Question: When establishing the partnering function, did you experience conflict with other business areas/functions? How did you resolve that conflict.

Response: A new team, recruited to an organisation that was undergoing change, where an existing group of people thought they’d been doing a great job (and probably had been) or didn’t see what was different about the newcomers was always going to cause some tension.

That’s the experience I had and no doubt others who seek to build a BRM (or indeed any other new team) will always face. Personally I don’t have an issue with conflict as it tends to put a spotlight on things that need focus but the problems do arise when it doesn’t get discussed or is allowed to fester in the background.

Being aware that there will be conflicts is probably a good place to start. In most cases the conflict will stem from a lack of understanding, a lack of clarity on purpose and overlaps (real or perceived) in what someone thinks their job role is.

Some of those things are easy to resolve by adopting one of my “rules for life” — keep small toes as it makes it harder for people to stand on them. Time and again I’ve experienced too many people feeling like they own a particular conversation or part of a process and do exclusively from someone else. Whilst having an understanding of how your role sits alongside other roles, having accountability and supporting processes are all good things I firmly believe that it is people who get things done and key to their success is the attitude behind their behaviour. Most conflicts can start to be resolved by making the assumption that you’re in the wrong until proven otherwise and that you can always learn from someone else.

The teams where the conflicts are going to come from a those who have either been doing elements of the BRM role in the past (formally or otherwise) such as Project Delivery, Development and Portfolio Management. However you’ll also experience conflict with teams like Architecture who are also seeking to establish their own role in a new operating model that many organisations are embracing as the adoption of the cloud capabilities shifts the IT team from being focused on infrastructure and software services to enterprise design.

If you’re stuck for working out what the conflict in your organisation may come from then a good place to start will be by looking at the House of BRM (documented here as the first search result I found) as it shows you the capabilities that a BRM team may see as in their domain and you’ll quickly be able to think about who else may lay ownership to those capabilities in your existing organisation.

There will also be conflicts that come from the other teams outside of your technology team — Finance and HR as examples, often have Business Partners who will be seeking to understand the future plans of the organisation and wonder why you’re now trying to encroach on their conversations. For me the key is to get the support functions of the organisation to work better together — few changes happen without impacting people or spending money so my advice is work with these other Business Partners and allow them to be your eyes and ears. Not only does that share the workload but again, my experience is, they’re more embedded into processes and likely to have many of the transactional conversations you want to avoid.

You may also find there is conflict with any other strategic roles that are working within the business unit or across the whole organisation. Again the advice here is work with them rather than trying to lay claim to the space exclusively.

To conclude then these are the top things to think about:

  • There will be conflict so expect it, call it out and encourage the discussion
  • Focus on having clarity of the roles and making sure people understand that success is achieved by working together for a common goal rather than one team achieving at the expenses of another
  • As a leader create an environment where people don’t feel they have to compete for a voice, justify their job in the organisation or be seen to be performing better than another team in order to get your time or have their opinion valued.
  • Build collaborative relationships across the organisation and focus on adding value rather than trying to build an empire

Finally, if you’re aware of the conflict then don’t ignore it but have the conversation. Ultimately most people want to do a good job, feel like they’re able to make a difference and not be fighting with their colleagues. If those things aren’t happening it’s often because the leaders are allowing it, perhaps even encouraging it, rather than building an environment that allows everyone to succeed.

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An experienced senior digital business leader with experience of delivering transformative change.

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