On the HBR Blog Network, Andrew Shipilov has a eye-catching post on "hub and spoke" project networks, or alliances between project partners, as he describes them.
(Say "network" to me, and as an EE, I always jump first to a mind's-eye image of a "mesh", but actually that's one of several general ways to think of networks, and in most situations not a good general model for governance.)
Shipilov posits that simple hub-and-spoke arrangements in truly complex and challenging systems, with the prime contractor and an SI (system integrator) at the hub, inhibits critical interactions between the other partners, each of which is on a spoke. He attributes some project failures to this governance model.
What to replace it with? After all, hub-and-spoke is the essence of prime contractor command-and-control over the myriad partners, to say nothing of the legal details of who has privity of contract.
Shipilov recommends the "alliance network" wherein there are multi-lateral relationships for innovation, data exchange, and cooperation, not necessarily under the watchful eye of the SI (though, if the SI is on the ball, all the consequential stuff is known at the PMO)
About the alliance network, we are told there are these advantages:
"First, alliance partners are more likely to deliver on their promises. If information flows freely among interconnected partners, how one firm treats a partner can be easily seen by other partners to whom both firms are connected. So if one firm bilks a partner, other partners will see that and will not collaborate with the bilking firm again.Fair enough. But one caution: You can't be a control freak and sleep nights with an alliance network!
Second, integrated networks facilitate fine-grained information exchanges because multiple partners have relationships where they share a common knowledge base. This shared expertise allows them to dive deep into solving complex problems related to executing or implementing a project."
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