Sometimes it just happens. Organizations that worked well together can no longer do so.
Good partnerships that should work in theory sometimes just simply do not work in practice. Good people and great teams may lack chemistry with their counterparts. Opportunities may not translate into financial, logistical, or operational benefits as promised.
When partnerships, collaborations, cooperation, or coordination fail, the temptation for blame is strong.
Sometimes (sometimes) organizations are truly responsible for everything that goes wrong. More often, the issue is bad timing, unexpected circumstances, or organizational misalignment.
Organizations come to realize they are not ready, willing, or fully able to work together in ways that were expected (or needed).
Every organization feels the burden when working relationships fail. There’s a genuine sense of lost opportunity, wasted resources, and frustration.
Maybe a few parties will even feel relief that they no longer have to work with others. No longer do they have to deal with problematic entities, tough circumstances, or unresonable demands.
Let’s be honest: failure sucks. It really does.
And when working relationships end, organizations must navigate hard choices. Can the effort proceed with one or more organizations missing? Will the project / program function by substituting entities? Should the work continue at all?
Whether your organization must leave a working relationship, or gets left behind in a working relationship, there is an opportunity. But it will not be easy.
- Expect painful conversations to happen. Issues may be resolved quickly, over time, or possibly never.
- Anticipate discomfort, particularly among other organizations that learn about the failure. Word of mouth concerning the failure will likely reach other stakeholders. Depending on what is said about the failure, and who says it, the results could lead to negative perceptions or bad reputations.
- Prepare for uncertainty. As your team and supporters decide on next steps, an overabundance of caution form in future decisionmaking.
Failure offers a chance for your organization to gain confidence, to reposition itself and its work, and to adjust expectations.
- Commit to honesty, resilience, and support — both for your organization and towards others.
- Make time to examine what went wrong, without absorbing guilt or sinking into doubt.
- Do not seek to blame, but work to identify what happened and why.
- Make an attempt to prevent the same circumstances from happening again.
Organizations that allow time and space to examine — and reflect upon— what went wrong are organizations poised for strength.
They become stronger organizations with hard-earned experience, and common-sense readiness towards challenges. They also become supportive organizations, that possess awareness of their own worth and limitations; and respect towards the value of other organizations.
These organizations make great partners for future success.