0044 (0) 7894 466671 anna.coen@acintegration.com

A hypothesis: Building on existing behaviours and preferences rather than trying to change them, will result in more cross functional opportunities.


Encouraging Partners from different functional areas (e.g. audit and tax) to work together in a way that creates new opportunities for the organisation as a whole is something firms can find challenging.

This is not surprising as Partners are often successful because they like autonomy and control over tasks and risks. They like to be rewarded for their own achievements. Introducing other Partners to their clients may impact on their ability to measure and determine success. You may be asking them to work in a way that goes against the core of who they are and how they see themselves. If you ask people to behave in a way which conflicts with their preferences or impacts on their confidence you will probably experience high resistance. If these individuals are Partners and therefore powerful because of their client relationships and position, the ability to make change happen becomes even more challenging.

I think it is interesting to explore what might encourage them to work together to exploit cross functional opportunities without unduly threatening their position, autonomy and sense of control.

Instead of a focus on changing the behaviours themselves, the focus could be on the need for change and on establishing the controls that build confidence and trust. The behaviour change may then happen spontaneously.

Two things you might try in order to increase the development of organisation wide opportunities whilst preserving the traditional strengths of the Partners in question:

  1. Greatly increase the amount of time and energy spent on the case for change. If the reward is big enough or the pain of not doing something is great enough, change will happen effortlessly. A rational case for change will appeal to the experienced senior professional and is itself a necessary condition for change.  However on its own this is not sufficient to engender change. There also needs to be a case that touches them personally. The Partners need to feel the case for change at a personal level.  If this is also present change will inevitably follow.  
  2. Respect the need for autonomy of each Partner. Introducing others to their clients will involve a change to the balance between trust and controls relating to their client. The less trust one partner accords another initially – the more controls are needed.  Getting  the Partners to work together to devise controls that allow them to retain respective autonomy and monitor the impact of working together will itself develop trust and hence ultimately reduce the need for increased control.

N.B. The reward structure and process are probably the most powerful ways of influencing behaviour. Changing this can be very complex and take a great deal of time. I have assumed for the above purposes that reward structure and process are a constant.