A client recently presented me with the following situation. For a common online presence, he has entered into an alliance with two local businesses. Since the initial 'agreement' was reached, the alliance has been marked by internal conflicts not only concerning reponsibilities and leadership, but also budgets and appropriateness of tasks. The result: a series of meetings among the business owners with demands, counter-demands, a non-cooperative atmosphere, jockeying for position, financial losses so critical that the local tax office has issued a warning concerning the future viability of the venture.

On hearing this, I asked whether a set of common goals had been agreed at the outset. "Hmm, no!" came the answer. A light went on. The primary reason for the problems suddenly became clear.

Clarity provides the essential foundation for any work whatsoever.
Without clarity, there is no orientation. Cooperative ventures by nature contain significant conflict potential. Why? There is a high likelihood of everyone involved making assumptions on the initiative's direction based on their own personal interests as well as their assumptions about others. I encounter this phenomenon over and over again.

Clarity provides Orientation, which provides Focus.

So, what are the prerequisties for success in such cooperative ventures, whether they are projects or long-term initiatives?

First steps:

1.Together, agree a common purpose – Why are you undertaking this venture? Which potential benefits do you see? In which way(s) will your life/business be better with this venture than without it?
Ask yourself too: What am I willing to put into it to ensure success?
2.Based on this purpose, together (everything substantial has to be done together), agree a set of achievable goals for the venture and ensure that everyone has the same understanding of these goals.
3.With these goals in focus, agree a strategy for achieving these goals.
4.Then, agree not just the primary tasks required to fill the strategy with life, but also the approach to carrying out the tasks: task leadership, decision-making, budgets, people, deadlines.

Together is an essential principle here. Remove the potential for conflict.

Without these steps, the cooperative initiative lacks orientation – the guiding principles are unclear.
Every venture can be likened to a game, and every game has rules/guidelines. Without orientation, it's extremely difficult to focus on what really matters because it is unclear what, in this case, really matters.

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