Cultivating Growth Beyond Borders

Strategic alliances unlock the path to innovation and strategic advantage.

Bryn Chighizola

Senior Manager, Organizational Research, Korn Ferry Institute

David Finn

Senior Client Partner and Global Account Leader

In today's business world, strategic alliances between two or more organizations serve as bridges to uncharted territories. These collaborations go beyond contracts, driving growth by diversifying revenue, accessing resources and skills, and sharing knowledge, especially in digital and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

Yet, experts say, many alliances fall through due to overlooked organizational, structural, and human factors. “We find that one of the primary reasons why so many alliances fail is their inability to align not only on mission and vision but culture and communications,” says Sarah Jensen Clayton, Korn Ferry senior client partner and global lead of the firm’s Culture, Change & Communications (C3) practice. With effective strategies, however, organizations can turn strategic alliances into engines of success, achieving mutual goals and sustainability.

Whilecollaboration has traditionally centered on buying partnerships through mergers and acquisitions, Korn Ferry recognizes the growing need for organizations to engage in broader alliances and collaborations. In its new paper, “Cultivating Growth Beyond Borders,” Korn Ferry introduces its new Strategic Alliances Success Framework, a data-driven solution for the complexities that make alliances thrive. It helps organizations excel in forming and maintaining successful alliances, addressing every potential challenge—from strategy to team collaboration. “We have leveraged research and market intelligence to structure a Strategic Alliances Success Framework that is uniquely positioned to meet clients wherever they are in their alliance journey,” says Nadina Scott, Korn Ferry senior client partner. 

In fast-paced and unpredictable markets, strategic alliances are key for innovation, and recent studies show that the majority of senior leaders see them as vital to growth. Indeed, Korn Ferry's research on organizational transformation revealed a significant positive correlation between the number of strategic alliances and financial outcomes. What’s more, highly transformative organizations, on average, had substantially more alliances—32% more than companies in the bottom third.

Effective alliances play a significant role in ongoing transformation. And the Korn Ferry Strategic Alliances Success Framework empowers organizations to perform for today while transforming for tomorrow—therefore becoming ambidextrous in business. “As organizations seek to create value internally and across organizational boundaries, Korn Ferry’s foundation of ambidexterity remains critical,” says Bryn Chighizola, senior manager of organizational research at the Korn Ferry Institute, Korn Ferry’s research arm.

Ambidexterity helps organizations balance alignment with readiness for change, enhancing their effectiveness. It helps put focus on setting common goals and aligning their vision with transformational needs, backed by a deep understanding of their organizational systems. In one recent study, 71% of sustainability-focused high-potential alliances rated themselves highly in establishing shared goals and vision, compared to just 27% for alliances with low potential for transformation. “In successful strategic alliances, effective teams are pivotal,” says David Finn, Korn Ferry senior client partner and global account leader. “They build trust, facilitate open communication, and ensure clarity of purpose and a shared vision, fostering collaborative synergy.”

Strategic alliances come with their fair share of risks, including unclear goals and cultural differences. The Korn Ferry Strategic Alliances Success Framework proactively addresses these challenges, resolving obstacles before they escalate. However, effectively mitigating these issues relies on the ambidexterity of collaborators and involves focusing on five key areas: organizational strategy, team effectiveness, culture and mindset alignment, talent development, and immersion.

Flexibility is crucial, as success may not follow a linear path. By starting with a comprehensive assessment using the Korn Ferry Enterprise Scan, Korn Ferry captures the ambidexterity needed to craft a customized road map within the alliance framework. Experts say this approach helps organizations accelerate their alliances' impact and improve success across the ecosystem. “No matter where organizations are in their alliance journey, we help identify and apply the right mix of advisory solutions and expertise to meet their current and future alliance needs,” says Chighizola.

Strategic alliances play a critical role in sustaining competitiveness and cultivating future growth. Successful alliances need careful planning, a shared vision, and an understanding of potential cultural and organizational hurdles. Korn Ferry's Strategic Alliances Success Framework helps clients improve performance and drive transformation through collaboration. “Creating maximum value in alliances is vital for financial returns, sharing knowledge, driving innovation, and ensuring sustainability,” says Scott. “Not only does the framework maximize value, but it also saves time, prevents frustration, and cuts down on costly investments."

Download the full report to learn more about the Korn Ferry Strategic Alliances Framework.

Download the Report