Backing U!

Your online guide to backing your passion and achieving career success!

How Stable an Alliance?

800px Two left hands forming a heart shape1 150x150 How Stable an Alliance?

Image via Wikipedia

The British public has been mesmerised by politics over the last week in a way unprecedented in my lifetime. 

How is this relevant to a career-oriented blog on backing your passion?  Bear with me…!

The general election on May 6th was so tantalisingly inconclusive.  By 4am on the 7th, when I called it a day,there was still little confirmation which way the country was moving.  So many results were quirky or anomalous that no clear pattern was emerging.

The next morning we found out.  The Conservatives had won the most seats, but not the majority they had long expected.  Labour had lost almost a hundred seats, but had proven surprisingly resilient in the cities and regions.  The Liberal Democrat bubble had been blown away and, far from gaining 20+ seats as the polls had suggested, they had lost more seats than gained.

And then the talks started.  Four days of Conservatives stuck in a room with arch-rival Lib Dems.  Gordon Brown announcing he will go to entice Lib Dems into talks with Labour – yet with no realistic prospect of a deal, given the mathematics. 

Then Brown resigned, the Queen asked David Cameron to be PM and we  had the first coalition Government since WWII – complete with an astonishing love-in between Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg in the rose garden at #10.  Two men who had a week earlier been tearing strips off each other, smiling and joking and patting each other on the back.

Extraordinary times.  But can this whirlwind romance last?  Yes and no.

In the corporate world, there are three prime pre-conditions for a strategic alliance to work – that is, to be sustainable.  The organisations need to have shared objectives, a common time horizon and the value brought to the alliance by each party has to be fairly assessed and built into the power sharing in the new entity.

In this case, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat negotiators did a thorough job spelling out their shared objectives.  Their coalition agreement is as good as could reasonably have been expected for a document cobbled together over four days between formerly bitter rivals.

The time horizon has likewise been sorted.  Both parties are firmly fixed on a full term, five year horizon, with safeguards built in to ensure no one party cuts and runs.

It is in the power sharing that the mistake has been made.  The Conservatives no doubt argued for an allocation of seats based on their respective number of MPs (57:306), so four out of 23 seats to the Lib Dems.  The Lib Dems would have countered that the electoral system is biased and the allocation should reflect votes cast (23%:36%), giving nine seats to the Lib Dems. 

For a stable alliance, they should have split the difference, to say six or seven seats.  The Lib Dems got five.  Furthermore, they landed not one of the big three offices of state – the Treasury, Home Office and Foreign Office.

Once the early, pre-agreed legislation has been passed, the Lib Dems will find themselves marginalised.  As events unfold, they will feel that they are sitting in an effectively Conservative cabinet.  Their supporters will regard them as Cameron’s poodles.  Their activists will be less keen to stuff leaflets through letterboxes and knock on doors.

They will be unable to hammer out issues on a four-four negotiating basis as over the last week, but as five to 18. A seven to 16 ratio around the cabinet table, with one of theirs representing a heavyweight office, would have represented a healthier balance of power.

The Lib Dem negotiators did well on policy matters, but less well where it really matters, the power sharing.  Here Cameron’s team was too successful.  Their success is not conducive to coalition stability.

There is a lesson here for all of us.  Be careful in your negotiations.  Be too successful and the ball can bounce back to strike you.

When you join a new organisation, you effectively form a new alliance, a new coalition.  Your little organisation, UCo, merges with the big organisation, BigCo, to form a slightly bigger one.  It is in your interests to make BiggerCo a stable organisation.

So when you apply for a job and sit down with your boss-to-be to discuss pay and conditions, take care not to win outright!  Leave him or her with the impression of a score draw.  If you manage to negotiate too good a deal, there could be lingering resentment, leading to an unstable alliance. When the layoffs come along, guess who’ll be first out of the door.

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Response