Remember the kid in school who propped up books around his desk to prevent others from peeking at his paper?
He was operating in a silo apart from others. Wanting a little privacy during a test situation is understandable, but operating apart from other kids continually is not socially healthy.
It doesn’t fare so well in the working world either when teams and departments work independently of one another without sharing information regarding mutual goals.
Companies generate better results when employees from a variety of departments are encouraged to work together and share their ideas and expertise freely without fear of ridicule or negative judgment.
Each standalone business segment may seem like a well-oiled machine, but a lack of collaboration between departments can eventually affect innovative efforts and production levels and prevent you from receiving the best ideas.
When people talk to each other rather than about each other, the two-way information flow and familiarity with one another helps avoid misunderstandings, miscommunication and misfires among team members. Employees from different departments can share insights about their pieces of the process. They may have a different perspective on the shared problem and be able to solve it, especially if they are closer to the customer.
For example, an engineer designing a prototype would have a different perspective than the assembly line associate knowing what manufacturing hundreds or thousands of a product daily is really like. Similarly, the sales associate or service technician seeing the customer’s direct reactions to a product will provide great feedback to the design engineer to incorporate in the next iteration of the product.
The collaborative journey of working with other departments encourages innovation by being exposed to ideas from others, refining them together to keep the creativity flowing among your entire team. When you share and receive ideas with equal grace, opportunities are not missed and you move forward together toward shared goals. Team members will develop along the way and learn how their decisions affect others further down the flow of the process, as well as the customer.
When you’re connecting departments, think of other welcome entities to join your quest. Have you thought about establishing a customer advisory board with regular meetings? You could include stakeholders, such as distributors, suppliers, academic research partners or industry experts to augment your resources with people familiar with your thought process.
Organizations may need to encourage collaboration between departments that have previously worked adjacent to one another, but not with each other. Training about how to work together for common goals can be provided before jumping right in, with leaders setting the positive example.
Removing traditional boundaries may necessitate setting-the-stage preparation first. Start with those serving as facilitators so that your best intentions do not implode if collaboration is a foreign word for some team members. Open communication with all stakeholders will lead to more effective decisions in general because you’re better informed.
Consider how often you’ve heard of a decision made without involving the input of others, then handed down to implement. Those implementing the task instantly see opportunities to make the process operate more smoothly. Unfortunately, they have the “Well, they didn’t ask us” reaction when they could have served as valuable team members from the project’s inception.
When better results, more innovation, better products and services, better morale and customer retention are at stake, cross-functional teams matter and are worth navigating the initial reluctance to change. Share diverse perspectives now instead of learning of them after the fact. Enable the entire team to be proud of a product reflective of their shared input. Benefits include building trust, generating greater adaptability, developing closer relationships and shared respect, and learning how each other’s strengths and weaknesses balance your own.
Corporate cultures where employees feel valued, motivated, included, connected and rewarded can be a reality. Connecting cross-functional silos is a great start.