06 April 2011

Helping divisions work together better

Today I was asked about how to overcome difficulties in a company with different divisions working with each other.

I gave the following general advice without knowing much about the situation. Can you offer some more books, techniques or ideas that could help this manager?
The leadership needs to take a proactive role. The best way seems to try several small programs, see what happens and then encourage what works and stamp out what makes things worse. The old way was to analyse exactly why people were not playing ball and working on the issues that came up, but that has two problems:
1) You don't know what upsets them, only what they tell you and they can often be very different things, and
2) Often a lot of these effects are not defined by any one manager or employee. Rather they are the emergent result of many people interacting with different motives, agendas and levels of empathy to those around them.

When you run trials of different initiatives, you 1) are seeing the total result with all those hidden things in play, and 2) often the Hawthorn effect comes in to play which says that by simply showing that management cares (in trying to implement these initiatives) you will get an improvement.

If this isn't your responsibility in the authority structure of the company you can be an influencer or catalyst. In this case I really recommend the book How to Lead Your Boss by John Baldoni.
We have all seen these sorts of problems in companies of all sizes. I look forward to your thoughts on the subject.