Five lessons to share with you:

No matter how close the prior relationship between collaborating parties, a formal collaboration agreement should always be drawn up. External circumstances can change in unpredictable ways which can have unanticipated effects. Partners may take very different approaches and react very differently to those circumstances. Often from very early on people are at different places on the striver/skiver continuum. One partner might be prepared to get up earlier than his/her partners, the consequence of which may be that he/she may be shouldering a disproportionate share of the sweat and tears burden which can often become a source of future discontentment. Sometimes people just plain and simply fall out for any of thousands of reasons. So write down an agreement from the get go: who will do what for what return? It is especially important that a partnership agreement is put in place when a collaborative venture moves from the sharing of ideas to the implementation of a plan. Partnership Agreements are appropriate whether or not the signatories are people with little or no prior history; whether it is between colleagues, friends, brothers, sisters, wives or husbands, or between a cluster of companies who are collaborating to pool their resources so that they are big enough to enter procurement competitions. In the latter case a change to their structures maybe required for each of the individual organisations involved in a collaboration or it may be more appropriate if it’s a one-off piece of business to set up a separate partnership structure.

People often forget the detail of what they had agreed in meetings (often very quickly afterwards) which is why whether they are face-to-face, over the phone or via skype it is important to keep a record.

Agree targets, review them regularly, discuss variances, agree action to address them and update the targets as the collaboration develops and/or the environment or setting changes.

Have regular meetings at which work is recorded and reviewed, recording what was done, for whom, for what return and for what cost. Measure your joint aims against these out–turns.

Try to bring in a mutually trusted third party to witness / oversee the initial agreement and ideally to be available as a mentor or honest broker when required.

In Summary:

  • Draw up a formal agreement: who does what for what return
  • Agree targets
  • Record work activity; measure progress against targets
  • Agree a timetable for regular communication
  • Involve a mutually trusted third party to act as mentor/buddy/ honest broker as required