How often have you been sitting in an interdepartmental meeting and felt like the participants were speaking two or three or four different languages to discuss the same topic?
Because every department has its own unique perspectives, processes, objectives, and lingo, it’s natural for there to be some miscommunication, and even disagreements, between departments. But at the end of the day, every department is working in service of the organization’s goals, so they need to figure out a way to work through those differences.
And it can’t be mere cooperation. It needs to be about collaboration—working together to produce something greater—a synergistic, generative process.
Think of it like a great basketball team, where all five members are playing in sync, working together on both ends of the floor, sacrificing for the good of the team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have selfish basketball teams, where the five players are looking out for themselves—hogging the ball, not passing, not utilizing the strengths of their teammates.
Here are some tips on how your organization can improve interdepartmental collaboration to function more like that first basketball team.
Speak the Same Language
Gather all the collaborators for a joint working session. The goal is to craft shared terminology for a project or interdepartmental relationship. You want to eliminate department-specific lingo as much as possible, or clarify exactly what specific terms mean. Write down these words and definitions in a glossary for easy reference. This will improve communication, which is the first step in effective collaboration.The goal is to craft shared terminology for a project or interdepartmental relationship. Click To Tweet
During this session, you will also want to:
Develop Shared Goals
Allow each department to provide input on what a successful outcome would look like. Then, create a shared definition of success—one goal or a set of goals—for the entire group. Discuss how this specific goal ties into the company’s larger goals. You want to align everyone around that shared vision.
Once you have macro-level goals, you can get down to micro-level, personal and team goals. These goals should be clearly mapped out with step-by-step subtasks and deadlines. Every department should be able to view these goals and track their progress. Goal management software allows you to tag goals under certain projects and see goal completion percentages.Goal management software allows you to tag goals under certain projects and track goal completion. Click To Tweet
Creating a shared framework for success will drive accountability and help employees and departments stay engaged throughout the process. It also can eliminate redundancies—people should know exactly who is responsible for each task and there should be no duplicated efforts.
Develop Feedback Processes
Peer-to-peer and interdepartmental feedback are a necessary part of cross-functional collaboration. Employees should have a platform to celebrate wins and share constructive feedback immediately. This will build camaraderie and allow for a better understanding between departments. When multiple parties are involved, problems need to be resolved immediately—they can’t wait until end-of-year reviews—otherwise the entire project can get off track.Employees should have a platform to celebrate wins and share constructive feedback immediately. Click To Tweet
Real-time feedback also provides managers with a glimpse into the daily interactions between departments and helps them to identify systematic strengths/weaknesses and opportunities for coaching.
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