The Importance of Relationship Management

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Unless you’re running a lemonade stand, strategy is typically pretty complex. Strategic planning is hard work and takes serious organizational focus. The process varies but most includes some analysis of the current state. After all that’s what led you to the strategic planning process in the first place. Here, you analyze your organization’s external and internal environment. You may conduct some form of SWOT analysis, which also examines specific external environmental. The process goes on with a review or development of organizational vision and mission statements, next determining objectives and strategies, and finally concludes with an arduous implementation and evaluation process.

Yet even with talented leadership, years and years of education, and really nice automated templates, these initiatives fail far too often. Depending on which study you read, somewhere between 50-70% of strategic planning initiatives fail. The failure, not too surprisingly comes in relationship management, people working with people. In the specific area of strategic alliances, a Vantage Partners (www.vantagepartners.com) study reports a 70% failure rate due to poor relationship management. That’s epic failure! Think about the massive investment, opportunity costs, and commitment only to succeed 30% of the time. For a major league baseball player a 3 out of 10 success rate will get you in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but in business it will lead you Chapter 11. 

If you think it’s too much work focus of every person in that organization, especially those intimately involved in the strategic planning process, think again, or think differently. 

Though the process varies, it almost always starts with some strategic pivot or organizational response to marketplace conditions, like competition, economics, or opportunity. What about the people? The people making the organizational judgment call. The people doing the analysis, the people doing the research, the people doing the implementing, the people doing the evaluating, the vendors and partners, and finally, the end users aka; the customers? At what point do we do any level setting? Any complex process like strategic planning is fragile. At any step in the process, bad information, overlooking something, or simply having the wrong person assigned a specific task, not based on intention but on alignment, can undermine the entire the process, or at a minimum decrease effectiveness. Far too often, organizations think the ‘go slow to go fast’ adage applies to process only, and ignores the most important resource, the people.

How often do we walk into any process, like strategic planning, with an understanding of peoples behaviors, what they value, and how they react in good and bad conditions? The ability to be understood from both perspective and value, and to reciprocate will elevate the conversation by reducing communication barriers.

If study after study indicates that relationship management is a key variable in the success of strategic planning initiatives, isn’t that a good place to start? 

Ralph Sharp

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