Using Partnership Agreements to Reduce Conflict and Improve Manufacturing Performance

By Paul Borders, CMRP, Life Cycle Engineering

Venom…ill will…backstabbing…vindictiveness…mistrust…betrayal. These are some of the most negative aspects of human interaction. And they are present in nearly every manufacturing organization I’ve gotten to know well.

At its core, manufacturing combines specialized machinery, specialized processes and specialized human resources to create a product. Working through the inevitable conflicts that arise as each specialty seeks to optimize their outcomes requires healthy working relationships. These relationships take work. But too often leaders rely on worthless platitudes such as “Teamwork is important” or “There is no “I” in Team.” When conflicts rise to a feverish pitch, the leaders have to intervene. They waste time and energy restoring the dysfunction to a quieter but still destructive level.

There is a better way. Developing partnership agreements is a proven approach to reduce conflict and establish healthy work relationships. This process dives into the various relationships between functional areas and formalizes the behaviors and expectations that are required for two functional areas to work well together. Effective partnership agreements are developed in three phases:

  • Identifying a relationship between two different functional areas that isn’t working well
  • Discussing needs and desired behaviors and capturing them in a Partnership Agreement document
  • Ongoing dialogue between the two functional areas to review the agreement and discuss progress on practicing the desired behaviors

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