When working to strengthen FM strategic alignment with the business do not overlook the importance of a strong relationship management program. “Program” implies that this effort is intentional, as it should be. Too many FM’s make the mistake of concentrating solely on the immediate project or task and do not pay enough attention to purposefully managing stakeholder relationships. Relationship management, however, is a critical element of FM success, especially at the leadership level.
- A close relationship between functional leadership and customers ranked fourth among enablers that help increase strategic alignment. (Luftman and Brier)
- Conversely, lack of a close relationship ranked first out of fourteen identified alignment inhibitors. (Luftman and Brier)
- Business executives repeatedly downplayed the value of formal organizational structure, but frequently emphasized the critical role of relationships in achieving strategic alignment. (Chan)
The best relationship management programs are not only intentional but also multi-level. Peer-to-peer communication occurs on a routine frequency at all levels of the organization, informing the alignment process up and down the FM chain.
While it is beneficial that these interactions occur at all levels it is most important that exchanges at the business unit and executive levels be especially well tuned. This is where the most important information resides and where FM has an opportunity to learn the most about stakeholder issues, plans and initiatives. With this knowledge FM leaders can be proactive with projects and services in a manner that best supports core business outcomes. That is, after all, what alignment is about.
At the strategic level executives will want to be intentional about maintaining contacts and a pattern of communication which shares information. These conversations take many forms, some of them of a more informal nature.
At the tactical level there are many ways to increase the alignment dialogue. One common methodology is to designate specific Customer Relationship Managers to interact with their counterparts or senior executives in business units. Often this takes the form of a zone management program in which building specific information and projects are shared, but it need not be that tactical. If it is, the strategic dialogue should be a specific touch point as well.
Alignment, however, is not a one way street. While FM may be seeking to align its strategies and operations with core business strategies this process also informs stakeholders about FM’s capabilities, forward leaning attitude and willingness to be a true partner in the business, not just a “call me when you need me” service provider. It is a critical difference. The more business stakeholders accept FM as a full partner in the enterprise then the more leverage FM can apply to positive effect.