In today’s world of collaboration, empathy, connections, customer experience, and team results, it is considered risky business when not managing those business relationships. This article focuses on two aspects of this opportunity for any leader:
- Management of organizational risks
- Management of business relationships
Benefit from several hints and tips you can immediately apply.
Why is it that when working with IT departments, I very frequently hear:
- Our Human Resource (HR) department is not there for us; we have to do most of the HR work ourselves
- If we can work around the Procurement tam, then that would be preferable in order to make progress in our search for a 3rd-party solution
- Let’s not involve Legal during these vendor communications for now; they will over-complicate things anyway
- Finance negotiated this great deal, but now we’re paying for it; we’re not a priority for this vendor, and the level of service that we are receiving is average at best
Now let me add to this the following. If you work for one of these four departments referenced above, I can hear you say something along the lines of: “It will be after my retirement, when the day comes that our IT department has their act together”. And you know what? It is true in some cases. The “them-and-us” culture is in full force.
The Relationship Opportunity
Is perception reality? Given the repetitive nature of these expressions, I have to assume that there is at least some truth to it all. Would you agree?
When looking at this bleak picture, I can only conclude that we are dealing with a relationship issue. In her book “Cultivate”, Morag Barrett characterizes these relationships along the lines of a “Me” vs. a “We” culture. And, she went a step further by determining whether the relationship is “Unconditional” or “Conditional”. For example, in a “We” culture that is complemented with unconditional relationships you will find many allies. In the opposite environment you’ll notice many rivalries that are going on.
Do you recognize these types of characterizations of relationships between departments (i.e. people) of your organization or company? And if so, what does this mean for your organization? Who should be concerned? And, who should instigate and take ownership of the necessary improvements that are to be made?
Let me put my risk-management-hat on to answer these questions; in particular my organizational-risk-management-hat. Why? Because, in my humble opinion, the organization, partially, or even as a whole could be at risk here… That may sound dramatic. Agreed… But think about it. What is the harm that is done to the organization when:
- Technology is purchased that is barely being used, that does not fit the current architecture, for which there is little knowledge and experience available, all because cost was the dominant factor in the decision process
- Good and experienced employees leave for reasons of the lack of career planning that is offered, talent management is just a buzz word and compensation is barely based on performance, if at all
- Negotiated long-term contracts are stifling innovation as the vendor is barely investing in new technology or capabilities
- Strategic processes are outsourced to a single vendor for monetary reasons, instead of for what’s best for the organization
- Success is already at stake before the contract begins due to scope creep
Does anyone in your organization actually determines the risk, or harm, done when departments such as IT, HR, Legal, Procurement and Finance don’t “get along” resulting is scenarios as pictured above?
And when I am mentioning the word “harm”, I am not looking for a dollar amount expressing the extent of the harm done, although, that would be a nice-to-have. Harm can also be expressed in terms of:
- Loss of valued customers and employees
- Employee and customer dissatisfaction
- Loss of, or missed, opportunities
- Loss of market share
- Loss of morale
- Loss of time due to inefficiencies
This takes me back to wearing my “risk-hat”… Has your organization identified the risks of departments/people not working together as a team? And if so, have these risks been evaluated based on criteria such as likelihood of happening and business impact? And who is in charge of doing something about (i.e. treating) these high-impact and high-likely risks or harms?
My vote would be to place the ownership and accountability of the “treatment” of these risks in the hands of the C-levels of your organization. Enabling them with an organizational risk management approach wouldn’t hurt. The ISO 31000 standard could serve as a welcome vehicle to put such approach together and then use it.
Imagine the C levels (CIO, CFO, CPO, etc.) of the departments referenced so far, actually assessing the risks that are the result of past non-collaborative actions, current not-so-team-minded efforts, and future to-be-expected outcomes based on past performance. This should be a conversation based on facts. Not emotions.
Business Relationship Management
The morale of all this is that organizations have a lot to gain when its people work in harmony, respect each other’s best intentions, but always from a perspective of what is best for the organization as a whole and its customers, now and in the future.
Maybe it is a worthwhile exercise to characterize the relationships that are going on in your organization? And use Morag’s book as a tool in support of this effort. Then shop around and see if your peers, or even better your managers, have an open mind to go over your observations. And depending on the success of this effort, see if you can elevate the discussion to an objective organizational risk management level. Who knows, with the right people around you that have the right mindset, your initiative might make you stand out, which never hurts. Right…?
The BRM Institute provides an alternative characterization model for the health of a business relationship:
- Level 5: Strategic Partner
- Level 4: Trusted Advisor
- Level 3: Service Provider
- Level 2: Order Taker
- Level 1: Ad-hoc
These easy-to-use relationship maturity levels allow for leaders to focus on ways to improve the relationship between the team members, the teams, and departments of their organization. So no more risky business! Manage these risks and manage those relationships.
Looking for More Information?
For more information about risk management and business relationship management, check out our:
BRM Awareness Training
- BRM Executive Brief (free)
- BRM Fundamentals (live instructor, in-house or online)
- BRM Fundamentals (online self-paced)
BRM and Risk Management Certification Training
- Strategic Partnering Workshop
- Becoming a Value-Focused Organization Workshop
- BRM Planning Workshop
- Implementing a BRM Office Workshop
- Assessing BRM Maturity Workshop
BRM Coaching and Consulting
BRM Blogs and Events
You can also visit the Business Relationship Management Institute’s website and become a member. You gain access to a wealth of information.