You can do all the team-building you want or can stand, but collaboration is really about bringing together different points of view, working together to confront each other so that action and change take place. Our teams successfully did this.
Frank Duggan, senior vice president, group account management at ABB, says, “It is clear that both sides badly needed and wanted this relationship to work. This gave us a good starting point. I believe the people from both sides who were key and critical in the early incubation period of the relationship quickly got to appreciate and like one another. We employed some good tactics as a joint leadership team to engage people deep down in both organizations.”
This successful collaboration required tremendous organizational commitment from all parties. In addition to our strategic alignment, we found that both of our organizations had similar cultures that fostered the mutual respect for each other and trust that must happen before you can truly collaborate. That culture of respect and trust was pervasive throughout the organizations, from the executive level management to the development teams to the field engineers.
“From the outset, there has always been a culture of transparency and honesty between us,” Duggan recalls. “This has been significant in getting the relationship to succeed. This will always give a strong platform for future positive results. As in all relationships, you cannot take things for granted. You have to continue to work at them.”
This culture of mutual respect and collaboration is ingrained within and throughout our respective organizations. Even in some of the early implementation projects, our technical and engineering teams worked so closely together that sometimes it was difficult to tell who belonged to Dow, and who belonged to ABB, unless you happened to know the people from previous meetings. The synergy was that great. It made for as good a transition as one could hope for when handing over the reigns of a project you’ve nurtured for close to a lifetime.
That’s not to say that there weren’t growing pains, conflicts and disagreements along the way. That happens in any close, collaborative relationship. We did have some delays and missed milestones, as all projects invariably do. We had differences of opinion. But we used these experiences and the conflict as learning experiences, which ultimately strengthened our working relationship and our deliverable.
Now that we had found the right commercial solution and supplier relationship to take our operating discipline forward, we had to see what kind of results it would deliver throughout Dow’s plants worldwide.
We had said that MOD 5 would be a tough act to follow….could ABB provide a worthy successor? The next article in this series will discuss the results and future direction of this collaboration.
Margaret R. Walker is vice president of engineering solutions for Dow Chemical
's Technology Centers and Manufacturing and Engineering Work Process; Jerry N. Gipson is director of Dow’s Engineering Solutions Technology Center; Edward R. Sederlund is Dow’s Process Automation product manager; and Eric C. Cosman is Dow’s Engineering Solutions architect. The authors would like to thank Peter J. Kindt, Dow’s Process Control and Advanced Control discipline leader, who also contributed to this article.