Most organisations work hard at fostering good communication between members of specific teams and units. This makes sense of course, since people within teams need to interact with their teammates on a daily basis. Less common, however, is a focus placed on fostering communication across roles within the organisation, and yet this is becoming increasingly important as different departments need to operate closely together in the modern business.
Physically bringing teams together to encourage cross-team communication is only the start in fostering better cross-functional communication. It’s how you then find avenues for communication that will make or break such an initiative.
The first step is to get input from people from all departments; especially those that you know will benefit from working more closely with other teams within the organisation. Understand where the communication pain points are, and where there are information breakdowns between departments. Also look to obtain honest feedback on how they would like to see communication improved within the organisation.
The next stage is to facilitate more face-to-face interactions between staff. This is tricky, and requires delicate balance. While you need to schedule more meetings to make this happen, and you need to make sure they have enough substance to lead to improves communication outcomes, if they’re too frequent or two long employees will be left frustrated at what they perceive as a waste of time. Scheduling weekly or bi-weekly cross-team WIP catch-ups to share what each team is doing, and giving different people within each team the opportunity to participate is the best approach to take.
It’s important to also give your people the option to communicate in different ways. Open the company up to Skype conversations and messaging systems like Trello or Slack. Make use of Evernote and Google Drive to encourage people across teams to share and collaborate. Offices can become very siloed places where teams keep to their circle of space, so using technology to break down those physical inhibitors is a good way of improving communication.
Another great challenge that people face when communicating with other departments is a lack of specialised knowledge. For example, your IT team is going to know things about technology, or the CRM system, that your sales team might not. And, vice versa, the IT team might have no meaningful understanding about the pressures that a sales executive faces through the pre-sales process. Improving knowledge across the organisation facilitates better communication and understanding, so it is a good idea to have your subject matter experts also take some time to educate others within the organisation on their field. After all – the more understanding people are, the more helpful (and willing to help) they’ll become.
And, finally, it is so critical that any initiatives to facilitate better communication within the organisation are led from the top. If you want to see your teams communicating better with one another, make sure the CEO and executives are regular presences themselves, consulting with each of the teams in the organisation on a project. Encourage the leaders of each department to participate in the cross-functional communication strategy that you have for your organisation, and the results will be a stronger and more unified business.