Using Partnership Project Management

When resources or specialist skills are in short supply using external partnership project management support can transform the prospects for success.

‘The more people and organisations are involved in a partnership, the more unwieldy it becomes. There isn’t a name for this Law – but perhaps there should be – and it is the flipside of another unnamed adage that ‘the greater the number of important players involved in a partnership, the greater its potential effect. So big partnerships have the potential to move mountains but can be really tricky to get to that point.

Diverse partners bring a range variety of skills, insights and influence – some unique, many overlapping – but also beliefs, approaches and cultures that can grate and conflict. Nor can this complexity be mastered once and for all; it is dynamic. As representatives change and corporate priorities shift so does the whole balance of the group and, without careful management, focus, momentum and cohesion are lost and the initiative runs into the sand.

Sometimes it is especially difficult for one of the partners to be permanently in the chair moving events on, as this can lead to concerns about bias and overreach and – almost as corrosive – to other players holding back and ceasing to make a meaningful contribution.

This is quite aside from whether the individual deputed to run the partnership has the skills, experience or time required to devote to the task.

Using an external resource for partnership project management can help to overcome these challenges by being seen to be genuinely impartial, having a focus on making the partnership a success and bringing in some particular skills to enhance the outcome.

This external help can be delivered at a number of levels. The most basic, and probably common level is administrative – setting up meetings, formulating minutes, handling queries and keeping track of the movement of any funds. This could perhaps be seen as primarily reactive hassle management, and works particularly well with groups that are internally or technically focused and usually have a bit of time in which to complete their work.

At the next – agency – level externals are used to initiate and manage wider actions on behalf of the group; for example management of the meetings, drafting communications, working with researchers, pooling and reporting data from the participants, and setting up events. This is particularly useful when the participants are stepping out of their comfort area, for example in commissioning external research or putting together a common government relations programme.

At the highest level the direction of the partnership itself can be outsourced – of course to a tight brief and with suitable reporting – devolving responsibility for the group’s progress and outputs to an independent facilitator and driver. This approach is favoured when a sponsor wants to assist others, who otherwise would not have the resources to set up and run their collective endeavour.

All three of these approaches to outsourced partnership project management can help to deliver faster and better outcomes because, as Harry Truman put it, ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit’.


If you would like to find out more about how we can help to make your partnerships more successful and less hassle, do get in touch

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