Partnerships Take Time

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In his latest post, Seth Godin warns us to resist the charm of The Myth of Quick. He recognizes we all want it, but he it’s a rare occurrence indeed and shows the power of time. Hear, hear.

I’m going to add an example to his many: the multi-partner communications project.

Multi-partner projects are exciting, for they offer more than one perspective, more than one set of skills and more than one voice in the works. Bringing together many voices has power. But as Godin advises, be wary of quick.

Take time for excellence.

Define the Project

This sounds obvious: define your project. What is its scope? Without a clear knowledge of scope, projects can suffer and partnerships can fall apart. This matters for the project itself, but also has potential for future partnerships.

New partnerships are exciting. They have potential, and bubble with creative energy. Use that energy to really talk about what you want to do together.

What is the overall goal? How will you get there? What is the role of each partner? If things go sideways, who will manage what?


Honour Your Audience

Defining your audience is another obvious but necessary task as you define your project. Who is your audience? What is their average reading level? Why are they using your material? Will they be in a calm, receptive state, or stressed, which can compromise comprehension? Start with that knowledge.

In my work on projects to improve health literacy, it has been the top goal to make the material understandable so people feel more confident about making medical decisions.  This has meant streamlining complicated concepts to ensure the information is clear. Explaining an overall view of how treatment works can be more important than explaining one specific drug.

Audience feedback from multiple partners is important, and especially your target audience. Hear what they say, and incorporate it into your work and revisions. You want your work to reach them.


Take the Time It Takes  

Ideally, you have been able to build some flexible time into your project plan from the start, because everything on a multi-partner project will take longer than expected.  Your project starts out with a timeline, but expect that to change if you’re working with multiple partners.

People won’t get back to you on time with feedback. Their workload demands their attention elsewhere. They get sick. They go on holiday and don’t advise you their feedback will be delayed. Your key reviewer for a specific section is swamped and kindly sends it to a colleague, but that colleague is going to take three more weeks than you had allotted.

Expect to persist. If not all partners have had their say, expect to push back against the person who wants it yesterday. Push back for inclusion and for excellence.

There is no quick finish in complex partnerships, but there is opportunity for growth during the project and beyond. Listen. Revise. Take your time.


Image: Bonnie Henderson, Morguefile

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