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Managing Expectations in a Strategic Alliance

Here are a few ways to manage stakeholder expectations along your journey with a partner.
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Strategic alliances can be a great way to grow your business and achieve your goals. However, they can also be challenging, and it's important to manage stakeholder expectations from the start.

Gartner created a framework called Hype Cycles, which provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.

It has five stages:

  1. The Peak of Inflated Expectations: This is the initial stage, when there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about the alliance.
  2. The Trough of Disillusionment: This is the stage when people start to realize that the alliance is not going to be as easy or successful as they thought.
  3. The Slope of Enlightenment: This is the stage when people start to see the benefits of the alliance and realize that it is worth the effort.
  4. The Plateau of Productivity: This is the stage when the alliance is mature and is providing steady benefits.

This framework can be a helpful short-hand to think about how your stakeholders may be thinking about new strategic alliances and partnerships.

Here are a few ways to manage stakeholder expectations along your journey with a partner:

  1. During the start of the partnership, you have to balance generating excitement and momentum, with setting realistic expectations.
  2. During the Peak of Inflated Expectations, you should focus on making sure the right projects are approved, and the resources are allocation based on ROI and hard data (not emotions).
  3. In the Trough of Disillusionment, you may need to focus on keeping people interested and keeping momentum. You can do this by communicating wins, sharing positive customer feedback, and showing positive progress against goals and plans.
  4. In the Slope of Enlightenment phase, stakeholders should be seeing business value. This can be a good time to plan for the next horizon of growth, and begin to fill the innovation pipeline again.
  5. If you reach the Plateau of Productivity, teams are happy to maintain the status quo. Here you should look for opportunities to re-ignite growth. This could come via M&A, personnel changes, strategy changes or via customers. Always be ready to re-inflect growth and restart the hype cycle when the time is right.
"When you create Hope in people, you create expectations. When you do not fulfill those expectations, the Hope that was created can only turn to anger, frustration and bitter disappointment." – Vermin Supreme

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