LSBM Lighthouse - Towards a Common Future: Collaboration and Partnerships

05 Mar 2018

LSBM was visited last week (in the middle of a snow-storm!) by David Hawkins (middle) from The Institute for Collaborative Working (ICW), to discuss 'Towards a Common Future: Collaboration and Partnerships', alongside Delon Jones (right), President, Student Guild and Arif Zaman (left), Deputy Director, Centre for Research and Enterprise at LSBM.

In light of the UK leaving the European Union, collaborations and partnerships is a hot topic right now, as we are currently in the middle of a period where we are re-defining our relationships with other countries. At a superficial level this is about trading relationships, but in reality, it extends out to everything, as often these trade agreements are only agreed on the basis of compromises in other areas.

Pertinent to this particular discussion is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be taking place in London in April 2018 (https://www.chogm2018.org.uk/). The UK will be playing hosts and hoping to build bridges of all kinds with our Commonwealth partners.

In our recent Lighthouse talks, LSBM have been helping to highlight some of the key themes that will be discussed at the meeting.

You can read Stuart Brown, Media and Content Manager's write-ups from the first two events here:


A bit about David Hawkins

For today's topic of collaborations and partnerships, David was the perfect person to comment. David has had an extensive career in projects and procurement within the construction and manufacturing industries. For over 40 years he has been associated with the development and implementation of major projects in many parts of the world, which has provided an insight into the many organisational and cultural challenges that projects and global operations can generate.

He has been an active promoter of collaborative concepts and the development of extended enterprises through the building of alliances. He is the architect of the CRAFT programme, the technical author of the British Standards Institutions’ PAS 11000 collaborative business relationship standard, first published in 2006, and chairman of the BSI committee that developed BS 11000, published in October 2010. He is currently Chairman of the International standards committee that published ISO 44001 in 2017.


The Weird and Wonderful World of ISO's

ISO's are not generally headline news. You won't find many people getting too excited about them. 

And yet... perhaps they should?

"ISO originated from the union of two organisations – the ISO (International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations) and the UNSCC (United Nations Standard Coordinating Committee).
 

In 1946 over 25 countries met at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London to create a new international organisation, where the objective was to ‘facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards’. From this the new organisation ISO began operations in February 1947. The word ISO is derived from the Greek ISOS meaning ‘equal’." (Source)


The word 'equal' is an interesting one to ponder if you are looking to form meaningful collaborations and partnerships. Inevitably both parties in any negotiation have their own agendas, but that doesn't mean they cannot form partnerships that can be equally beneficial for both parties.
 

"The International Organization for Standardization, is an independent, non-governmental organization, the members of which are the standards organizations of the 162 member countries. It is the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. Over twenty thousand standards have been set covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture and healthcare.
 

Use of the standards aids in the creation of products and services that are safe, reliable and of good quality. The standards help businesses increase productivity while minimizing errors and waste. By enabling products from different markets to be directly compared, they facilitate companies in entering new markets and assist in the development of global trade on a fair basis. The standards also serve to safeguard consumers and the end-users of products and services, ensuring that certified products conform to the minimum standards set internationally." (Source)

The importance of ISO 44001 is that it sets down a framework for the 'management of collaborative business relationships'.

You can read the details of the specification here.

LSBM became one of the first Higher Education Institutions anywhere to introduce teaching on ISO 44001 as a mandatory module during its Level 6 course on Critical Issues in Business Management for the BA (Hons) Business Management in 2017.

So we are already 'ahead of the curve' :-)
 


The ICW have the following vision:

"Collaborative Working recognised as a fundamental business discipline necessitating a structured methodology to underpin business relationships."

 

To be clear, trade and 'collaborative business relationships' have always happened, regardless of whether or not there is a formal 'trade agreement' or ISO standard in place. For example, currently there isn't a formal trade agreement between the United States and the UK, but that hasn't stopped us being one of their biggest trading partners. In reality, the ability (and reliability) to pay the bill for goods and services has historically been more significant for trade then what is written on a piece of paper. 

However, standards are important. If you are buying steel for example, then how it's made, the purity of the steel, its strength, tensile strength, how it will be fabricated etc are all issues that need to be addressed. Having international standards that are agreed by all parties facilitates trade because much of that necessary work has already been done. 

