Skip to content

Gaining Influence: Understanding the drivers

May 17, 2011

Many professionals believe that they should have greater influence and control within their business. IACCM surveys have shown this to be true for the contracts, legal and procurement community. They are often frustrated that they are not consulted on key initiatives, or introduced earlier, or given more specific areas of authority.

A paper in Harvard Business School’s ‘Working Knowledge’ offers some useful insights on ways to succeed in raising functional influence. It is based on a study of risk managers – clearly a related group for our community.

Risk managers have long been deemed necessary, but were typically seen as ‘compliance managers’. The growth of interest in corporate risk management created a window of opportunity – and while some have taken advantage of this, others appear to have remained static in their influence and status.

The situation for the contracts, legal and procurement professional is in many ways similar. While there are clearly high-status individuals who wield significant situational influence, many remain largely invisible to senior management and the wider business. This is in spite of the fact that their work has become more important to business health and success.

What Type Of Influencer Are You?

The analogies to the groups studied in the paper are interesting. In one company, the professionals split between an old school of highly experienced, talented individuals who were trusted by management and were engaged on strategic activities because of their personal credibility. However, these individuals did not share knowledge or follow consistent methods – their ‘tacit knowledge’ meant that their influence did not extend beyond a remit as ‘ad-hoc advisers’. 

The ‘new guard’ at this company, responding to demands for greater enterprise compliance and reacting to the reluctance of the ‘old guard’ to share knowledge, had introduced a rigorous risk assessment process – but it was viewed by management as ‘alien to the business culture’ and by other functions as ‘box-ticking’.

This example stood in stark contrast to a group at a similar corporation, which had established extensive functional control and influence.

It had a leader who sought more power and accountability. She took steps to market the group’s services and capabilities to the business. She ensured that her team used standard language and standard methods, supported by a uniform process. The group developed tools and scenario planning that resulted in engagement through early warning systems. They influenced internal review and measurement systems to ensure that their values were reflected in management performance evaluations.  

As I look at these two scenarios, I see a direct reflection within the IACCM member companies. There are many where the role remains a mixture of ad-hoc experts and compliance-driven administrators. And there are a few – a growing number – where there is true leadership and investment in building a corporate competence through a consistent body of knowledge, tools and systems and high-value information flows that enable practitioners to bring unique insights to the business.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: