Interdepartmental communication is a problem in nearly every type of organization. As important as it is, as many problems as it causes, and as much as everyone wants it improved – little is done. Improvement comes with understanding the causes and implementing a plan of activities for improvement.
Common Causes of Poor Interdepartmental Communication
Inaccurate and incomplete information
Underlying issues could include not taking the time to check information, sloppy communication, and correspondence delegated to unqualified direct reports.
If others don’t know what is expected, they probably won’t meet those expectations. Sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? It happens, and it happens often. So, don’t assume – share.
When someone tells others what they want to hear, not what’s going to occur. This can be caused by fear of conflict, not wanting to contradict a superior – or worse yet – someone who has no intention of doing anything, unless it’s their way.
Siloing and interdepartmental conflict
When the department becomes greater than the whole. “Departments within organizations are designed to accomplish specific tasks. Silo thinking is when a department or a team member stands alone, and focus is placed on the department instead of the organization. Often, the department becomes more important to its members than the organization, as a whole. It is difficult to improve the organization, implement new procedures, or change the culture, until the silos are removed.” — Tear Down those silos.
Limited time allotted to communication
Interdepartmental communication not given the importance or time needed.
People using different communication media
I recently had a co-worker upset with me because I hadn’t answered their email. Because, I limit the number of times per day I allow email to distract me from tasks. He didn’t know that.
Assuming others think as we do
Everyone does this. So, reduce mis-communication by reviewing the understanding of shared information.
Poor listening skills
“Whether you’re in a conversation or listening to a presentation, set the stage by considering what your purpose is. Are you there to learn? Do you want to know what the other person has to share? If you do all the talking, how will this be achieved? You already know what you know. Set your ego aside – this isn’t about who’s better, bigger, or more knowledgeable – it’s not a power struggle (or shouldn’t be). Accept idiosyncrasies – not everyone communicates as you do. Clear your mind of opinions and prejudges, take a few deep breaths, and listen.” — How to Actively Listen in a Loud World
This seldom improves anything, including communication.
Relying on verbal communication alone
The most common outcome to verbal communication is misunderstanding. Supplement verbal communication with followup correspondence.
How to Improve Interdepartmental Communication
Begin the conversation
I conduct weekly and bi-weekly leadership seminars with department heads for several organizations. Simply bringing everyone together has opened lines of communication. Address common goals and communication skills as well.
What information do you need?
Facilitate interdepartmental discussions regarding the information you need. Discuss inaccurate information, time expectations, and then improvement plans.
Talk about how to communicate
So, how does your team share interdepartmental expectations; via email, private correspondence, verbally? What is the expected followup? Ask these questions and share expectations.
Improved understanding, through job rotation of each other’s responsibilities and activities, will lead to an appreciation of how departments interact and affect one another. Therefore, this leads to better communication.
What Are You Doing About It?
So, is interdepartmental communication a problem in your organization? If so, do something. Begin with a few of the the suggestions listed above. Because, it’s up to you. So, begin the conversation, share expectations, learn what others do, and consider how YOU can improve your information sharing.
How Can I Help You?
I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me.
So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.