The "Secret Sauce" of Alliance Building

“When thinking about sustaining our Alliances, it is key to identify what level of collaboration is required for x, y, z,” said Denise Cavanaugh, who led a special 90-minute workshop Friday. Cavanaugh is a partner in the management and organization development consulting firm Cavanaugh, Hagan, Pierson & Mintz, Inc. The session offered hands-on support for Alliances’ work in relationship management and leadership.
“What is the secret sauce? It’s the patience to manage the goals, roles, and norms,” Cavanaugh told the participants.
According to Cavanaugh, to build a strong Alliance, you have to talk openly and often about roles and expectations.
Participants talked freely about trouble areas within their Alliances. For example, one attendee discussed the lack of transparency with communication. He provided the instance




of a board meeting. He felt the board meeting was not in fact where things were openly discussed—rather, that happens in side meetings and conversations, leaving those who aren’t a part of these side conversations feeling disconnected.

Another participant noted, “For us I would say Aligning Forces had really pushed us into zones of collaboration where there is an undercurrent of competition. So the next phase for us is figuring out do we want to walk the talk, or do we go back to competition and say this is your responsibility and this is our responsibility.”

Cavanaugh responded, “That is called “coopetition”: competition and cooperation put together. It goes on everywhere. It is a new norm.”
She told the participants to consider ways to reward collaborative behaviors, discussing Barry Oshry’s levels of collaboration:
0 = Wave—Acknowledge others in the “arena”
1 = Share information
2 = Make common sense of the data
3 = Develop a plan together [shared goal]
4 = Hold accountable for roles in the implementation 
5 = In tough time: Able to give/get support and trust
According to Cavanaugh, “Too many people go into a situation and automatically assume they are at a 5.”
Cavanaugh had participants partner up and describe a specific circumstance, pending challenge facing their organization. “What level of collaboration is needed within your membership?” she asked. “Why? What options do you foresee?” She added that one of the issues about work in Alliance building and sustainability is to be testing what level of collaboration is actually needed.
“If there is nothing you take away from the session but this, I invite you to think clearly and carefully—and use it all of the time—what level of collaboration is required to get “X” done?” she said.

Denise Cavanaugh has been intrigued by the ways organizations prosper, decline, and renew ever since her early assignments as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, parent coordinator with Head Start in Chicago, and program officer with VISTA in West Virginia. All three organizations provided a firsthand, frontline view of the challenges of organization development.

Read more on speakers HERE


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