Water Cooler Moments in the “Zoom” World


Building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders is a critical success factor for any IT BRM/IT BP.  Without trust, it is very hard to facilitate change and improve business and strategic performance.  In the present “Zoom” world, our lives are spent fixed to PC screens and people are finding it difficult to build (certainly new) relationships and maintain both new and existing ones.

Despite this current way of working the basic rules of relationship building still apply, which include:

  1. Planned and ongoing communication.
  2. Be honest.
  3. Listen.
  4. Deliver what you promise.
  5. Involve your stakeholder(s) at an early stage.

IT BRMs/IT BPs should also not forget the various tools they have to help develop and maintain relationships such as relationship value maps and relationship improvement plans.

However, whilst all of the above remain relevant, IT BRMs/IT BPs are certainly missing those water cooler moments, those informal chats when walking to the next meeting, which help build relationships with stakeholders, both professionally and personally.

To compensate for this IT BRMs/IT BPs may want to consider some/all of the below:

  1. Ensure your environment helps facilitate relationship building. June Hogan produced a series of videos concerning interview techniques but the advice and tips are also very relevant to this subject – http://bit.ly/39MNtLu.
  2. Book out time in your diary specifically to build and maintain relationships.
  3. Invite, but don’t force, personal conversation. For example, in my office there is a painting by my children which is quite visible on video calls.  Whilst it is no Picasso, it has generated comments from new customers at the start of the call which helps break the ice.
  4. Consider occasionally checking in with stakeholders with an unscheduled call or text. Everyone likes being thought of, especially if there is no formal agenda.
  5. Ensure the video call is not completely transactional. Some small talk should be encouraged however always be mindful that the amount will be dependent on the specific stakeholder.
  6. Be conscious that building relationships remotely is different and more difficult. Joseph Grenny wrote a very interesting article in 2017 based on the fact that virtual stakeholders/teammates are “2.5 times more likely to perceive mistrust, incompetence, broken commitments and bad decision making with distant colleagues” and what can be done to help alleviate this – http://bit.ly/2YGSAXe.

The good news is that with the ongoing vaccination programme things are starting to look more positive.  However, based on recent reports, the general consensus is that when we do return to the new normal the majority of us will have a mix of office and home working.  Whilst this will ensure IT BRMs/IT BPs recover some of those water cooler moments, they certainly won’t be as regular.  With that in mind, IT BRMs/IT BPs need to be conscious of the present and future ways of working and ensure their relationship building techniques are aligned to this new normal.

Your thoughts and comments are, as always, very welcome.

James O’Driscoll BRMP®

Director – Gilbert Scott Associates Ltd