19th December 2019

Image: Successful Partnership Working.By Toby Lindsay - Principal Consultant: Leadership, Management and Organisation Development

On the 5th December this year we were delighted to come together with representatives from Health, Justice and Social Care to explore our theme of successful partnership working. Having done a review of the literature and a search for anecdotal evidence on what makes for successful partnership, we embarked on our time together with a spirit of curiosity for a collaborative inquiry. First, we approached the anecdotal quotes through a reflective walk and then explored our own responses and experience, before relating these to the key insights from the literature.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we found a great deal of common ground that was largely backed up by the research. Key points made from the experiences of those in the room were that successful partnership requires:

  • Space for everybody to be heard
  • Time
  • Interventions that move the partnership on (as opposed to going around in circles)
  • Ownership
  • Involvement
  • Acceptance and letting go
  • Clear terms of reference and criteria for success
  • Transparency around power and a shared agreement on how decisions are made
  • Communication
  • Process that lasts (as people change)

We recognised clearly, that the process of partnership development must begin with connection and understanding. Further to this, interventions that move the partnership on need to be made in a timely way. If these come too early, fragile trust can shatter for good, too late and the partners have grown tired of the partnership and have already moved on. The leadership required for the development of successful partnerships is nuanced and highly skilled. A standout from the literature is that the greater the tendency to use power in a coercive manner, the higher the likelihood of the partnership failing very quickly.

Looking at our own partnerships against the criteria for success we had developed, we found deeper insight into where these partnerships were working well and where we might take action to improve their success. It’s clear that to realise the enormous potential benefits of partnership working requires a great deal of skill and practice. However, ultimately, we all shared stories of the richness of great partnerships and their impact on the provision of outstanding services for the communities we serve and found the exploration, sharing and insight of great value to take away.

Our next two events in 2020 focus on Performance and Coaching (Health, Care, Justice, Local Government) on the 23rd of January and Using Staff Engagement Data to inform OD Practice (Health Sector only) on the 27th of February will follow the same approach blending participatory inquiry, insights from research and experience with practical tools and techniques to  take and are recommended for all senior leaders, change, OD and HR professionals to explore and enrich their practice and learn and network with colleagues and peers.