Change. Transition. Two terms that strike fear in the hearts of many people, both professionally and personally. When my children were young, we used to joke about “transition” as the time when we had to extract them (physically sometimes) from their grandparent’s house after many hours of playing with their cousins. It was a painful time, filled with tears and drama. It was also very predictable and we starting planning, well in advance of the visit, to ease the pain of transition on everyone. It got me thinking about relationships between people and especially between two alliance partners. All relationships must change and evolve and ultimately face a time of “transition”. The relationship between Schneider Electric and IBM is at this point. Is there anything you can do to make this transition period as painless as possible? I believe that there are a few fundamental steps to take, when transition is on the horizon.
- Face Reality. Companies change their strategy. They change their focus. They purchase other companies to increase their geographically or vertical foot print. Face reality about these changes. Schneider Electric has made several significant acquisitions or the past several years that are having a direct effect on our global footprint and business strategy. IBM’s introduction of the Smarter Planet campaign is having a profound effect on their market position in many vertical markets. What net effect do they bring to the alliance relationship? If the effect is, at least on the surface, negative, dig into it. Learn what the change really means for the relationship. Don’t ignore the signs, warnings or public decries of action. Communicate and face the reality.
- Make a decision. Once we understand what the “new reality” is in the relationship, make a commitment and a decision to either stay the course or change how you are doing business. IBM and Schneider Electric just accomplished this very action item in a workshop format several weeks ago. We recommitted to working together and made the decision to change what needs to be changed. Change can be difficult, especially after many years of apparent success. I do believe that change is always “Net positive”. Sometimes the positive aspect of the change takes months or years to achieve. Make the tough decisions and change what needs to change for the sake of the business and the relation sop.
- Have a Plan. Once you’ve make the decision to start/change/modify how you are working together, create the “master” plan. Since the alliance has been working for a few years, it should be relatively easy to get the correct people in a room and create the Plan. Socialize the plan amongst the appropriate stakeholders at your company and communicate the progress.
- Execute. Nothing annoys me more than a “Plan on a shelf” that doesn’t get executed. Think of all the effort we put into creating the plan. Time. Money. People. Go and execute the plan. Assign resources, track action items, enforce accountability and drive results.
- Succeed. Is this self-evident? A well constructed plan, executed with laser-focused precision will yield results.
As I think back to those times, prying the children from grandma’s house, I remember facing the painful reality that these transitions may strike fear in the entire family. Once we faced that reality and made the decision to do something about it, we were able to construct a plan where everyone “won”. The kids were thankful for the time playing with their cousins, the grandparents were happy to see all the kids playing well together and we, as parents, were confident that we could get them out of the house and onto the next event without too much pain and suffering.
Can you employ the same strategy with a strategic alliance? Yes. Follow the steps. Schneider Electric and IBM are embarking on a journey of change, together. We are very realistic about what has changed in the market, the companies, the offering and the relationship. We decided to act and to change. In a workshop format, we created a plan and are in the process of executing that plan. While the results are never guaranteed, your chances of success in redefining the relationship are almost certain to increase.
Don’t fear the transition. Embrace it. The Schneider Electric/ IBM alliance is a real-life example of what success can be achieved by embracing the transition.