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Tagged: teamwork

4 Strategies for Encouraging Cross-Departmental Collaboration

August 16, 2016

Cross-departmental collaboration is a reflection of a healthy internal culture. When employees feel comfortable working together, communicate effectively, and understand each other’s roles and functions within the system, your customer feels the difference.

common obstacles to cross-departmental collaboration and how to avoid them
What gets in the way of cross-departmental collaboration? 
Obstacle 1 – Tunnel Vision

When employees get too limited by the tunnel vision of their own job descriptions and team functions, frustration often ensues. This is often the root of communication breakdowns and interpersonal conflict. For example, an employee might make an unreasonable request from another team, assuming it was a simple request when it actually created a huge hassle.

Solution

Cross-train. Offer employees frequent opportunities to step into each other’s shoes, job-shadow each other, or train each other. The idea is not to make everyone essentially interchangeable, but to give employees a basic understanding of how each department functions, individually and as part of the bigger picture. This is especially important for regular processes that touch multiple departments.

Obstacle 2 – Ineffective Meetings
Employees would rather watch paint dry than attend ineffective meetings.

According to the same poll, 8% of employees would choose a root canal.

One poll found that 17 percent of employees would rather watch paint dry than attend a meeting. Ouch. Face-to-face time is essential to healthy collaboration – or at the very least, being on the same conference line or web conference. But meetings have a tendency to clog up calendars, disrupt the workday, go off-topic or off-schedule, or otherwise not accomplish their objectives.

Solution

Meet more mindfully. Before you schedule a meeting, think hard about how to make the most of that time. Meetings should have designated leaders, note-takers, and time-watchers. An agenda, prepared and provided in advance, can keep everyone on track. And there should be a plan in place to follow up on the meeting’s objectives and action steps before they are forgotten. Be mindful of scheduling, too – make sure employees have a chance between sessions to make meaningful progress. 

Obstacle 3 – Social Silos

Consciously or unconsciously, each department can wind up so isolated from the others that it’s effectively in its own silo. Its members only interact among themselves and rarely cross over to other territories. The result is a series of micro-cultures that aren’t always compatible. Much like the tunnel vision that prevents employees from understanding each other’s jobs, social silos prevent employees from understanding each other, period.

Solutions

Celebrate together. Create opportunities for employees to socialize with each other, during and after office hours. For example, you might consider a casual gathering on the final Friday of each month, and rotate the duty of “hosting” this gathering between departments or teams. You can use these opportunities to highlight positive progress and accomplishments from various teams – but unlike meetings, these gatherings don’t need a strict agenda.

Uniting around a common goal is one of the best ways to break down silo walls. So another way to get groups to mix up or interact could be to introduce a goal or project that isn’t directly related to work functions. Examples include: a charitable drive, a company 5K team, annual outings, regular “Happy Hours,” or some friendly competition like a costume contest around Halloween. All of these can break the ice and help employees see each other as people, not just co-workers.

Obstacle 4 – Top-Down Direction
cross-departmental collaboration can't happen without the right leadership

Cross-departmental collaboration can’t happen unless managers lead by example.

Direction and leadership are not the same. Cross-departmental collaboration requires buy-in from all involved, including and especially the designated leaders of any given group. Otherwise, the entire effort feels inauthentic. Managers, after all, are just as susceptible to social siloes and tunnel vision as their staff.

The other side of this coin is whether or not employees feel they have a voice in how their departments are run, and in how departments interact. If they don’t feel they have an opportunity to raise an issue, ask a question, or be proactive, there’s little motivation to simply follow orders.

Solutions

This one is twofold. First, department heads should be modeling cross-departmental collaboration by regularly and visibly engaging with each other – and with each other’s teams. If they notice that their department is becoming too isolated or is hesitant to collaborate with others, these leaders should be the first to start building bridges, and not just directing others to do so. Second, you need a mechanism in place to effectively collect employee feedback, in a way that makes employees feel safe from any negative consequences for speaking up. CSP highly recommends a Voice of the Employee program to gather this kind of data.

 

Your culture is the result of your actions and your priorities. Cross-departmental collaboration is not the kind of thing that can be enforced upon your staff. It must be nurtured at all levels of the organization, with deliberate intention, even when other priorities seem more immediately urgent.


More reading on this topic:

How to Embrace Change and Reap the Benefits

January 6, 2016

Change is the only constant. It’s also one of the most pressing management challenges out there, and one of the most ambiguous and headache-causing.

Navigating the course of change is something CSP knows all too well. In our nearly 30 years in business, we’ve guided banks, credit unions, and other businesses through the process of change as they adapt to evolutions within their industries and among their customers. Our Voice of the Customer programs reveal opportunities and needs that often mean something needs to change internally to provide a better customer experience. That might mean minor tweaks and adjustments, or major overhauls.

changeAlong the way, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to change management. While every business’s journey is unique and requires deliberate and careful attention, you can keep these tips in mind to smooth out the road as you proceed.

Getting Focused in a Time of Change

Decide whom to invite to the table. Nothing can shake workplace morale like poor communication – or worse, lack of communication — during a transition. Most often, this means a meeting, or a series of meetings, where your leadership team can gather and devote the necessary time and consideration to the challenge at hand. It’s important to do this before you involve employees in the process, to lay a stable foundation with defined issues, expectations, goals, and tactics.

Get prepared. Before the first meeting, assign each person to research a particular topic that will be relevant to the discussion. This is not a meeting where anyone can just “wing it.” Each person is expected to do the necessary pre-work and bring their findings to share with the group.

Topics for research could include: current industry trends and recommendations around those trends; what your marketplace will look like in the future and how your business compares; internal strengths and weaknesses (the “SW” of SWOT analysis); external opportunities and threats (the “OT” of SWOT analysis); and what is revealed by the data you’ve collected on your customers about their satisfaction and needs. If there are additional components that are relevant to your specific situation, make sure they get time on the agenda, too.

Facilitate the discussion. With so much at stake, a meeting like this needs to be run carefully, or else potentially devolve into unorganized chatter or arguments. A designated facilitator and/or scribe not only keep the group on task, they actively foster the discussion and guide the group’s priorities.

Beware the trap of groupthink that can spring up in situations like these. As new issues and ideas are brought to the table, the facilitator shouldn’t be afraid to ask provocative questions that open the floor for debate: “How many of you agree? Who disagrees? What might be the downsides we should consider?” Everyone at the meeting should feel free to contribute their opinions, even dissenting ones, without repercussion. In doing so, the issue at hand can be examined from every angle, not just the perspective of the person who was assigned to it.

Identify the external and internal benefits of change. In addition to the pre-assigned topics, you’ll want to draw special attention to how evolution benefits everyone. How will the changes, or proposed ideas, make your business more customer-friendly, or attract new customers? How are these initiatives likely to increase revenues, or control costs? What’s in it for the employees?

By deliberately devoting time to the benefits of change, you can prevent the meeting from becoming a venting session that actually discourages change instead of helping to manage it.

Narrow down the priorities. Once everything has been introduced, explained, and discussed thoroughly, don’t leave the meeting without agreeing to the priorities and next steps to implement. This might be done by a show of hands, an anonymous vote on slips of paper, or placing dots on a written chart by the top 3 ideas they support.

 

How well does your organization adapt to changes or integrate new policies and procedures? Have you ever worked somewhere that was change-averse? Do you have tips of your own to share? Tweet us at @CSProfiles with your stories.

And if you need direct help in navigating your evolving industry, we’re just a call or click away: contact us at 800.841.7954 ext. 101 or send us a message through our website.

This post is adapted from an article in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.