Business relationship management is a business framework that strategically nurtures positive relationships to achieve three capabilities: driving value, building partnerships, and evolving culture. In the fourth and final part of this blog series, we’ll demonstrate how the BRM capability evolves organizational culture, using Microsoft’s notable transformation as an example.
As I explained in my previous blogs in this series, business relationship management (BRM) is more than a role. It is also a capability and a supporting discipline that work together to bring the role to life. As a reminder, the BRM capability is everything required, both visible and invisible, to nurture multi-disciplinary relationships in an organization. According to the BRM Body of Knowledge outlined by the global nonprofit organization The BRM Institute, the BRM capability:
- Drives value.
- Builds partnerships.
- Evolves culture.
In this blog, we’ll explore the question: How does nurturing the relationships between multi-disciplinary teams establish a culture of collaboration? We will go through the question step-by-step, demonstrating how BRM encourages collaboration, cultivating a company’s culture. A collaborative company culture thrives, innovates, and creates value.
Connected Teams Create Value
Amid the rapid speed of change driven by innovation, mergers and acquisitions, and consumer demands, companies often prioritize technology rather than updating their strategy and business model to leverage new digital strengths by connecting people.
A recent study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that highly connected teams are more attuned to global value chain dynamics, reducing barriers to global market shifts, ideas and talent. Well-connected teams collaborate with suppliers and customers, forming new ecosystems that generate shared value for all involved.
In an environment where collaboration naturally arises from a shared purpose, it is easiest to drive broader culture change and, in turn, desired outcomes. In the next section, we will explore Microsoft’s cultural transformation to show how adopting BRM strategies transformed company culture from hostile to innovative.
From Combative to Connected: Microsoft’s Metamorphosis
When Satya Nadella assumed the role of CEO at Microsoft in 2014, the company was characterized by its aggressive, combative, and fiercely competitive culture. Struggling and having overlooked significant waves of technological innovation, the organization faced challenges. However, under Nadella’s leadership (Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on creating a culture that fosters ideas), a remarkable transformation took place.
Nadella and his team redefined Microsoft’s mission, shifting it from merely “putting a computer on every desk” to the far-reaching ambition of “empowering every individual and organization across the globe to attain greater achievements.”
While a shift in purpose undoubtedly drove change, the primary catalyst for Microsoft’s remarkable resurgence lies in overhauling its corporate culture, realigned to support its newly articulated mission and address latent needs. The core of this strategic shift was moving away from a competitive, zero-sum-game approach where one’s gain is another’s loss.
Instead, the company embraced empathy and cultivated a growth mindset, leading to a more inclusive and open culture. They also changed how they approached management, using an updated framework centered on leading by example and creating an open and trusting environment.
Microsoft’s cultural metamorphosis has been instrumental in its revival, facilitating an environment where innovation thrives, collaboration flourishes, and the aspiration to understand and meet diverse needs is nurtured. The transition from a combative stance to one of empathetic growth has not only elevated Microsoft’s standing but also fostered an ecosystem conducive to sustained success in an ever-evolving technological landscape.
The Role of Business Relationship Management as a Capability in an Evolving Culture
During transformation, organizations often prioritize their products and processes, paying less attention to shifts in people’s behaviors. This mindset raises common inquiries, such as, “How will altering our product line impact our organization?” or “What can we expect from enhancing our staff’s skills and retiring those skills no longer required?”
By contrast, business relationship management is the bridge that connects different facets of an organization. BRM supports a collaborative company culture that achieves valuable outcomes by consciously fostering and elevating impactful work relationships. As in Microsoft’s case, BRM is the catalyst for a company’s evolution, ensuring all work relationships, both internal and external, are harnessed to shape a thriving, forward-thinking organizational culture.
The BRM capability assumes responsibility for diligently overseeing the continual enhancement of the quantity and caliber of impactful work relationships. This proactive approach contributes to the ongoing evolution of a collaborative culture, fostering an environment that consistently amplifies the inclination to collaboratively shape valuable outcomes.
