Strategic partnerships leverage economies of scale to achieve more than is possible for an individual agency working in isolation with its current level of capabilities. Partnerships ensure broader stakeholder interests are considered and reduce the risk of misalignment and working at cross purposes. By actively managing partnerships among public agencies and with the private sector and academia, transportation agencies can potentially achieve greater outcomes with the same resources, while building relationships that potentially provide even greater future outcomes.

Partnerships include activities for preparing and promoting public-private partnerships (P3s); contracting in new and innovative ways; and collaborating on data-sharing agreements and other initiatives of joint interest.

Developing mutually beneficial relationships outside of the agency is not always easy, and fostering ongoing partnerships requires thoughtful care and mutual respect. According to a recent poll by McKinsey & Company, the biggest risks for strategic partnerships include:

  • Misalignment on objectives
  • Poor communication and lack of trust
  • Poor governance practices
  • Inability to adjust to change

Figure 3.4 Partnership Components

Figure 3.3 shows four factors critical to fostering a positive partnership. These include:

  • Establishing roles and responsibilities ensures common expectations for who is responsible for what and when and enables communication.
  • Building trust enables teams to experience a feeling of reduced risk when relying on other parties.
  • Developing clear communication channels improves productivity and morale among parties working toward a common goal.
  • Monitoring and evaluating results establishes measures for and progress toward success.

Despite the inherent challenges associated with partnership management, when done correctly partnerships can provide a win-win for both parties. For example, P3s shift some project risks, such as financial, construction or infrastructure operation to the private sector, and benefits the public sector by accelerating innovations, speeding up development and delivery of new technologies and mitigating financial, organizational and cultural transportation agency barriers to implementation.