Interdepartmental collaboration elevates performance and morale. The lack of it leads to disconnects that damper customer service and operational efficiency. Recent conversations with clients about operational challenges highlighted three culprits that require attention.
- Information gap
Handoffs of work from one department to the next call for appropriate information to be passed on so that the next person could carry on without backtracking. As processes become more complex, the information needs get unwieldy. Incomplete information packages for field workers, for instance, would hold up work resulting in delays and additional costs.
- Communication gap
As a job traverses across departments, it is natural to anticipate that it would be picked up and worked on in a timely manner. When there is a backlog, others would expect a notification. Unfortunately, the backlog notification is often held off until the situation becomes significant worse. When this happens, it usually requires extra effort to communicate the cause to a broader audience affected. For instance, system issues with order processing that cause delivery delays. Failure to alert customers when they place their orders could lead to many unhappy customers. Unhappy customers are costly to the business.
- Priority gap
Performance targets drive focus on priorities that are important for each department. When resources are assigned based on departmental priorities in silos, it is inevitable to see conflicts. This leads to finger-pointing as the needed resources aren’t able to allocate time to meet all commitments. The ripple effects could be a vicious cycle. For instance, experts on legacy applications in a business are scarce resources. There needs to be alignment on their workload and priorities. It could be a fine but challenging balance between enhancement of the applications and data extracts for analytics.
In order to foster better collaboration, it is necessary to educate others and do better planning.
Firstly, educate colleagues on the information required to complete work expediently. Be specific about the details and format of the information needed. Provide information on the work involved. Alert them about the essence of timeliness. Doing so helps to facilitate an understanding of the workflow and appreciation of potential issues when there is information gap. Increasing the awareness not only builds visibility but also puts the onus on others to step up. Increasing the awareness not only builds visibility but also puts the onus on others to step up. Click To Tweet
Secondly, do better planning by developing a regimen for coordination of efforts. Work with other departments to detail the timeline when their resources are needed. Establish thresholds on when to forewarn them about pending issues. This avoids creating a chaotic situation that requires significant remedial effort. For scarce resources that need to be committed for competing priorities, early dialogues around definitive timelines help to get alignment on scheduling. The agreement builds commitment and trust.
A more disciplined approach to collaboration involves specificity on information to be communicated and planning that clearly outlines the commitment for each department. When there is specificity relating to the needs of each area and commitment, it minimizes the risk of shifting focus. Ownership of work is clear.