Alignment, why does it matter for Partnerships?

The second imperative for long-term partnership success is the alignment of “vision,” “mission,” “core values,” and “goals.” As I work with organizations from across the world, I frequently see inconsistent uses of these terms. Below I will share a brief definition of each to add clarity to these definitions.

An organization’s vision is its long-term purpose–its ultimate reason for existence–the finish line goal. An organization’s vision is so lofty it will take a lifetime to achieve. Most visions are organized into a statement that describes a journey that will take 20+ years to accomplish.  

Many executives and business growth thought-leaders believe a company vision should only be aspirational–not achievable. For example, a pharmaceutical company may have this vision, “Our vision is to rid the earth of childhood diabetes by the year 2040.” This statement is certainly loft, but likely more aspirational than realistic. And this is precisely what a vision statement is designed to provide! 

Understanding your potential partner’s company vision is important. It will tell you their long-range aspirational goal and it will give you a glimpse into their purpose for existing. As part of your due diligence process when evaluating new partnership opportunities, you must check for congruence of company visions – the long-term purpose. If your collective visions are not congruent, the value you can create for each other in the long term will be limited. 

A company’s mission is its shorter-term purpose. Unlike a vision, which is 20+ years into the future and aspirational, a mission is set less than five years into the future, and it is achievable. Good mission statements bring instant clarity when employees are making resourcing decisions.  

An effective company mission allows employees to quickly prioritize their next steps. It acts as a lens that provides clarity among competing alternatives. All organizational leaders make dozens if not hundreds of decisions every week that will impact the team’s ultimate success. A clear mission statement brings clarity and focus.  

Spotify’s company mission is, “To unlock the potential of human creativity – by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.”

Great company missions appeal to people’s emotions and they inspire action. Even more important than the vision, as part of your new partnership due diligence process, you must evaluate the congruence of company missions–the short-term purpose. If your collective missions are not congruent, the probability of long-term success is low.  

An organization’s core values are the guiding principles and beliefs that describe and steer behavior. Standard practice for establishing core values is to have organizational leaders identify three to five words that describe the required beliefs of EVERY employee. Core values are named core because everyone in an organization must exemplify the values.  

Honesty, Selfless, and Growth-Oriented are core values frequently claimed by organizations across the world. Kenneth Majer, the author of Values in Action and Values-Based Leadership, described core values as the critical guides that lead us in making decisions in business and in life. Our core values are the timeless beacons that direct us to what we believe so that we stay true to ourselves, our customers, and to those we care about.  

Now that we have pinned down definitions for vision, mission, and core values, we are ready to discuss alignment. From a business perspective, alignment, or congruence, is an imperative element for long-term success. As Partner Development Leaders (PDLs) grow their partnering programs, they must seek partners who naturally share similar views and philosophies on business and life. The alignment of vision, mission, core values, and goals is critical to minimize costly turnover and maximize the speed of accomplishing mutually intended outcomes. 

Some may argue that this approach of specifically aligning to those who believe what you believe is short-sided, that it takes the alignment philosophy too far. After all, contemporary organization leadership tells us to embrace the diversity of thought, right?  

Diversity of thought, perspectives, and experiences can be powerful, but the diversity of core values will be catastrophic to your team.  

The alignment of vision, mission, core values, and goals is an absolute must. 

Alignment Within Your Company 

Let’s put the topic of strategic partnerships aside for a minute and discuss employees within your own company. It is critical that you hire talented people who are naturally aligned to work toward the same vision and goals of your company. Employees must operate using the same structure of values that your company established. In business, there is nothing more powerful than a group of intrinsically motivated people who have a common mission. If you can align with people who have the same “why” as you, great things are likely to happen.  

Employees who are motivated by money first will always put money first. That does not help the company achieve its vision, mission, or goals. As a business leader, it is your responsibility to find high-value employees and partners who align with your organization’s beliefs and your core values so they will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish goals that align with your company’s strategy. 

Countless studies have shown that trust is forged and accelerated when we align with others who share our same beliefs. When we surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe, we tend to be motivated to achieve similar goals and do it in a similar manner. This natural alignment offers great efficiencies to group work, especially as groups grow larger and include multiple companies. 

Smart companies start their new employee interviewing process by asking candidates to share his/her core values. Then the interviewer communicates various scenarios to the candidate and asks how he/she would react to given situations to gain insights on the candidate’s natural inclinations. The answers offered by the candidate are used to “determine his/her fit” within the company. We call this cultural alignment. 

Toward the end of the interview process, after the questions have been asked and a sense of the candidate’s “true makeup” is determined, the interviewing manager shares the core values of the company. A company’s core values describe the DNA that every employee should possess, without exception. The core values should be top-of-mind when an employee is faced with a tough decision, especially when it involves business ethics.  

Alignment with a Partnering Company 

When we execute a strategic partnership, we should view the partnering company as an extension of our organization. Like hiring new employees, we should also test for congruence of company visions, missions, core values, and goals. When organizations team up with congruent counterparts, efforts required to collaborate as a unified team are significantly lessened, thereby speeding the timeline to achieve results. 

I frequently hear partnering professionals say they are working to “get alignment” with a certain partner. The simple fact is you cannot “get alignment” with others. Alignment is either present or it is not. As a partnering professional, it is your duty to evaluate alignment. You do this by discovering the culture and strategic path that your partnering candidate is on and only then can you evaluate fit to your organization.  

In the PARTNERNOMICS 5-Phase Partnering Process course we include the “Engage Phase”. This phase describes a framework and set of tools where you will discover your partner candidates’ vision, mission, core values, and goals. Also included is the Term Sheet as part of the 5 Phase Partnering Process where you will explicitly test for congruence of these important elements. Obviously, partnerships that have the greatest level of alignment also have the highest probability of delivering exponential results. 

In certain cases, your company may be forced to “partner” with another organization, such as a software provider that owns a patented technology. In these limited but real scenarios, you will not have the luxury of choosing a partner, the choice has been made for you. An evaluation of the alignment of vision, mission, core values, and goals with these types of partners will allow you to predict the level of effort you will have to invest to enable the relationship to succeed. Again, partnerships that have the greatest level of alignment are the easiest to lead and have the highest probability of delivering exponential results.

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