Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 27, 2013

Forum: Structuring collaborative partnerships

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — In this world of constant change, requirements for dealing with the contradictions that arise from today’s environment should encourage leadership in the public sector to think differently when structuring collaborative partnerships.

Many in the public sector focus their energy around the maintenance side of the job. Their activities center on setting goals and monitoring results, planning and executing strategy. This approach often leads to missing or overlooking the bigger picture of cooperating with other organizations in the public sector.

During this challenging economic environment, there needs to be a transformational side of leadership. This is one that aligns strategies and resources, has a vision for growth and finds partnership linkages built around a better understanding of priorities and how they link to other organizations that will add value to the community.

The public sector area has experienced and invested in numerous studies and consulting contracts that were well publicized, exciting and very visible to the community but showed very little from a return on invested dollar perspective. One would ask why this is the case. The answer is quite simple. In addition to the maintenance side of the business, which the public sector is used to, there is very little understanding of the cultural change that is required to implement new ideas and behaviors. The transformational side requires another set of leadership requirements that would establish and communicate the vision, align strategy and resources internally and develop creative partnerships between the public, private and non-profit sectors.

The change in the Bay Area Transportation Authority’s approach to the marketplace has resulted in new partnerships with organizations like TART Trails, which collaborated on a new service called Bike-n-Ride. In the case of the BATA/TART Trail partnership, we are increasing our service level (adding new riders), enhancing our brands, encouraging a fit community and adding value from an economic development perspective as well.

BATA’s awareness and concern about economic trends, fuel prices, contractual obligations and agreements and collaborative partnerships require us to keep very current on how economic flux will affect our business relationships as well as our current and future customer base. We actively search for ways to keep operating costs down and look for innovative ideas internally and through partnerships that will enhance our service delivery system and result in a consistent growth in ridership.

The Bike-n-Ride collaboration exemplifies what can happen when organizations merge their creative juices to work together on a positive strategy for growth and change. The message here is that developing ongoing strategies, built around a solid implementation plan that brings in other community partners, is critical, and understanding that conditions can and do change is essential. This leads to developing the necessary tactics and linkages in a joint strategy that meets the needs of both public and private sector parties.

About the author: Thomas F. Menzel is Executive Director of the Bay Area Transportation Authority.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing Please include biographical information and a photo.