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From conflict to collaboration



The Organisation in conflict.

For as long as I can remember internal Departments like Human Resources, Information Technology and even Finance, have sought to play a more strategic role in their businesses. And yet in so many organisations that continues to be stress and misalignment between internal organizations and the rest of the business. Why does this come about?

Let me share with you one example in a business that I work with. A Global business, consisting of 42 operating units, and central services functions including Procurement, IT, HR, Property Services, Program Management and Learning and Devlopment where year after year a battle was raging between the businesses and the central services function.  The business sought to deliver on the agreed global strategy and the central services tried to meet their budgets and implement strategic choices imposed on them. In IT for example where the budget exceeded £150m per annum over 25% of that budget was being wasted simply because businesses who thought they had specified a solution that met their strategic needs refused to sign off the project as delivered. In another example Procurement had spent literally thousands of man days setting up strategic contracts with suppliers found that over 30% of purchases bought by the business found their way round these centralised contracts. Obviously, the net impact in money terms was in the £100ms but over and above the money was the strategic impact and the disenchantment of employees in central services and their perceived value to the business. As measured by an internal survey satisfaction with Central Services by the businesses was on a 5 year declining path.

What was going wrong in this example and indeed with so many others I have experienced?

Even where all parts of the organisation are aware of the mission and strategy, it seems to me they so often fail to think through and indeed agree with each other how they would jointly deliver their strategic imperatives. They have failed in my terms to explore how they can achieve things jointly. Instead they disappear off into their own corners and have their own Woods meetings to define how they will be the best individual Department or service they can be in the context of the strategy. And by so doing fail to think through what the best strategy could be to mutually deliver.

A new paradigm for internal relationships – Mutual Value.

I strongly believe that the same process of relationship building, co-creation of a narrative and then shared execution of that narrative through a range of transactions is the way forward for relationships between internal Department and the rest of the business and my experience is that the same change processes we apply externally are relevant in internal relationships as well.

Imagine how differently businesses would perform if both parties brought their vision of how they could operate within the strategy and how they could support each other. Being willing to then step back from their own view and consider a third alternative, creating mutual value, that could be better than either of them had initially perceived, would allow for levels of innovation creativity and ambition which is simply not possible when shouting at each other from opposite sides of the table. I recommend following exactly the same ideas as we develop for external relationships and a mutual value relationship agreement and following that mutual value transaction agreements will be the basis for a successful outcome in this scenario.

If you would like to know more about our work with internal Department do please contact us on



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