Is partnering dead?

With the Coalition Government aggressively pursuing a 25% reduction across all departments, except the NHS, and this year announcing a further cost cutting exercise of 5%, it is little wonder that private sector contractors believe that partnering is dead. Most of the previously agreed contracts are being opened up for renegotiation. The Treasury is focussed on its targets for stripping out costs rather than exploring how, by working together, the different parties can contract in a more flexible and agile way to deliver better value for money. Contracting for the availability or outcomes of a service provision, rather than a rigid input specification that everyone knows will change over time and will create more adversarial conflicts and costing yet more money, seems a much more sensible approach. However, this will require trusting relationships. Some people think that the good partnering work achieved in the last 10 years is rapidly being eroded in the current climate because all parties are battling to achieve outcomes that benefit or protect themselves with no consideration for mutual benefit. But are we really in the territory of win-lose not win-win? I think that Partnering is being replaced with some “grown up conversations” about affordability and the working together ethos feels a bit more real and urgent compared to some of the previous partnering deals that masqueraded as best practice Partnering. I believe that Partnering isn’t dead but that it needs to address the new challenges for mutual gain i.e. affordability and how best each party can bring innovative solutions to the table. What is dead is the pink and fluffy brigade.