Marriages and businesses can have a lot in common, according to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, business professor at Harvard Business School. She usually advices about corporate relationships, but she recently posted some tips about how to make marriages work.
Unlike full-blown mergers, in which two really do become one because one company disappears, alliances and partnerships resemble modern marriages: separate careers, individual checkbooks, sometimes different names, but the need to work out the operational overlap around household and offspring….
Be prepared to change yourself. Partners must be willing to be influenced by one another. To make linkages possible requires operating compatibilities, project by project and sometimes even in a larger sense. This can mean learning the other’s language and style or inventing a new one; changing to the other’s system or creating a joint one.
Help everyone win. Mutuality is the hallmark of organizational collaboration. Balancing benefits so that each partner gets something of equivalent value can be hard to do in the short run, but it is essential in the long run. The best alliances try to maximize the value of the whole relationship, which then makes it more valuable to each partner.
Get closer, change course, or exit gracefully. Like living systems, relationships evolve. Change should be expected. But the best guarantee that organizations will be closer in the future is success in what they try to achieve today. Success strengthens relationships.
After all, human relationships have much in common regardless of whether they are between business partners or marriage partners. We struggle with many of the same emotional responses, we strive to have the right balance of fairness and differentiation of roles, and good communication is always critical.