How well does your team work with the other departments in your company? If the answer is ‘we’re doing alright’, then you might not be maximizing your team’s productivity and results by putting the work in to build synergistic relationships with other departments. For most companies today, there’s much more to collaborating with other departments than simply cooperating with other teams. To be truly successful, it needs to include a shared vision, mutual respect for each team, and a deeper understanding of each other’s roles in projects, with a shared goal of achieving outstanding business outcomes and customer experience.
Project managers and team managers have a unique ability to encourage effective collaboration between departments from the ground level, by structuring how their team interacts with other departments. Here are some strategies to keep in mind.
It can often be difficult for team members to collaborate effectively if they don’t already feel committed to a project and have the necessary motivation to collaborate with other departments, which is usually a result of not having the visibility or understanding of how their actions impact on the bigger picture. As a manager, you can combat this issue by giving your team a more holistic view of the project and a common goal that they can share with other departments; you should encourage information sharing that is framed around a range of shared objectives.
To do this, call meetings across departments to begin each project and invite the leadership team to join the meeting so that they can set the goals and visions for everybody to work towards.
Having a mutual understanding between different departments can lead to smoother and more effective collaboration. Encourage teams to take the time to see things from the other’s point of view by allowing them to work in and alongside other departments, allowing them to see their struggles from a different perspective. You can do this by working to cultivate a sense of curiosity that encourages team members from various departments to learn about one another’s work, and encourage them to come up with ideas and suggestions for helping other teams work more effectively.
Department-specific jargon and language can quickly begin to alienate those working in other teams, which can make communication – and therefore, collaboration – much more challenging. When team members do not share a common understanding of terms and jargon used in interdepartmental communications, it’s all too easy for confusion to arise. This can not only be frustrating for individuals who are struggling to understand something, but can also mean that your teams are running the risk of derailing the entire project due to miscommunication.
In order to improve communications across different departments, it’s a good idea to develop a common language that all teams can share and understand, particularly during the onboarding process for new members.
If the use of technical language is difficult to avoid in your industry, encourage team members and make it easy for them to take some time to learn the terminology used by different departments, making it easier for them to communicate on a daily basis.
Unnecessary frustrations and miscommunications can often be avoided if teams get involved in the processes of another department when a project is underway. This will help ensure that any solutions proposed by one team are aligned with the overall strategic vision for the project, and can be easily supported by the other departments involved in working on it.
Project managers can encourage this by scheduling regular formal team check-ins and meetings for all departments involved, encouraging informal meetings and ‘touching base’ amongst team members, and providing interdepartmental reviews at each stage of the project development. It’s important that you clearly communicate the outcomes and actions that come up in team meetings to the entire body of staff working on the project, in order to ensure that everybody is on the same page. Consistent, constructive communication will enable everybody to get on the same wavelength, ensure that the project runs smoothly, and help avoid any nasty blame games or finger pointing further down the line.
As mentioned earlier, sometimes team members will need to take some time to learn the different jargon and terminology used by another department in order for communications to be understood and get the desired result. Similarly, as a project manager, you can ensure that your team members are in the best position to work together effectively with other departments by providing necessary training to bring them up to speed with any programs that are used regularly by other departments which are likely to be crucial to the project.
Your team may not need to be as proficient as the other department but often, the right course can help everyone quickly get up to the same level of expertise. For example, if some team members are a bit behind in Microsoft Excel, find them an Excel training course that covers the skills that will help them the most in their role.
The workplace is moving at an increasingly faster pace and, as a result, teams need to ensure that everybody involved in working on a particular project has the most up-to-date information at any given time. In order to best encourage information sharing, and help your team members stay on top of the items and tasks that they need to carry out, you’ll need the right software.
The good news is that there are plenty of affordable, easy-to-use software programs designed to facilitate better team communication and collaboration. Trello, for example, is an ideal software program to use when it comes to tracking the progress of projects, and when a new team member comes on board, they can easily see what’s been done so far, what’s being worked on at the moment, and anything that is left to do before the project can be completed. Slack is another free to use software program that can be viewed in a browser or downloaded as an app, and allows team members to communicate easily online with individuals or in group chats, which can be beneficial to teams from different departments working on a project together.
Finally, bear in mind that the relationships and success of the collaboration between department leaders can have a massive influence on how well teams from various departments are able to communicate and work with one another. Project managers can build strong working relationships with other project managers in order to build and encourage a strong collaborative culture between their teams.
Lead by example; initiate periodic meetings with other project managers in order to better understand their progress and challenges, while taking the opportunity to help each other with problem solving and coming up with ideas. This will not only encourage teams to follow suit, but also foster a collective sense of responsibility for the success of the business and build an invaluable sense of trust between departments.
Today, strong collaboration between departments has never been more important for most businesses. The above strategies can be very useful to encourage your team members to work well with those from other departments.