The authors, all experienced partnering facilitators, are affiliated with the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Dr. Shearer, an attorney and certified mediator, and Dr. Maes, a communications and conflict management specialist, are on the faculty of the Department of Management. Dr. Moore is Dean of the College of Business and Management Studies.
Partnering is an emerging alternative management process designed to help interdependent organizations identify common goals and objectives and manage conflict in joint undertakings such as large-scale construction projects and facilities services contracts. In a 1993 article in this publication, partnering was described as a collaborative contracting process focusing on dispute prevention rather than dispute resolution. The author explained this process as creating a framework for team building, based on open communication, commitment to common goals, and mutual trust. It was stressed that during the initial workshop, the parties should develop an implementation plan to ensure that goals and objectives are met and should schedule ongoing meetings to evaluate the success of the partnership. At what point do all parties need to reconvene in a follow-up workshop with a neutral facilitator? What can they hope to accomplish in second session, and how does this help the team relationship? The answers to these questions are thedfocus of this article.