaboration will generate enough value for both parties involved to stay committed. [20 mins]

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