Here, for example, are all the various 'Steel ISO Profiles' that have been agreed. They may not make exciting reading! But their existence allows for less-friction between trading partners, with business engaged more on the basis of relationships, price and requirements, rather then specifications of deliverables (though 'paper specifications' are one thing, and 'real-world deliverables' are quite another, as anyone who has ever dabbled in manufacturing will be able to tell you!) Still, common ISO standards help.

ISO 44001 is interesting because in some ways it seems less tangible. It addresses process primarily, rather than deliverables, but the ICW explains its importance in the following terms:

"For most organisations the hardest parts of starting any relationship management programme is to find a suitable framework within which to develop ideas. The CRAFT methodology was developed to create a road map to collaboration based on the simple eight-step programme consolidated from the experiences of practitioners. It has subsequently been adopted by the British standards institution as the foundation for the world’s first collaborative business relationship standard (BS 11000) published in October 2010 and now this has been migrated to an International standard (ISO 44001)." (Source


The eight-steps in the collaboration process are:


1/ Operational Awareness - For many larger organisations the cascading of management systems will be influenced by the impact of divisional and industry sectors where customer, regulatory, geography or operational requirements may introduce specific adaptations.

2/ Knowledge - The success of any business venture depends on the strategy that is behind the approach and the depth of risk evaluation that precedes action. Developing collaborative strategies should start by establishing the influences that will stimulate success. To exploit the potential it is essential to fully appreciate the drivers, risks and pressures of the marketplace being addressed; adopting collaborative approaches requires investment from all parties and thus should be focused where it offers most benefit.

3/ Internal Assessment - A collaborative relationship is a two-way process and to achieve the desired goals it requires commitment on all sides. This is not just about processes, procedures, systems and contracts, it is a question of the leadership, skills and motivation, which will govern the behaviours and approaches at the working level. It is important to understand the internal enablers that build trust between the parties based on mutual benefit and equitable reward.

4/ Partner Selection - It is important to understand the differing dynamics of a collaborative approach and assess the strengths and weaknesses, whatever the route to selection. Where an existing provider is perhaps a single-source option their collaborative capability is frequently ignored, as there is no other choice. It is clearly important to ensure that selection maintains the competitive edge that many see only coming from competition and to build confidence in the selection process clearly defining the endgame upfront to avoid confusion later.

5/ Working Together - Effective and sustainable collaboration requires a robust approach to both organisational development and personal behaviours; these factors are inextricably linked. This starts with a focus on individual and joint partner objectives, together with agreement on roles and responsibilities. To establish a working platform on which collaboration can deliver the benefits of combining skills, resources and driving innovation, there must be clear governance that is supported by integrated business processes, measurement and people development.

6/ Value Creation - To harness added value means challenging the traditional thinking, creating new value or alternative value propositions beyond those contracted. Innovation is a critical factor in the value creation process. A parallel benefit that comes from introducing a structured approach to value creation is that it supports organisations and teams working together. How organisations choose to encourage innovation depends on a wide variety of factors, but is often managed well by establishing joint cross-functional teams that can be brought together to address specific challenges or ideas.

7/ Staying Together - In a changing world the internal and external pressures on any collaborative relationship will inevitably lead to impacts on effectiveness. It is also important to recognise that as relationships evolve they will undergo change, so to ensure the maximum benefit it is important to undertake regular validation to maintain focus and efficiency. No two relationships are the same and the dynamics of organisational and people changes can influence performance, so it is equally important to recognise that as relationships progress they need to be monitored to ensure that appropriate focus is maintained on areas where convergence might not be happening to maximum benefit.

8/ Exit Strategy Activation - The lifespan of any business relationship will vary between organisations and market influences; adapting to these changes is a crucial part of developing effective collaborative partnering arrangements. The development of effective integrated activities requires the building of trust between the parties, which over time will enhance the opportunities – those who expect to maximise their investment over a limited time will generally find that collaboration does not provide solutions. Many people may consider that to address an exit strategy at the outset of a relationship infers an acceptance that the relationship will fail, but this is not the case. Experience suggests that being open about all possibilities allows the partners to focus on every aspect of integration.

You can read more details about the thinking behind each of those areas here.

 

Removing trading frictions

The key distinction between carrying out trade within an ISO structure and without can be more or less important depending on the parties involved. Structure is always present between collaborative parties, but how that translates into deliverables can vary greatly. Having a ready-made structure to draw on (in the form of an ISO standard) means both that important elements in the process are not overlooked, and also that all parties share a common conversation, rather than perhaps talking at cross-purposes. 

It can also mean that unnecessary subjects are removed from the discussion table. 

