Building Alliances: The Key to Continuous Improvement

A vibrant network diagram with nodes in a rainbow of colors, each representing a different alliance type - from supportive to wild to caring to inner board. The central figure stands tall, connected to all nodes, symbolizing the strength and unity of this diverse network for continuous Improvement.I’ve been exploring the essential practice of building alliances, a crucial element for driving continuous improvement within teams and organizations. (Part of an ongoing podcast series on virtues for the change journey, where we’ve previously discussed topics like courage and resilience.)

Why Building Alliances Matter

Building alliances is vital for supporting individuals, teams, and organizations. Building alliances taps into virtues like humility and cooperation, as well as strengths like relationship-building and emotional intelligence.

The Power of Alliances

Effective alliances provide a multiplying effect, unlocking diverse perspectives necessary for making sense of reality while cultivating continuous improvement. They help build psychological safety and interpersonal trust, enhancing both courage and resilience. Alliances support individuals and teams through failures and help build upon successes, navigating through challenges and obstacles.

Types of Alliances

I draw on a 2018 conversation I had with Dr. Jen Fraum and Lois Kelly from the Rebels at Work group, categorizing alliances into four types:

  1. Support Pack: A group focused on execution, helping figure out the “how” in a pragmatic way.
  2. Wild Pack: Creative thinkers who provide bursts of brave, innovative thinking.
  3. Caring Pack: Soul nurturers attuned to team dynamics and vulnerabilities.\
  4. Inner Board: Individuals who offer direct, wise counsel and help navigate cross-functional boundaries.

Cultivating Effective Alliances

Creating these alliances requires humility, curiosity, and inclusivity. As leaders, we must be willing to listen to different perspectives and let go of controlling every detail. Here are some practical suggestions for nurturing effective alliances:

  • Support Pack: Identify process-oriented colleagues who can help map out and implement initiatives.
  • Wild Pack: Engage with creative thinkers and innovators who can bring an outsider’s perspective.
  • Caring Pack: Build relationships with those passionate about culture and team dynamics.
  • Inner Board: Connect with former colleagues, mentors, and coaches who can provide candid feedback.

Proactive Networking

The key to cultivating these alliances is being proactive. Make networking an ongoing practice, ask for recommendations, and reciprocate by making introductions for others. Regular check-ins, whether through coffee meetings, huddles, and walk & talks, help nurture these relationships.

Gratitude and Recognition

I also want to highlight the importance of appreciating and celebrating the contributions of your alliances. Sharing gratitude openly can strengthen these bonds and foster a supportive environment.

Take a Look at Your Alliances

I encourage you to audit your alliances and identify any gaps. By leveraging skills like proactivity, flexibility, and bravery to nurture existing bonds while cultivating new ones, you can enhance your ability to navigate the path of sustainable improvement.

Tune in to the Agile Uprising Podcast

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