Educators, both corporate and academic, continue to be challenged to accomplish more with less. With smaller staffs, shrinking budgets and fewer resources in general, they are expected to keep pace with the changing landscape of American business and develop innovative, state-of-the-art learning programs.
The University of Toyota School of Retail Professional Development (SRPD) has found one way to successfully meet these challenges: strategic alliances. The corporate university has aligned itself with academic institutions that could enhance its credibility, provide complimentary philosophy and values, and support Toyotaï¿½s mission and business objectives. At the same time, Toyota knew that the partnering institutions would need to benefit from the relationship, as well. The University of Toyota has achieved this symbiotic relationship with two alliance partners: Northwood University and New York University.
The alliance with Northwood University links its curriculum-based instruction directly to professional development training from the University of Toyota. Northwood is the only school to offer multiple degrees in automotive marketing management. Through the alliance, Northwood University benefits from greater automotive industry involvement and access to industry practitioners. At the same time, University of Toyota is able to expand its range of learning tools and broaden its geographical reach, while having greater access to a uniquely qualified pool of employees for Toyota.
Through the alliance with Northwood, University of Toyota has identified other areas for collaboration, including accreditation, sharing of resources, courseware development, instructional research and events. For example, SRPD courses may qualify for continuing education units (CEUs), as well as credit toward two- and four-year degrees at Northwood.
The goal of the alliance with New York Universityï¿½s Corporate Learning Services (CLS) is to integrate Toyotaï¿½s demand for continuous performance improvement with NYUï¿½s approach to education. It gives NYU an opportunity to increase its exposure with the automotive industry, as SRPD develops and delivers automotive retail education to almost 100,000 Toyota and Lexus dealer employees nationwide. In this alliance, the initial areas of collaboration have been synchronous learning, training and conferences.
Successful alliances allow you to experiment with new models for getting things done and often involve greatly reduced costs and no formal investment. They allow for an exchange of resources on projects that can lead to new developments previously unavailable or unimagined by either organization.
As with any relationship, alliances are primarily about people and communications. Success depends on four key elements: partner selection, clearly understood roles, clearly defined objectives and senior management commitment. If any of these are weak, the alliance will suffer.
Ed Rigsbee in Wardï¿½s Dealer Business shares 10 tips for successful alliance relationships:
- Behave toward your alliance partner the way you want them to behave toward you.
- Itï¿½s more important to be a good alliance partner and get things done than to obsess on being right.
- Make relationship bank deposits before you try to make withdrawals.
- Regularly share relationship value updates with your alliance partner.
- Know what your partner needs.
- Be clear about what you want from your alliance relationship and what you are willing to give it.
- Be committed: Always show your confidence and passion toward your alliance.
- Be more for your alliance partner than you promised; exceed their expectations.
- Resolve conflict immediately.
- You canï¿½t partner with an organization or individual that doesnï¿½t want to be a good partner.
And remember, nothing is static. The needs of alliance partners change over time, making it important to update objectives and to end the alliance if it no longer serves both parties.
In these times of doing more with less, I encourage you to find an alliance partner that makes sense for your organization. By expanding your resource pool, you can both explore new territory and try new ventures that neither could have managed alone. It may be the key to the next successful chapter in your organizationï¿½s story.
Chuck Oï¿½Keefe is national manager, associate dean for the University of Toyota. He is responsible for curriculum development, operations, strategic alliances, research, measurement & evaluation, quality management and e-learning for a student body of more than 100,000 Toyota dealer associates. Chuck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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