Key Success Factor 7: Enterprise Partnering *
Enterprise refers to the program office and its major stakeholders who are interested and involved in the program, the product, and the IPT. This would include the supporting infrastructure, higher authority, the customer, and suppliers. For example, the typical DoD program office IPT enterprise might include its PEO or Systems Commander, the ASN(RDA), OPNAV, supporting Systems Commands, field activities, Fleet representatives, and prime contractors. Enterprise partnering represents a set of informal working relationships between stakeholders and the IPT to support the team objectives and the enterprise's goals.
The term partnering refers to the intent of two or more organizations to work together to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a common goal, and to reduce the costs of disagreements. This is not something that can be done instantly. Like trust, partnering takes two parties and must be developed over time. Trust, ease of communications, and a thorough understanding of each other take patience and usually must be tested.
Enterprise partnering to develop good relations has two parts. First is the identification of mutual goals between the IPT and the stakeholder so that both parties can work toward the success of those goals and collaborate for their mutual benefit. For example, clear benefits could be improved product performance, reduced schedule, or reduced acquisition cost.
Another partnering benefit could come from reducing the cost of disagreements between the government and the prime contractor through the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Specific suggestions for partnering to reduce dispute costs are provided in the references for enterprise partnering listed below. Another benefit is the learning that occurs from listening and working with multiple stakeholders. Enterprise partnering generates better understanding of the enterprise and how it operates.
A second aspect of enterprise partnering is finding a senior manager in the IPT's chain of command who will act as a champion, especially while the team is new and may need senior level support. A third aspect is working with the infrastructure to ensure good support for team needs. Because of downsizing and changing procedures throughout the acquisition system, infrastructure personnel are frequently overworked.
Enterprise Partnering for Program Success
When two IPTs need to work together to achieve their individual objectives but do not, there can be a cost to the acquisition system. The lack of full teamwork among enterprise stakeholders can slow down the effectiveness of IPTs in meeting program commitments. This may be due to lack of resources or time, making it impossible to support all acquisition programs. Sometimes it is due to lack of communication between the IPT and various organizations throughout the enterprise.
The cost may be in terms of frustration, poor communication, missed opportunities, or program delays. Each party is doing what it feels is right, and does its own thing in the best possible manner. Enterprise partnering helps to minimize and prevent such situations from occurring.
Observation indicates that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. An IPT that wants to get maximum support from its enterprise takes deliberate actions to develop good working relations with all of its stakeholders. This creates a network to support the team and its program as the product is developed. In other words, enterprise partnering means working with stakeholders, keeping them informed, seeking their advice, helping them when they need it, and seeking help when the team needs it.
In one sense it is common sense, in a second, it is relationship management, in a third it is good marketing. Whatever it is, it works. Good relations are much easier to establish before problems arise than afterwards. Partnering takes time and effort, fortunately the payoff is more than warranted where there is a clear connection between or among organizational stakeholders and the vision/task of the IPT.
An IPT can develop a formal plan to partner or it can come to an informal agreement on what needs to be done and get all team members to develop relationships with their colleagues in the infrastructure. The danger of an informal approach is it can easily get lost in the day-to-day pressure of work. A formal plan would provide for periodic reports on the status of relationships with key stakeholders and discussions on actions needed to be taken. It can be an illuminating experience for a team to identify all stakeholders that it deals with (typically twenty to forty) and to prioritize them in terms of threats and opportunities as seen by the IPT. The team can then develop a plan to work closely with the most important stakeholders to ensure continuous support for their program.
Enterprise Partnering for a Champion
As noted in the CNA study (DiTrapani and Geithner 1996), Getting the Most Out of Integrated Product Teams, (IPTs), industry found that the existence of a senior executive or champion can pay big dividends in team performance. When IPTs are initially set up, there are a great number of concerns, problems, issues, and hesitations on the part of team members and also the surrounding infrastructure. Questions concerning the reason for their existence, how effective they will be, their cost, exactly what authority, responsibility and accountability they will have, and how that will impact the normal operation of the rest of the organization can create a number of questions and pressures on a young team. A senior executive may need to step in and look into problems and issues and provide effective high-level defense and explanations for the rationale and the authority of the IPT.
