3 Strategies To Prevent Cross-Department Conflicts From Stalling Your Growth
Yuliya Skorobogatova 13 February 2017
Company is a mechanism - even if separate parts work well, it doesn’t guarantee the organization as a whole functions efficiently. Today we will discuss one of the most common issues that can be potentially holding your business back. As soon as any company has more than 2 employees, cross-department or cross-functional conflicts are inevitable. The bigger the company, the more strained cross-department relations hamper its growth.
In this article we prepared the most common causes of interdepartmental conflicts and strategies to prevent them.
Break system barriers
As if human communication is not complicated enough, business operating systems might create barriers that don’t let the team collaborate efficiently. Competing goals, vague roles or broken business processes are typical examples of possible system barriers.
A business process refers to a wide range of structured activities that are implemented to accomplish an organizational goal. As business processes can be manual or automated, involve several people or even departments, challenges are pretty predictable. For example, your designer didn’t make the graphics on time and the whole team failed to meet deadlines, your development team didn’t release necessary updates and your sales dropped or you lost a big contract as a result of a silly logistic mistake. Sounds familiar, right? According to the article in Entrepreneur.com such bottlenecks in your business processes cause low morale of your team (59,5%), missed deadlines (53,7%), angry customers (42,6%), and lost revenue (36,3%).
Broken business processes usually stem from inefficient labor or scarce resources. But it’s not so easy to see where exactly your business process slows down and the root causes of these issues. A proper Business Process Management (BPM) software can help you make your business processes transparent, you will be able to see the bottlenecks and eliminate them.
Fight tunnel vision
When you work in a startup with 2-3 colleagues, you are well-aware of their roles and functions in the company. But the more people you work with, the vaguer is your understanding of what your colleagues are actually responsible for. Too many departments, too many people… Employees fail to see the big picture, management becomes more and more formal. All in all, it creates a silo mentality – each department knows only their own role in the company, but they are reluctant to share information with other departments or not really willing to listen to their suggestions on how to improve. As a result, the whole company suffers from poor communication, employees have no idea what their colleagues in other departments do and how much time one or another task might take.
Cross-department boundaries are difficult to breach. Besides general strategies to keep your team motivated and engaged, there are new HR practices, such as cross-training, job-shadowing and job rotation. Cross-training provides employees with possibilities to learn new skills outside their usual duties. Alongside improved morale, increased employee flexibility and productivity, cross-training enables your team see the aspects of work their colleagues do. Job-shadowing is not only a career-exploration activity, it is a popular on-the-job learning technique. Your employees see the challenges their colleagues have to deal with every day. Job rotation is a method used in some companies to keep their employees motivated, make them learn new skills and see the bigger picture. All in all, these techniques help employees breach cross-department boundaries and improve the collaboration in the company.
Improve interpersonal relationships
No matter how good your business processes are, you can forget about efficient collaboration if your employees don’t like each other. You might say that it is difficult to control interpersonal relationships in a team. However, you can do a lot to facilitate the communications and make your employees “more likeable”.
Apart from system barriers, there are physical barriers which don’t allow your team to collaborate. Make sure that your working space has some break rooms where people can communicate without fear of disturbing their colleagues. Surprisingly, break rooms increase productivity and creativity, not speaking about improved health and wellbeing of your employees. Team members have a chance to get to know each other outside their professional duties and it greatly improves their tolerance and readiness to collaborate with each other. It’s also very useful to hold regular teambuilding events and encourage your staff to spend some time together out of work hours. Finally, yet importantly, consider your company culture every time you hire a new person. Diversity is great, but your new hires should share your company values and be on the same wavelength with the rest of the team.
Building strong relationships across departments takes time and effort. But once you manage to achieve it, your efforts will be rewarded by enhanced collaboration, greater efficiency and smoother business processes.
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