How do you break down departmental silos to collaboration? How do you improve cross-functional communication?

Picture this. It’s Monday morning. You check the clock, its about five minutes until the weekly staff meeting. And you realize not much has happened this last week in your area. You scribble down a few notes, so that you will look prepared during your required area report out time. You head to the conference room notes, coffee cup and pen in hand.  You top of your coffee and make small talk with the other victims; I mean area managers. It seems to you the other guys are even less motivated than you to show up to this meeting – except of course for that one guy who hit his numbers out of the park this week and is drooling at his opportunity to be the golden boy of the meeting.

The meeting commences, each functional area gives their update.  Your eyes glaze over. What started off as a simple, yet intentional metric review meeting has in recent months turned into a smattering of excuses for missing the targets. Around the table it goes, one area after another.

But why? Why has communication turned into a sickly representation of missed targets and poor excuses? Perhaps it is because the goals and the targets are independent of each other. Perhaps one departments goal’s do not impact the other. Perhaps everyone could care less how the other departments are doing because they cannot see how it impacts them. Perhaps everyone sitting around the table wants to know “what’s in it for me!”

What would it be like if each functional area of the organization could see that how they perform plays a role in the success or failure of the others? What if each area was trained like a well-oiled machine? What if each area trusted the others would pull their weight and cause momentum forward?

The minutia of the day to day grind of the business can take over and cause blind spots within the business that impair the ability to see the impact silos have on the organization. So how do you break down the silos? How do you create a culture of collaboration?

Trust. Right. Well, trust, thought it is relationally important I believe the keys are actually more tangible and have to do with organizational culture.

Well, let me offer you 5 tips to help you bust through the walls of the silos and give you the know how to build a culture of collaboration.

  1. Team metrics: Implement team metrics, not just individual performance goals. Goals should help each position see how they fit into the strategic plan and company vision.
  2. Cross-training: Provide cross-training opportunities between departments. Awareness of the other roles creates clarity between the business functions and a greater understanding of the business as a whole.
  3. Internal customers: Identify each department’s internal customers and demonstrate how well the work done upstream impacts the success of the functions downstream.
  4. Stand Up meetings: Host stand up, 15-minute staff meetings. Forget the fluff and focus on the

goals, challenges and successes at hand. This eliminates emotions and brings focus to facts and data.

  • Solid leadership: Hire and train departmental managers who can lead cross-functional communication by example.

BONUS: Hold people accountable. I know, accountability is almost a dirty word these days – but it does not mean dictatorship. Accountability means that we do what we set out to do. Make a goal, stick to it. Don’t waver and change directions with the wind. If you lead your business this way, the staff will have little respect, excitement and trust in you the next time you set out to make improvements or set goals.

Each of these steps create an environment of transparency which builds trust, a pivotal ingredient to any successful organization. Let’s get focused. Let’s collaborate!

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