Does information and ideas flow freely through your organization? Or, do your departments keep to themselves? If your marketing, operations, and IT departments aren’t working well together, it’s because your corporate culture places a higher value on departmental performance than teamwork.
Everyone knows that teams playing well together win more often. It is little surprise when a team comprised of superstars loses to a less talented squad. The stars tend to put their personal objectives ahead of everything else. Your departmental teams work the same way. Their focus is to keep their group on top. They don’t notice that some of the things they do have a negative effect in other areas.
If you try to resolve the issue with a decree, the knee-jerk reaction is resistance and fear. It increases any animosity in your organization. Since lack of information is the reason that there are challenges, try a different approach. Invite your marketing, operations, and IT team leaders to lunch.
This is a special lunch, so you have to plan it carefully.
- Don’t skimp on the price. This is an investment in your company’s future.
- Ordering in is better than going out if you can guarantee an uninterrupted time. If not, choose a restaurant conducive to conversation so you can chat freely.
- Establish ground rules in advance. Each participant should bring two items to discuss: 1) The one thing that the other departments could do to make things easier for his/her team; 2) One thing that the other team leaders should know about his/her department.
- Communicate your objectives to each participant. They are: Improved teamwork; Reduced problems; Better customer service.
- Keep everything as simple and friendly as possible.
It often helps to provide an example of your expectations prior to the lunch. For example, the marketing manager’s two items might be: 1) If customer service would notify marketing when customers complain about campaigns, it would help them create better promotions. 2) Marketing campaigns are planned months in advance. Last minute changes, even good ones, are expensive and hard to implement.
Don’t expect a lot during your first lunch. Depending on your office politics (and don’t tell me that your office doesn’t have politics. If you have two people together, there is some form of politics involved.), there may be a lot of animosity and trepidation involved. Your goal is to open the dialogue so that your team leaders start interacting. Given time and the right guidance, they will start working together. (They may even learn to like each other.)
Taking your leadership team to lunch has a great side effect – they start to think differently. When the lunch is a regular part of their routine, they know that anything they do may be discussed. It changes “What’s in it for me?” to “How does this affect others?” or “Does this move us closer to our goals?”
The investment of time and money in a regular lunch date creates a paradigm shift from “me” to “team” thinking. It’s a small price to pay for a huge return.