Removing frictions generally increases trade. This is the basis for money markets, stock markets and commodity exchanges around the world. When you standardise deliverables and narrow down to the essentials, then you can remove certain aspects of trading friction that lead to doubts, which in turn leads to more business being done.

This can be seen on a simple level with different consumer goods studies that have been carried out where less choice has equated to greater sales. One such example is:

"Sheena Iyengar from Columbia University set up a table laden with jams outside of an upscale grocery store in Menlo Park, CA. Over a period of two consecutive Saturdays, research assistants dressed up as store employees and offered samples of either 6 or 24 flavors of Wilkin and Sons Jams, a British jam purveyor known for exotic flavours.
 

Once the final numbers were calculcated and extrapolated out... If you run the final numbers based on 100 people, 60 would stop when 24 flavours were offered, but less than 2 purchased (1.8 to be exact). When 6 flavours were sampled, 40 stopped at the table, and 12 purchased." (Source)


In other words, over 6 times as many people bought jars of jam when there was LESS choice. 


Focus on the right things

From a collaboration perspective, the first lesson may be that sometimes focusing on just the right things is more important than considering everything. So, an ISO can help to establish what are the key areas that MUST be discussed, and equally importantly, by establishing what the playing field is, also make clearer the areas that may need less (or no) attention.

A second point worth making though is that there is still a minimum viability number! In the experiment above, for example, had no jars of jam been available for people to try, then clearly no sales would have been stimulated. 6 sample jars may be the 'magic number' for generating sales, but then again, it might not. Perhaps in other circumstances, 7, 5, or 8 (or another number) may have performed better. 

Similarly, with the ISO standard, while too many elements may hinder the forging of good collaborations and partnerships, equally, too few may also be counter-productive, and regardless, it is imperative to keep testing. An ISO is a framework, not a magic wand. The participants still need to account for local, project and managerial inflections that are capable of changing the structural dynamic.

In the same way that 'eat less, exercise more' may be good basic advice for losing weight, it is still only a framework. If you are gluten intolerant then your plans will need to involve less bread specifically. Business and collaborative partnerships are never going to be 'paint by numbers', but a framework can help to establish a way of moving the dialogue forward productively.

David spoke about the 'Benefits realisation from collaborative working' research that had been carried out (on behalf of the ICW) by Warwick University, and which was published in 2015. This identified the following benefits as a result of collaboration:

1/ Better problem solving
2/ Reputation
3/ Customer satisfaction
4/ Increased trust
5/ Overall business performance
6/ Innovation
7/ Continuous improvement
8/ Better supply chain relationships
9/ New competence and skills development
10/ Employee satisfaction
11/ Customer retention
12/ Lower operating costs

 

The wider discussion

Speaking specifically about the Commonwealth, David commented:

"Harnessing the Commonwealth is like turning back the tide. That may be an iterative process that takes two generations to reach its potential."

 

Emphasising, that even with a good framework for collaboration, it is still not necessarily an overnight process to create partnerships. 

Delon spoke about he felt that understanding each other is a great first step on the road to better collaboration.

Arif spoke about examples of collaboration that were already taking place around projects in the commonwealth, including mental health, education policy framework, sport for peace and the young leaders' forum.

He also spoke about the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers that had taken place in Nadi, Fiji from the 19-23 February 2018. This was a gathering of Education Ministers from 34 member states of the Commonwealth. You can find the final report here from that conference, NADI Declaration - Education Can Deliver.

This declaration will also be debated by Heads of State during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April, so we can expect some more concrete education policy announcements following that. 

David spoke about the challenges that lie ahead:
 

"The challenge is not today. The challenge is ten years from now when people are living in a different world, and we need to create the recognition of that now... Technology is a supporter, not a driver and always we have to find the commercial benefits... Find the objective and then find the people who share that objective."

 

Finally


We would like to thank David (and the other speakers and attendees) for his interesting talk and for braving the snowy elements to come in to talk to staff and students at LSBM.

We would like to encourage everyone to come to the remaining events. 

You can also read the write-ups from the other events in this series here:


Details of upcoming events:

Wed 14 Mar 2018 - 1pm - 2pm: Towards a Common Future: Security


Note - In order to attend the above event you will need to register on Eventbrite (available through the event link above) so that we know room capacities, facilities etc that may be needed.

You can also find links to past and present Lighthouse events on our Lighthouse page.

 

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

Partners and Accreditations

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