Within this context, the business relationship management role introduces an additional, enduring question during organizational change: “How will nurturing relationships and creating a culture of collaboration improve our organization?” When companies ask this type of question, any changes in how people interact and collaborate signify a fundamental shift in the organization’s culture.
Identifying and Recruiting High Influencers: How the BRM Role Enables Behavioral Change
Every transformative journey has its origins in the actions of high influencers. These individuals wield significant impact due to their extensive network of relationships, regardless of their job titles or seniority. Moreover, they are the trailblazers for adopting new, desired behaviors, and their role in embracing these evolving behaviors is crucial.
Engaging these pivotal figures in the business transformation process is a shared responsibility between business relationship managers (BRMs) and formal organizational leadership, like organizational change management (OCM) change managers. Change managers preside over the people side of change within an organization, planning for, implementing, and guiding teams through company-wide change initiatives.
Oftentimes, change managers build change agent networks (CANs) of high influencers to ensure other employees are ready for and adopt leadership-imposed changes. Their role is often project-based, as they are the most active during periods of strategic change projects or organizational transformation.
By contrast, BRMs often assume a more day-to-day role, building and managing meaningful relationships among the different parts of an organization and channeling those relationships to achieve strategic objectives. While leadership provides essential support for change initiatives through change managers, BRMs leverage their expertise to identify influential individuals and amplify their ability to turn the envisioned change into a tangible reality.
This recruitment process presents an opportunity to leverage high influencers as change agents or change advocates. While change managers and BRMs’ roles differ, these teams can collaborate effectively to facilitate organizational change, especially when relationships are critical to the change initiative’s success.
However, recruiting high influencers is only the starting point for business relationship managers. Their long-term objective is to transition company communication from siloed, individual interactions to trust-based relationship networks among high influencers. These relationship networks are key to defining the organization’s needs, delivering it effectively, and maximizing its value.
The Role of Shared Ownership When Creating Relationship Networks
Business relationship managers, alongside other organizational leaders, collaborate to cultivate a culture where everyone, regardless of position or department, shares equal responsibility for achieving goals. Leaders from diverse areas, like technology, finance, human resources, and more, come together as a unified team to ensure the company gets the most out of its efforts.
Collaboratively, these leaders devise a strategic plan, gaining collective approval before jointly assuming ownership of the outcomes. Together, they implement elements of their created solution, diligently overseeing its results and enhancing its value. Most importantly, their strategy’s success or setback is a shared responsibility.
Shared ownership provides clarity by designating the parties responsible for the outcome of the strategic initiative. While establishing shared ownership is collaborative, BRMs hold a distinctive vantage point within their organizations to drive its implementation.
By harnessing their understanding of human instincts, empathy, emotions, and responses, BRMs lay the groundwork for individuals to adopt a growth-oriented mindset. As these behavioral traits become more prominent, individuals become more receptive to the organizational clarity that shared ownership promotes.
Language’s Impact on Cultivating Shared Ownership
The language we use every day has a huge impact on the relationships and culture we create. BRMs understand language plays a crucial role in how people communicate with others and interpret the messages they receive from others. A person’s choice of terminology can foster either a state of connectedness or disconnectedness. For this reason, all parties must understand the power of language and commit to the consistent use of unifying terms and the retirement of unintentionally divisive terms.
To support this point, the Business Relationship Management Institute has developed the following examples:
By employing these revised terms thoughtfully, explaining why they are updated, and highlighting their role in fostering a collaborative organizational culture, BRMs can proactively avert the emergence of cultural barriers.
Enabling strong collaboration networks requires a commitment to continuously grow relationships. The BRM capability works best when an organization defines what a great working relationship is and continually checks relationships’ statuses to help them grow. This approach will positively impact your organization’s culture and increase the desire to collaboratively create value.