15714349_200Public private partnerships aren’t new. They are well established approaches to delivering services and major capital works projects. Multi sector partnerships across a wide range of sectors and involving multiple partners is an increasing reality of doing business. Addressing need and taking an innovative approach to solving business and service problems through multi partners and sectors requires a whole new level of skill.

The complexity of these partnerships, the outcomes required and the potential risks require skilled leadership and management that has the capability to function at levels where not a lot of experience currently exists or has been proactively developed. As with every challenge, there is an opportunity, but it will come at a huge cost if not properly understood or managed. Conversely, the cost of a missed opportunity to partner in order to solve a problem can be huge. There are many stand out examples of benefits to business and society led by impressive and visionary leadership building partnerships where we may not have previously considered or thought possible.

Novartis is a shining example through their “SMS for Life” project. The initiative of CIO Jim Barrington, who was driven to address a longstanding supply chain problem and who was told it would never succeed because bureaucracy would defeat the project. He gathered a small internal team of people who wanted to work on the project, along with individuals from Vodaphone, IBM and Google. All of the people who came on board had specific skills and he sought their support through the message of saving lives. He convinced Roll Back Malaria, a global co-ordinating partnership, to support the project. The Tanzanian Government agreed to be the pilot country. The results stand as a phenomenal success with impressive data such as average healthcare workers response rate of 95% to support that claim. Novartis has a new model for distribution and sales to emerging markets and can extend the model to other commodities. This has to be a shining example of win win and extraordinary complex partnerships between diverse groups.

Creating the vision to solve the problem is one element. What needs to underpin execution is a new level of skill from those people involved in establishing and building partnerships. Including those skills evident in high impact leadership such as the ability to:

  • Influence with impact
  • Manage change and complexity with authenticity and commitment
  • Communicate a clear, “in it to win” vision
  • Lead with a style that engages and fosters collaboration

In turn, the team involved in establishing and building partnerships must possess a range and level of skills that have the capability to:

  • Build the partnership/s
  • Manage the stakeholder relationships
  • Lead and champion the partnerships internally
  • Understand stakeholder culture and value drivers
  • Understand and engage with community expectations and the shifting power to communities
  • Listen and collaborate with integrity.