Making it Count and Embedding New Ways of Working - Guest Post from Malcolm Morley
The Covid pandemic has transformed the willingness and ability of organisations, in both the public and private sectors, to work together. This has shone a bright light on what effective joint working can achieve. Take for example the development of the vaccines for Covid 19.
The vaccines were developed through collaboration between the academic, private and public sectors with the support of an army of community volunteers. Without this collaboration the vaccines would not have been developed and met the regulatory requirements in the record breaking timescales seen and would not have generated the confidence required in their efficacy.
On a wider front intra-sectoral and inter-sectoral collaboration has addressed issues including supply chain logistics, led to knowledge and capacity sharing, provided access to competencies and assets and provided a shared approach to problem solving. The crisis has created an imperative to move from internally focused fragmented organisational thinking to joined up external joint working. This has led to some extraordinary performance with many transactional relationships moving towards becoming collaborative relationships and many collaborative relationships moving towards becoming partnerships.
The challenge ahead
It is important to recognise that what we’ve seen over the last year is a crisis led imperative to ‘move towards’ a different type of joint working. The challenge for both public and private sector leaders is to ensure that this leads to a permanent change to those joint working relationships.
Regrettably, history illustrates that as the imperative to change caused by a crisis subsides, there’s a reversion to the dominant logic and behaviours of before the crisis. Only where leaders are willing and able to continue the progress made under the crisis to create a lasting paradigm shift is the change in thinking and behaviours embedded.
As the impact of the vaccines supports a move back to a more ‘normal’ life, leaders must build on the progress that has been made in joint working. They must avoid history repeating itself and create new norms and expectations for value creation and performance through joint working in both the public and private sectors.
This challenge can best be illustrated by reference to The Hierarchy of Joint Working (Figure One).
Professor Malcolm Morley OBE 1
Hierarchy of Joint Working
Collaboration (Culture, Capability and Capacity)
Figure One: The Hierarchy of Joint Working
The potential to create value increases as The Hierarchy of Joint Working is ascended. So too does the requirement for a paradigm shift to develop relationships that enable organisations to evolve their joint working.
At the base of the hierarchy are transactional relationships. These are based on ‘I say and you do for a price that’s agreed’. The challenge on the client side is one of competence to specify what is required and to ensure that it is delivered. On the supplier side the competence challenge is to provide what is required for the price and in the timescales agreed. The organisations involved remain very separate and the relationships are often short term based upon contracts with little flexibility in them.
Collaboration is where there are shared objectives and a willingness to work positively together to achieve them. The parties in the joint working are prepared to be flexible and to overcome issues together but remain separate entities. The challenges relate to the compatibility of organisational cultures, access to capacity and the development of organisational capabilities (function and organisation spanning systems and processes that link competencies to capacity) to support the collaboration.
In partnership working there are not only shared objectives but a sharing of risk and reward, shared responsibility for outcomes and a sharing of resources. Partnership working is a shared endeavour that is illustrated by behaviours and seeking to jointly find solutions to issues. The organisations in the partnership act as one and have a shared culture. The key challenge above those of collaboration is leadership.
Partnership working requires leadership to overcome the barriers created by organisational sovereignty, status, resource control, the pressures of responsibility and accountability, the ownership of intellectual property created
Professor Malcolm Morley OBE 2
Potential to create value
and the willingness to take risks and to innovate. The leaders must, through their behaviours and decision-making, be symbols of the partnership working.
It has to be recognised that to develop the relationships necessary to move up the Hierarchy of Joint Working takes time and leaders need to empower people to take that time. To understand the stages in this relationship development please see my article of July 20191.
Making it count
The pandemic has taken a huge toll on people and organisations. It has, however, provided an imperative to make joint working more effective and delivered some extraordinary performance. If this hard won progress is to be built upon it is vital that the advances up The Hierarchy of Joint Working are not lost post crisis. Leaders need to make the advances up the hierarchy count. They need to embed the new ways of working and thinking to develop and deliver new norms of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Whilst it is a natural reaction to want to pause after a crisis, leaders need to ensure that all within their organisations understand and commit to making the progress in joint working count for the future.
Leaders can create a sense of renewal and resist the temptation to revert to pre-crisis taken for granted assumptions about ways of working, behaviours and performance. They can embed the organisation’s ascent up The Hierarchy of Joint Working.
They need to be ambitious and agree tangible performance targets for joint working. They need to ensure that performance review, both operational and financial, is transparent with a clear focus on how joint working is contributing to transforming economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Joint working should be dynamic, positive and a fundamental part of the strategic evolution and performance of organisations going forwards. Joint working should be a core competence of all leaders.
The scale and complexity of the socioeconomic challenges post pandemic are significant. The pandemic has shown us what joint working within and between sectors can achieve. Let’s make the advances up The Hierarchy of Joint Working count to maximise the value from joint working.
Professor Malcolm Morley OBE ARU Centre for Partnership Working.