Alliance Transitions: Start-up,
Reset, and Wind-down


The start-up stage is an essential part of the alliance management process. The culture of the alliance is established during this stage, as is the governance structure. As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”—the values and beliefs that individuals who are part of an alliance hold to be true—has at least as strong an influence on the conduct and success of an alliance as does governance. In many instances it is wise to use the start-up stage to establish a unique culture and identity for the alliance, just as one would for an entrepreneurial start-up.

Experienced alliance managers agree: “Start it right at the beginning or restart it later, usually while trying to work through conflict.”

Start it right with assistance from The Rhythm of Business. We work with you through a 100-day process anchored around a kickoff meeting which ensures that everyone has the same vision, understands the objectives, and knows how they are going to get there. There are five key work streams in the start-up process:

  1. Setting up staff and launch governance
  2. Preparing internal teams and functions
  3. Planning and holding the kickoff meeting
  4. Mapping the future, including contingency planning
  5. Creating an alliance briefing book and communication plans

We guide you through creating a repeatable process, developing the kickoff meeting agenda and facilitating it, as well as ensuring that the appropriate communication pathways and protocols are established and alliance evaluation is in place.


Long-lived alliances can benefit from a modified start-up process to ensure that the partners are aligned and the strategic vision refreshed. Going through the process can also be beneficial in cases where there has been significant conflict, market-changing events, or leadership or strategy changes, but the alliance is too important to fail.


The end of an alliance, whether planned or premature, is a critical time that falls squarely on the shoulders of the alliance manager. Depending on the circumstances and the complexity of the alliance in question, there can be multiple issues to be negotiated and decided, assets—and reputation—to be preserved, and details to be managed.

Ensure that the wind-down goes smoothly by starting the process with a facilitated joint meeting and carefully choreographed process—one that becomes a repeatable part of your alliance management playbook.