Other issues can arise as to the style of team leadership, specific boundaries of the charter, and the scope of responsibilities and authority of the team as seen from the surrounding enterprise and its key stakeholders. When this occurs, a senior executive can provide invaluable help to the team leader in dealing with other enterprise stakeholders and internal problems. The senior manager knows the politics and culture of the enterprise and can help the team learn how to get things done.
A team champion can also be a sounding board for the team leader as well as for the team. If resources become a concern, then a key senior executive can break down barriers and provide objective recommendations on resource needs and priorities. Another area of contribution could be to make sure that objective decisions are made by the team, and that the correct balance between short and long-term enterprise and program needs is maintained.
Issues arising between the infrastructure and the IPT may develop, and if they are escalated to higher levels in the organization, the IPT may need senior level support. During program evolution, problems can arise which are beyond the ability of the team or the team leader to solve, and therefore need to be escalated to higher authority.
The executive level manager can take an objective look and ensure that the strategy and vision of the team are consistent with, and supportive of, the vision and strategy of the enterprise. If the team becomes subjected to excessive oversight and/or micro-management from other organizations, it may need to call upon executive level defense mechanisms. Where executive level management ignores an IPT or provides negative support, it is extremely difficult for the IPT to accomplish the job intended.
Occasionally, IPTs may be initiated by decree where they don't make sense, and then left to survive on their own. If this occurs, it endangers the whole concept of IPTs as seen by the workforce and essentially sets back the progress of IPTs to support the acquisition process. In conclusion, IPTs, particularly young ones, may find themselves in strong need of a champion in their corner at the senior management level.
Enterprise Partnering for Infrastructure Support
The infrastructure is that part of the enterprise that provides support to, and interacts with, the IPT. It includes the functional codes where a matrix organization is utilized, legal, contracts, and personnel, as well as the budget, finance, test and evaluation, and sponsor communities.
With some exceptions, most program offices, and hence their IPTs, do not own all of their people, nor do they perform all of the support functions. However, the effectiveness of the IPT is highly dependent upon the quality, cooperation, responsiveness, and consistency of the infrastructure support.
The infrastructure supplies a special expertise and maintains a long-term, high quality capability in its discipline. It acts as a reservoir of professional talent available on an as-needed basis. In addition, the infrastructure may serve as a second opinion, and may have final authority over some areas. IPTs can develop tunnel vision with respect to their objectives and the enterprise infrastructure can act as a balance. Where the infrastructure is highly competent, management is supportive, and a good partnering arrangement has been established with an IPT, great value can be gained by both parties. At the other extreme, if either the infrastructure or the IPT is non-supportive of the other, narrow in perspective, rule-bound, or operates only according to its own objectives, it can significantly hamper an IPT's effectiveness and thereby its program success.
One approach an IPT can take relative to its infrastructure is partnering and cooperation. It may be useful to set up a series of meetings or even offsites with various parts of the infrastructure to create a means by which communications, mutual understanding and cooperation can be built. This, of course, takes time, energy, and the right attitude on both sides. Both formal and informal interactions between the team and components of the infrastructure should be open, professional, and done in the best interest of both parties wherever possible. Each party needs to really understand the other party's priorities, assumptions, concerns and belief systems.
One barrier is the different objectives or goals of the IPT and the infrastructure organizations. While there is a great deal of overlap, they are not identical. While the IPT is looking to achieve its objectives, the infrastructure has a responsibility to support the IPT and also to meet its own organizational responsibilities. It is not a matter of either one being right or wrong, it is a matter of a built-in structural difference in objectives and perceptions that can create friction.
When good partnering relationships are created early in the life of an IPT, a lot of synergy occurs in which the IPT has increased performance and the infrastructure has increased professionalism and learning. Most problems arise because of incomplete or inadequate communication on the part of both parties.
Major barriers can also arise from different views toward empowerment, roles and responsibility, career paths, performance appraisals, and training. While most of these problems are typical of any matrix-structured organization, they can be resolved only if both sides recognize their ultimate responsibility is to the long-term acquisition process and its immediate products.
* Navy IPT Learning Campus, Version 1.1.