Whether you are in an SME or large organization, effective interdepartmental communication is of utmost importance. For obvious reasons, having a steady flow of exchanges, follow-ups and check-ins can help unify employees and keep everyone on the same page. But it’s not always that simple.
In order to improve interdepartmental communication, we must understand what is preventing or making it more difficult for us to do it in the first place. Is it the fact of being physically separated from one another? Or maybe it’s conflicting views or work approaches that’s leading some to feel more frustrated than cooperative?
Whatever the reason, here are some things you should always consider:
Make interdepartmental communication easier
You might be thinking to yourself “Gee, thanks for the obvious tip”. But I’m talking about very specific ways to render communication less complicated and more user-friendly.
Establish a procedure, a step-by-step guideline that one can easily follow. If Shipment is waiting for Sales to check off the “closed” box in the CRM in order to prepare the packages, then make sure this step is highlighted and stressed. Provide project management applications that can keep track of everything from the big picture to precise and instantaneous details.
This idea of Smarketing has become very popular, and aims to integrate sales and marketing approaches through effective communication, common language and corresponding promotion of products and services.
Communication doesn’t always mean having to get up off your desk and visit other departments. It can be made easy from a distance by a simple log-in access or programs that store all information in one spot.
Schedule quick yet mandatory monthly meetings with parties involved, celebrate certain completed phases of a project so that people see the progress and feel more optimistic, and find out what communication methods are the preferred and most effective ones for your organization, whether it be by phone, email, or in-person.
Discuss the disadvantages of not having effective interdepartmental communication
Sometimes, employees don’t recognize the repercussions of not communicating and underestimate the impact it might have on the overall picture of a project. Well, it’s time to enlighten them on how a lack of communication here, or a fail to follow-up there, can cause delays, accidents, client dissatisfaction and even co-workers burning out.
Let’s not forget to mention that inadequate communication can also lead to a lot of stress (and preventable stress at that!). So it’s not just the deliverable outcome of a project or service that’s at risk, it’s also the well-being of your workforce.
Ask your employees how they would improve interdepartmental communication
Remember your most valuable asset? Well they too have a say in all this. They can bring a lot of pertinent information and experience to the table. Offer them communication surveys, even satisfaction surveys, to really get a better idea of how interdepartmental communication is affecting their work, attitude and performance. It can even remain anonymous. This gives the opportunity to those who are more introverted or less confrontational to have a voice.
Make sure there’s a section for suggestions, as well! You not only need to understand interdepartmental communication in your organization, but also be prepared to take action and implement solutions.
Remember that with different departments come different strengths
Stop looking at another department and assuming that their way of functioning, which is different from yours, is the wrong way of functioning! An employee in sales will have a very distinct set of qualities that can be quite different from, let’s say, those working in finance or doing risk-assessments/quality control. The point is, there may be a difference in the way they think, approach a situation, even in how they learn.
Improving interdepartmental communication means understanding other department’s day-to-day realities, putting yourself in their shoes, being more aware that they encompass certain strengths and responsibilities required for THEIR roles, and that you might be built a different way, though better suited for your specific role within an organization.
Not understanding the reality of other departments can lead to poor judgment and false assumptions. You might not be aware that a programmer has spend hours on end completing a project that you assume can be modified in just a matter of minutes.
This is an example of not understanding the amount of time and energy that others invest in a common project. This could also be an example of not having this information properly communicated in the first place.
Think in terms of what others need, not always what you need
I have read and received quite a bit of advice in my day, but one that really stood out is this notion of the JFK exercise, which basically suggests that employees should ask not what information other departments can provide to them, but what information they can provide to other departments.
We sometimes tend to point fingers and take the easy way out by blaming our lack of information on others, when it would be so much more productive to think in terms of giving as opposed to taking.
Instead of asking, or even expecting, other departments to care for and support us, we need to think more along the lines of how we can care for and support them. They might not have the same expertise, access to information and/or strengths that we have.
So ask yourself: what you can do to make yourself an effective contributor to other departments? Now this is taking initiative and becoming part of the solution!
Revisit the common goal
Departments may vary in personalities, strengths and ways of functioning, but if you try to highlight what goals they have in common, it can boost morale and improve interdepartmental communication. This way, it’s not always about one work method versus the other, but about the greater good; the purpose of it all.
Sometimes, one needs to agree to disagree and put differences aside to reach a mutual objective. Ask yourself if a conflict between department managers is due to a difference in goals, or just a personality clash.
If people strive for the same thing in the end, remind them of that fact. It’s amazing how people can lose sight of the big picture when faced with some type of resistance or hurdle. So get them back on track! Reaching this common goal can make them a united and successful team.
Interdepartmental communication is not always easy, but there are ways to improve it. Try offering ways to make it easier for them to exchange information, and make them understand the consequences of not communicating effectively. Ask for their input and suggestions, as well as highlight the fact that although their ways of working may differ, they have unique strengths that contribute to the greater good. Create awareness around what it takes to be successful in other departments, and have them think in terms of giving information to others, as opposed to always taking. Remember that in the end, if they share a common goal and are reminded of that goal, the little hurdles along the way may seem more trivial.