Managing the Partnership with Work Plans and Technology

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After the partnership’s goals, structure, and procedures have been established, the detailed work must begin. At this point, it’s essential to develop a collaborative work plan in order to manage the partnership’s activities and guide members’ efforts. The best work plans establish buy-in from members, are realistic, have measurable outcomes, and hold people accountable. Technology can be a powerful resource to strengthen implementation of collaborative work plans and support partnership norms and communication practices. There are a host of platforms that allow you to effectively collaborate with partners online. Four types of technology tools that can be used are: methods for distributing information, systems for collaborating, systems for real-time interaction, and systems for managing the project.

Ensure your collaborative work plans have these key characteristics.

A collaborative work plan is a document that outlines the structure of work for the partnership or a specific initiative within the partnership. Good work plans have the following characteristics:

Establish buy-in
Although collaborative work plans document the work breakdown for your specific tasks, they alone cannot motivate people to action. Increase your success rate by first establishing buy-in for the plan from the members of your work group.

Are realistic
It’s important to be realistic when developing a collaborative work plan. People want to see progress, no matter how incremental. Stay within the scope of your project. 

Have measurable outcomes
Consider developing immediate, short-term, and long-term outcomes for your collaborative work plan. Identify how you will determine the success of your activities and efforts. What indicators will you measure?

Hold people accountable  
Communicate group accountability and interdependence of activities. Show how people’s specific tasks impact the completion of the overall task. Having an effective structure for open, honest communication can support conversations about accountability as issues arise.

It can be tempting to let the lead organization serve as the center for collaborative work. However, when all partners host meetings, facilitate gatherings, or provide training to other partners, responsibility is shared by all members. This, in turn, increases feelings of ownership and long-term commitment to the partnership.

This worksheet can help you develop a collaborative work plan.

Click this link to download a worksheet that can help your partnership build a collaborative work plan.

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Some of these technology platforms can help you manage your partnerships.

Technology platforms that support online collaboration vary in terms of the depth of collaboration their systems allow. These platform categories include:

  • Methods for distributing information, such as websites and electronic newsletters
  • Systems for collaborating, such as electronic mailing lists and document sharing
  • Systems for real-time interaction, such as Internet forums and online meetings
  • Systems for managing the project, such as web-based project management tools

Technologies for distributing information are the least collaborative because they simply allow a lead organization to distribute information across a network. They’re useful when you need to share a new resource, provide a deadline alert, or update your partners on the status of a project. To go beyond information dissemination, consider using collaboration technologies—platforms that allow multiple participants to have a voice. These platforms for communicating and sharing data allow partners to have a conversation, edit a document together, share data with each other, or all of the above.

Systems for real-time interaction not only provide online collaboration, but allow partners to work together online in real-time, replicating as closely as possible the experience of working in the same room. And, finally, using web-based project management tools allows a lead organization to be completely transparent with project plans, roles, responsibilities, and deadlines. For more information about online technologies for managing your partnership, download this "Technology Choices" document by clicking the link.

Click to open interactivity Check your understanding of methods for managing partnerships.

Check your understanding of methods for managing partnerships.

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