Warning Signs - Part 1

Tips on Spotting if your Partnership is on Rocky Ground

Does your community business partnership feel not quite right? Is it not rolling along as smoothly as it used to?

Is something in the background nagging or annoying you, making your business or community group uncomfortable? Is there some tension in the partnership?

Perhaps there have been a few issues recently that have seen you and your partner disagree or exchange cross words - but you're not sure why.

If any of these are true, it may mean that there is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.

Such warning signs as conflict, confusion or apathy should be seen as indicators of a deeper underlying problem with the partnership that needs to be fixed.

Many of these feelings emanate from problems outlined in the Checklist of Problems that Could Cause your Community-Business Partnership to Fail.

The following list outlines a few of these warning signs, and looks at what the underlying problems might be.

  • Confusion.
  • Problems creating confusion could include:
    • A lack of planning in the partnership - for example, a lack of clarity about the roles of each partner, or the partnership's goals.
    • A lack of communication between or within partners.
    • An inability to measure how the partnership is going.
  • Conflict.
  • Conflict can be caused by:
    • A lack of solid planning at the start of the partnership to work out aims, resources, responsibilities or benefits.
    • Not enough communication between partners.
    • A lack of respect, trust, or honesty.
    • A lack of commitment to the partnership.
    • A lack of common values between the two partners.
    • An unresolved conflict rearing its head again.
  • Lack of direction.
  • If your partnership is just drifting, this could be caused by:
    • A lack of clarity on the partnership's goals.
    • Communication problems between partners.
    • A lack of defined measurement tools in the partnership.
  • Apathy.
  • Apathy can be caused by:
    • One or both of the partners having little commitment or seeing little value in the partnership.
    • Too few people involved in the operations of the partnership.
    • No shared benefits for partners, or no perceivable benefits to the community.
    • One or both of the partners finding their commitments outweigh the benefits they receive.
    • One or both of the partners not being able to devote the necessary time or resources to the partnership.
  • Goals not being achieved.
  • Failure to achieve goals can be the result of:
    • Confusion or lack of planning around a partnership's goals and how they are to be achieved.
    • Inability to commit the necessary time or resources to the partnership.
    • Lack of involvement, where there are too few drivers of the partnership.
    • No benefits for those involved, or a lack of shared responsibility for the partnership.
  • Anger.
  • Anger and frustration can be a result of:
    • Not enough planning in the partnership
    • Selfishness through a lack of shared responsibilities or benefits.
    • Communication problems, or not being able to discuss points of concern.
    • Unresolved conflict between the partners.
    • Unclear or unrealistic goals and objectives, or having no way to measure the partnership's progress.
  • Sense of a lack of feedback and discussion.
  • This can be caused by:
    • Communication problems through a lack of respect or honesty.
    • Bad planning through a partnership structure that does not allow for necessary discussions or meetings.
    • A lack of shared responsibility
  • No value for commitment.
  • This feeling can be caused by:
    • Inadequate planning leading to too much being put in by one or both partners for not much in return through a lack of shared responsibilities and benefits.
    • No commitment to the partnership from one or both parties.
    • A lack of common ground between the two partners.
  • Staleness.
  • Staleness can be a result of:
    • A small number of people involved, producing no new ideas.
    • A lack of commitment to the partnership from one or both partners.
Identifying what these warning signs could be indicating is only the first step towards fixing any problems that may exist in your partnership. The next step is to do something about problems before they grow so large that they ruin what you and your partner set out to do.

Some ways to address problems in your partnership can be found in the Our Community Help Sheets Warning Signs Part 2 and Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution, which are available in the resources section of the Australian Institute for Corporate Responsibility.