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Improving Interdepartmental Communication Should Be a Top Business Priority – Here’s How to do it

It’s one of the most common organizational problems today. (And it’s also one of the most serious impediments to growth.)

That’s a shame, because the solution to poor interdepartmental communication isn’t necessarily complicated. But it does take a conscious effort to change the way you think about your business and, more specifically, process and project management.

It’s important to realize that people are your company’s greatest asset. And people can only work together properly if they’re able to communicate effectively. This can only happen when your break down the barriers between departments and encourage two-way dialogue.

Think of effective communication as the oil that keeps the engine running. You can hire more talent to fuel your growth, but no matter how much fuel you have, your business will seize if your talented people aren’t talking and working together.

What causes poor communication?

We’ll talk about how to improve interdepartmental communication. But first, let’s take a second to reflect on how we got here. There are many reasons why communication between departments is poor:

  • Not enough time
  • No convenient way to communicate
  • Physical separation of departments
  • Maybe even animosity …

Let’s face it, there are frequently some strong cultural forces at play within an office. Marketing and engineering departments often don’t get along, for example. But bitterness can be erased when conversation is encouraged and even rewarded.

Far too often, standard operating procedures fail to include any sort of interdepartmental communication. And this oversight reduces an organization’s capacity to provide the best products and services possible.

When projects don’t come together as planned, it’s easy to fall out of sync: Competitors start to outpace you. Your best team members leave for new opportunities. Projects are delayed and customers get upset. Fingers are pointed. People get hurt.

But really, it’s nobody’s fault. The problem is usually stems from a lack of mechanisms for interdepartmental communication.

The Solution: Stop thinking of your business as as collection of silos

For example, engineering outputs should feed into marketing/sales campaigns. And feedback from marketing campaigns should go back to the engineering team to inform product improvements. No department should work in isolation.

Do you think Apple keeps its engineers and marketers separate? There’s a good reason why the open-concept office is so popular in Silicon Valley: it helps to create an environment in which people from all departments can collaborate.

Think of your business as a series of interconnected departments, each dependent on the other for continuous improvement.

Rid yourself and your business of the silo mentality. At best, it keeps your teams from reaching their full potential. And at worst, it creates competition within your business, which is unproductive. Competition is healthy, but only if you’re competing with other companies.

When you look at the big picture, there’s no such thing as the ‘engineering’ team or the ‘marketing’ team. It’s just one team. Sure, you have different positions and playing styles within the team, but everyone is working toward the same goal (or should be), which is to generate more profit.

I developed a system called the Visual System of Work to help you visualize the connections within your organization. It’s a visual management technique to help you see the big picture.

Why use visual management techniques?

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”
— Ayn Rand

Visual management tools give you a platform on which you can start drawing up plans to improve your business. They’ll help you with clarifying your goals, aligning systems, and improving communication/collaboration. They’re also great for getting team members more engaged.

Employees need to understand their influence on your organization’s overall performance to work better together. Every major action should be tied to a tangible outcome. And everybody should feel and see that their efforts are contributing positively to the business.

When you’re successful at using visual management practices, you’ll see the rate of work in your organization go up. Projects will be delivered on time more often when complete and accurate information is shared across the whole company.

“During a period of 8 months, working together as a team, including management and shop floor personnel, The Visual System of Work opened up our operation of activity like I have never seen before. David helped us quickly define and create our “System of Work” with work instructions and support procedure guidelines. We felt important as we progressed as a team.”
— James P. Millett, President, Tube Co.

Two powerful visual management techniques, which you can start using with just a few minutes of preparation, are storyboards and the ‘War Room’.

Use Storyboards to visualize your organization

A storyboard is a powerful way to display and share company information. When team members have something to look at, it’s much easier to understand important concepts and visualize where your company needs to go. By mapping out your plans on a storyboard, you’ll increase your employees’ will to get involved and work together to improve your company.

Story boarding is a useful technique to use when brainstorming, planning, or problem solving.

Set up your War Room

The War Room is simply a room where you and your team can sit and hash out big ideas, execute plans, and review ongoing business performance.

This room should contain the best information available to help with decision-making. Your War Room is a great place to keep your storyboards: fill your walls with charts, graphs, and diagrams that describe where you are and where you want to go.

I know: This sounds like a such a simple concept. But trust me, something magical happens when you intentionally set up a visual meeting environment. Your War Room will become the place where teams meet to review performance and make plans to get better. It will become a collaborative environment, optimized for continuous improvement.

What exactly should you include in your War Room?

You could start with the Visual System of Work diagram (which I describe in my book) or with the 5-step game plan outlined in my free guide. It’s important to note that quick and visible wins are critical to build momentum. You can easily complete the three steps outlined in my guide in about 5 minutes.

DOWNLOAD: The 5-Minute Game Plan...

Click here to download my free guide, “The 5-Minute Game Plan for Improving Communication, Eliminating Rework, and Following Through on Great Ideas” – Even if You Only Have 5 Minutes to Spare, which includes the 5W-2H worksheet.

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