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Habit Ten - Manage the changing of the guard

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Ron Wiens and Tamasin Davies conclude their 10-part look at best practice for public-private partnerships

At the start of a partnership, council leaders are inspired and enthusiastic about the whole venture. Leaders on both sides of the partnership understand the nature of the partnership, their roles, responsibilities and the behaviours expected of them as leaders.

They are fired up by the vision of the future and can see the potential benefits, the goals and the direction of travel very clearly.

Things are never static.

Personnel change, people come and go and new arrivals do not have the same understanding or commitment to their part in making the partnership work. New staff at all levels, including those in the most senior appointments, bring with them the attitudes and experiences of the environments in which they previously worked.

The resulting ongoing dilution of the original culture that launched the partnership can in a few short years lead to a situation where a critical mass of management and staff no longer feel any responsibility for the partnership’s success.

New personnel at all levels need an orientation programme so that on joining the council they:

  • understand the council’s partnership approach, its goals and aspirations
  • acquire the motivation to work towards the success of these partnerships just as they are expected to support other council commitments

Partnership success requires vigilance on the part of council to ensure that the energy and enthusiasm that new staff bring are aligned with the council’s partnership agenda.

Conclusion

The success of the partnership depends on the effectiveness of the working relationships between two groups of people from two different cultures. These relationships rely on the good behaviour of people at close quarters; they involve expectations and delivery on promises.

Two organisations joining up forces may make a lot of sense, economically and in many other ways, but they need a lot of care and are prone to derailment.

The seed of destruction for council partnerships is often sown during the honeymoon period when staff on both sides are full of hope for what’s to come.

At this point, leaders are taking a break from the traumas of negotiating the contract and launching the partnership. They are rightfully basking in the glory of their success. They have done their job and done it well. They are taking a deep breath as they turn their attention to other council business.

So what is the seed of destruction? It is the anticipation of success!

Rather than anticipating success, councils might be better served by recognising how easily partnerships come off their tracks. This means putting significant time and energy, from the very start, into building and maintaining the working relationships that are its foundation. The 10 Habits lay out a strategy for doing this.

Success for the partnership depends on the council running hard right out of the starting gate.

Ron Wiens is a partner on leadership for totem hill

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