Collaborating Across Departments
By Dr. Jan Lüdert
In order to thrive, organizations and institutions need to ensure that its various departments work together towards achieving greater goals. Leading across an organization to enhance interdepartmental collaboration is key to improve interpersonal communication and enhance innovation. In fact, effective interdepartmental collaborations are the hallmark of both cross-functional as well as organizational success.
Interpersonal and Interdepartmental Communication
To a large extent, skillful communication is the language of leadership. Most of us can recall an instance of effective and less productive interdepartmental collaboration and can appreciate how interpersonal communication often lies at the heart of success or failure. To be successful in leading collaborations across departments, two intersecting areas of communication are essential:
Interpersonal or face-to-face communication – the process by which individuals exchange information, feelings, and meaning through verbal and non-verbal messages.
Interdepartmental communication – the formal pathways by which an organization and its leaders facilitates interpersonal communication on specific tasks and projects.
To enhance interpersonal communication requires leaders gain insights into different ways and preferences of how people communicate and what motivates them. To improve interdepartmental communication, consider the concept of “an organization without boundaries” and the so-called “workout process” as discussed in the Harvard Business Review. Particularly helpful is the insight that leaders tend to spend too much time and effort figuring out what interdepartmental processes are at play instead of bringing people together to realize cross-functional exchange. The workout process can be helpful to bring teams together at various junctures to address interdepartmental needs. Through this process, teams realize and appreciate other department’s perspective and gain interdepartmental insights they need to thrive in pursuit of common objectives and goals.
As Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, once wrote, “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” Certainly, and as outlined in this short post, effective collaboration across departments and between individuals is founded on open and ongoing communication.
Dr. Jan Lüdert serves as Associate Program Director for the Leadership Training Programs in the School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle.
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