Suppose your Creative team’s come up with a great idea, but hears from Marketing that it’s not in line with their commercial strategy. A prime example of how departments often fail to see eye to eye.
This article shares eight useful tips for getting departments working together better.
Collaboration between departments
We’ve already published an article sharing tips for improving collaboration between teams, but just getting teams working together isn’t always enough. You’ve got to get a whole bunch of different departments on the same page if you’re looking to improve quality, efficiency, and productivity across the board.
But it’s often pretty tricky getting departments to cooperate and collaborate. After all, departments comprise staff members doing the same work, or servicing the same region, or focusing on the same target group. And there’s nothing wrong with this, as it narrows the gaps between staff within the same department.
The flip side, however, is a widening gap between the departments themselves, turning them into islands within your organization. This, in turn, often leads to departmental cultures that become more and more detached from the organization’s as a whole. Not surprisingly, this can become detrimental to collaboration between departments.
The downside to islands
Islands are detrimental to organizations in several ways:
- They increase the likelihood that departments focus on their own objectives, rather than those of your organization as a whole.
- They’ll eventually lose touch with the rest of your organization and miss out on new developments and changes.
- They start setting their own terms for collaboration with other departments unilaterally.
- They start pushing problems on to other departments and creating a culture of ‘passing the buck’ and ‘blaming others’.
Tips for getting departments working together better
Avoid these doom-and-gloom scenarios and get your departments working together by putting the following tips into practice within your organization.
1. Set common goals
There’s just no way around the fact that departments within any organization are dependent on one another and share a common goal. But sometimes it’s difficult for teams and staff members to feel any sense of engagement with other departments if they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.
- Periodically point departments in the direction of your common goal so that they don’t lose track.
- Clearly communicate the organization’s objectives and each department’s dependence on all other departments.
- Regularly talk to staff about the common thread connecting departments and keep them updated about each other’s progress.
2. Encourage interaction
If your departments never talk to one another, communication will eventually grind to a halt and collaboration will be little more than a utopian dream. Solve this by having team leaders from different departments meet and talk on a regular basis.
Why not schedule a weekly meeting, using any one of several communication tools currently available: Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams?
Interaction such as this is a great opportunity to discuss the progress being made on projects within and across departments, as well giving advice, feedback, and compliments.
3. Create a culture of open communication
Good communication is the key to success. Talking to your staff regularly gives you a better feel for their intrinsic motivation, thinking, and vision concerning organizational issues.
What’s more, it’s great for motivation. Staff who feel listened to will generally be a lot more engaged with your organization as a whole.
Clear communication also helps in time of conflict in the workplace. Don’t underestimate this, as even small conflicts can have repercussions on operational processes and disrupt workflows.
Part and parcel of communication is talking to one another about conduct. This will result in a culture of ‘positive feedback’ if done correctly. Benefits include identifying errors earlier and using them as learning opportunities.
4. Create transparency
Modern organizations collect mountains of data, but this doesn’t automatically imply that everyone is suddenly more ‘knowledgeable’. On the contrary! Because a lot of important information remains fragmented and locked away in silos, it regularly results in a ‘lack of knowledge’.
Create transparency by sharing and making documents and knowledge truly accessible. For example, a well-thought-out and well-implemented intranet system allows your staff to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues in other departments.
By sharing information, successes, and even failures, you strengthen a common bond and involve all your organization’s departments in achieving its objectives. Modern-day collaboration tools such as Trello and Monday can help you clearly communicate tasks and planning across the board.
5. Seek connection
Effective collaboration starts with ‘connection’. Doing things together is a great way to create a stronger bond between departments.
For example, have staff from different departments produce content together. This will encourage input from a wider range of departmental perspectives, as well as the addition of individual personalities and professional DNA to the mix.
6. Prevent physical isolation
Nothing helps islands form faster than placing departments in physical isolation from one another. Putting departments in separate locations might seem logical from a logistical or efficiency point of view, but it’ll soon cause an us-and-them feeling to permeate throughout your organization.
Flexible workspaces that allow staff to see and work near and/or alongside colleagues from other departments can reinforce a common identity and create unity, while reducing the likelihood that Marketing passes the buck to IT, or vice versa.
7. Make skills visible
Most people know who they need to talk to within their own department in the event of a problem or query, but does this hold true between or across departments? It becomes far trickier for all concerned to find the right person to talk to if this isn’t the case.
Using skills matrices, it’s clear to everyone who’s responsible for which process, or who’s your go-to person to get a particular job done. Matrices visualize exactly who has which skills, competences, and qualifications.
8. Change your organizational structure
Quite often, getting departments working together better may mean changing your organizational structure.
If so, emphasize how doing so will create optimal conditions for improving communication and help them maintain vital networks. For example, offer staff the freedom or flexibility to use the digital communication tool that they feel most comfortable with.
If you already have teams who are behaving non-cooperatively due to entrenched attitudes and/or composition, then take a good hard look at the cause and have the courage to take the measures required to break through their negative, non-productive behaviors.
Start making improvements today!
Take full advantage of these tips. They’ll help prevent islands forming and get departments on the same wavelength throughout your organization. You’ll notice that improved collaboration between departments will also have a positive effect on your company’s results and workplace culture.