4 Ways to Drive Collaboration Among Departments

3 min read
  • Information Technology
  • Document & Records Management

A company with internal strife among departments is like a person who constantly trips over his own feet. Progress is nil, and the potential for self-destruction is almost comical. Glassdoor is an employer review site that reveals the best—and worst—companies to work for. Employees at low rated companies frequently mention “poor communication” and “disorganization” in their reviews, which are key indicators that collaboration is lacking. Not coincidentally, several of these companies have also been rated poorly by their customers. Here are four ways an organization can drive interdepartmental collaboration, which can ultimately improve customer service.

1. Focus on the Main Goal

In BOOM!: 7 Choices for Blowing the Doors Off Business-As-Usual, authors Kevin and Jackie Freiberg point out that firefighters, police forces and other first responders rarely get caught up in “tribalistic” or fragmented behavior when working together because there is no confusion as to what their goal is: saving lives. Collaboration comes a lot easier when every department realizes and works toward a shared goal. It’s no longer about every department for itself—it’s about working together to accomplish the larger enterprise mission.

2. Start from the Top

A culture of collaboration ultimately begins with the leadership team. According to leadership development consultant Susan Cucuzza, collaboration can turn into competition when it isn’t managed well. “Because collaboration consists of interdisciplinary groups trying to come together, intended collaboration can turn into whose idea is better, whose solution should be followed and who is smarter,” says Cucuzza. Having departmental leaders step up to oversee collaboration is a great start. Cucuzza argues that even informal or unofficial leaders can be a huge help in determining who needs to be involved, helping everyone understand the benefits of collaborating and identifying the overall goal.

3. Whiteboard the Collaborative Processes

A large part of understanding how departments fit together to achieve the organization’s mission is knowing what and how a department contributes to a process. Several companies that have gone through company-wide system updates strongly suggest “whiteboarding” their processes, or gathering teams and departments together to understand multi-department tasks. Extensively “whiteboarding” every process was helpful for two reasons:

  1. With the entire team in the room, everyone was able to see how every role contributed to each process.
  2. Everyone involved had a chance to provide input on how to make the process better and to officially agree on how new processes would work.

Of course, it isn’t necessary to wait for a system overhaul to get to know the departments around the organization. Bringing teams together is a proactive way to give departments the opportunity to learn about each other and discover:

  • What other departments do.
  • What tasks require which departments.
  • How departments support each other.
  • What pressures, roadblocks and barriers other departments face in carrying out the enterprise mission.

4. Communicate More Effectively with Tech Tools

Conference meetings aren’t always the best way to communicate, and emails aren’t always the best method to exchange ideas. An enterprise content management (ECM) system can facilitate interdepartmental communication and collaboration by:

  • Capturing documents and automatically filing them, making it easier for everyone—regardless of department—to find the right information.
  • Providing versioning control so everyone references—and edits—the current copy of a document.
  • Automating notifications to remind team members of upcoming deadlines.

There’s no room for overly competitive departments bickering with each other in today’s competitive landscape. When departments cooperate to achieve organizational goals, tasks are completed faster and more efficiently, which can ultimately translate to a better customer experience.

Many business processes, such as employee onboarding or A/P, require interdepartmental collaboration. How can you improve these processes so that departments are in sync? Download the free guide How to Diagram Your Business Process and get started!

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