Decoding Partnership Opportunities Pt. 1: Strategic Relationship Insights

By Karen Lehman February 21, 2024

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago

There is much confusion about what it means to partner.  Most people immediately begin to talk about affiliation.  As soon as the word affiliation is spoken out loud, however, they clam up and close their ears and their minds to whatever words are said next.  Why is that? What are we afraid of? In this 3-part series of articles on strategic relationships, I hope to take the mystery out of what it can mean to partner with another organization and consider all of the different ways organizations can work together to strengthen themselves strategically.

Let’s be honest and say that any time considerations are made to partner or work together, we have to give up something.  If you’re in a marriage, you know that giving up, giving in, and negotiating with your partner is something you do every day.  In many ways, a strategic partnership or contractual relationship between two organizations is very similar to a marriage.  It takes care, commitment, time, and trust.   But let’s back up and talk first about strategy and how important a strategic direction is for the future of your organization.

For some boards and executive leaders, strategic planning can also be a mystery.  It can be daunting to think about the process and whether or not to hire a consultant to help with it.  Mostly there’s concern that a lot of effort can be put into strategic planning and then nothing happens with the results.  Strategic planning does not have to be hard! It is one of the most important tasks of the board as it is the board’s responsibility to plan for the future.  Sometimes starting with some good questions can lead to thinking about strategic direction.  Here are some questions to be considered:

Asking good questions about current challenges, opportunities, and what kind of future you want for the organization (aspirations) can help launch several key strategic goals.  It is at this stage of thinking that most forward-looking organizations will consider the question about a potential partner or affiliation.

When an organization develops a strategic plan that includes consideration of partnerships, it is a proactive and forward-looking approach.  Looking at or considering partnerships or an affiliation is a process, not a commitment.  It is a way to consider what your organization’s strategic options are, and what the future might look like for your mission if you were to consider working with another organization.   It puts your organization in the “driver’s seat” in the process and not in reactionary mode.  It’s the difference between controlling your destiny and giving it up to another organization’s vision.

I love this Warren Buffett quote, Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.  Your organization was “planted” by people with a vision.  What are the new trees your organization is planting for the future?

Read part two, now!