Whilst every partnership and collaboration starts out with the best intention to last the distance, the time could come when separation is on the cards.
So it’s prudent and practical to consider this, even as contracts are being drawn up. What would we need to do to reverse this process cleanly? BREXIT is perhaps a good example of how this is happening now on an international scale.
However, if we focus just within the UK public sector, there may be changes in the political landscape that can take one half of the partnership in a different direction. Or, differing long term strategies and shifting budget pressures can result in one partner having to make the decision to dissolve the partnership and move in a separate direction.
The role of a CTArc as a divorce planner
Part of our role is a bit like being a wedding planner, bringing together organisations to create the new, better, lower-cost service. But sometimes we may find ourselves dissolving them too.
Rob Neil (SSA) shared some interesting insight in this magazine about how the closure of a shared service can be a very emotional experience because of the level of investment made in relationships and creating a shared vision.
Whatever the reason for the decision, it is important that relationships remain positive and that the work to dissolve all or part of the partnership is carried out in a collaborative way. As well as protecting reputations, it will make the process quicker, more cost effective and hopefully leave the door open for new collaborations in the future.
Rob’s article got me thinking about a “Shared Service Divorce” from a project prospective and the practicalities of such an event. Once all the tricky decision-making is out of the way, what is the best way to actually get the work done?
With such effort going into a partnership as it is developing, it would be a shame to not put similar thought and effort into disassembling and picking apart all the work that has been done in a way that causes minimal turmoil.
Creating an exit checklist
Whilst Rob’s article looked at the options around approaching what a new operating model would look like, I thought it would also be useful to have a practical tool that could be used by both senior managers to consider key issue points and by project managers to identify the various components of the actual process – an “Exit Checklist”.
As each partnership and separation will be different, there is no one right way to go about this process. However, much like moving house, there will be common factors that should be considered, plus a high level series of events that will allow for a smooth transition.
My exit checklist, below, [please download the PDF of the full article to see the checklist] is intended to act as a guide for the key areas common to most services: a prompt to consider what action may be needed to be taken on a specific area to ensure costs and risk are minimised through the process and that the best result is achieved at the end for all parties.
It is by no means an exhaustive list and each partnership will of course be unique in many factors. This is intended as a starting point for identifying priorities and building up a basis of a considered and managed exit plan.
The checklist assumes that someone has already been identified as an owner or sponsor for the exit. It’s aimed to help them identify the fundamental elements of the exit that need to be considered as in or out of scope; who the owner is and what the next key actions are that are needed to create a more detailed plan.
The outputs of completing the checklist exercise should identify both the next actions to be taken and the right resources to own those actions.
Steps towards the exit
1. Identify, assign and empower an exit manager – to manage the overall exit and ensure they have adequate resources in place to support them.
2. Identify owners This could be a designated project manager who will manage the resource allocation against the various streams as they are identified, or it could be a group of different people with responsibility across specific functional elements within the partnership.
Either way, it is important to identify the correct owners – people who have both the authority to act and time availability to focus on this important phase in the partnership lifecycle.
3. Agree actions and dates Based on the elements identified and the owners assigned, agree what the first steps are and what the timeline looks like. This will eventually become the high level project plan.
4. Monitor It’s very likely that as the plan matures and develops, it will grow more complex and more gaps will be identified and filled in.
5. Communications What messages do you need to tell staff, suppliers, customers and the market? How and when will you tell them?
6. Legal What post exit liabilities are there and how will these be managed?
7. Financial How will shared costs (such as redundancy or early exit from shared contracts) be split; what new budgets will be needed? How will ongoing shared costs be managed?
As with most projects, there will no doubt be a host of plans, reports and logs, that will accompany what could be a significant programme of works.
This initial list can be used to monitor those important things that were identified early on to make sure the focus remains right and the big stuff is getting handled.
Maybe you have thoughts, or even experience of dissolving partnerships, that we could add to the list and share across the CTArc and CTPrac community in future magazine articles.