The rivalry between New Zealand and Australia is unparalleled in the sporting arena. But the trans-Tasman neighbours have always understood the potency of the strategic partnerships they have built together.

Despite occasional political policy differences, the ANZAC relationship has endured since the two countries opted to retain their separate and independent constitutional identities at the beginning of the 20th century.

This year, for example, marked the 30th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations (CER) partnership that has successfully driven trade both ways across the ditch.  And both governments have recently identified 30 new policy initiatives to extend trans-Tasman integration.

Building relationships is fundamental to best practice management. Politicians and policy wonks on both sides now seem determined to shape the environment in which business and organisational partnerships common to both economies can take root and flourish.

But whatever macro level policy settings are implemented, it takes micro level actions to build effective partnerships that capitalise on the nation-wide benefits of working together.  New Zealand and Australian accountants have, for instance, recently grasped the nettle and voted to merge their two professional institutes into one trans-Tasman body.

Looking for what organisations have in common to make them both richer, rather than focussing on differences that perpetuate the stagnation of status quo, is the cornerstone to building effective partnerships and an enlightened leadership outcome.

ANZAC accountants have more in common when it comes to best serving the needs of their members and their clients, an increasing number of which operate in both markets, than they have differences which suggest the retention of myopia as a strategic imperative.

And so it is with management and governance. After almost 50 years of writing about and reporting on management, governance and leadership in New Zealand and simultaneously observing the Australian scene, there’s no doubt in my mind that both countries would benefit from building closer professional management and governance relationships.

The underpinning disciplines and theories of management, governance and leadership are fundamentally universal. The similarities of approach, despite some fundamental cultural differences are greater between these two countries than between any other two societies and economies.  And the commonalities will grow as both countries change to meet future economic and social challenges.

There is nothing unique about New Zealand’s approach to management and governance – except that we are failing to keep up with the best professional education and develop opportunities  available.  It’s time to address the problem.

The New Zealand Institute of Management (NZIM) and, I believe, our Institute of Directors (IOD) should partner up with Australia’s Institute of Management (AIM) and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).  The beneficiaries of this strategic partnership would be individual managers and directors in both countries and the member organisations that drive our ANZAC economies.  It’s time to put customers and common sense first.

Reg Birchfield is a Life Fellow of NZIM. He was the publisher and editor of New Zealand’s weekly  business newspaper, National Business Review, from 1971 to 1983 and the publisher and editorial director of Management magazine from 1984 to 2009. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and is an author, publisher and writer on management, governance and leadership.

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