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HR tried to sabotage my project plan

A Reader Writes:

I’m responsible for implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system that impacts all of our business units.  Because the new system will be an adjustment for our sales people, and they are likely to resist, senior management told me to work closely with the HR business partner (HRBP) of each business unit to ensure cooperation.  At our past planning meetings, all of the HRBPs expressed support for the system and provided their feedback at each stage of the project.  However, I overheard one of HRBPs disparage the program to the head of her business unit, obviously not realizing that I was in earshot.  She is clearly looking to sabotage the project, despite her positive participation at group meetings. Should I confront her? Why the two-faced behavior?

Dear Reader,

The design of many organizations places the HRBP at the center of representing the organizational needs of the business unit.  They have their finger on the pulse of hiring needs, compensation, performance, succession planning, and leadership development.  They can also smooth the way for major change management initiatives such as, in your case, a new customer relationship management system.  A system of this kind presents challenges to the business because there is an overhead to the kind of tracking that such a system demands.  It’s the HRBP that should know the level of resistance you are up against, as well as how much support the business unit leader has shown.

But HRBPs are often in a bind in this situation. Your CRM project may fizzle out and become a distant memory. However, their relationship with their business unit is a constant. They need to align with the business unit and remain in their good graces. The quality of their relationship with the business is the indicator of their long-term success, not how well they forced a solution authored by Finance or IT. It is for this reason that you must do your due-diligence in an early risk assessment phase of change management to ferret out these conflicts of interest. That cannot be accomplished via a team meeting where everyone is agreeable because they want to appear to be a ‘team player’. Private one-on-one meetings are a better way to learn if an HRBP has reservations. You may also learn if the HRBP feels competent in managing the impact of your project on their business unit. If they don’t, they might disparage the project because it challenges their own skill set. Incompetent stakeholders will advocate for status-quo.

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