Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You Can Fix Poor Cross-functional Relationships Fast

iStock_000005366886SmallWhen poor relationships and bad  behavior are evident between  functional groups, overwhelmingly it’s a symptom of a deeper problem - “broken shared processes.” 
When shared processes prove problematic, and no one understands exactly why, relationships sour as different groups blame each other for “not getting their part of the work right.” Luckily, these relationships are easy to repair through process improvement efforts carried-out in the following way: 

  1. bring the groups together and help them to see and understand the entire process, including the problems and waste
  2. position them to design and implement a new process - one that works for all involved - complete with all of the supporting elements for keeping it in place: tools, standards, procedures, policies, training, measurement and reporting, auditing
  3. guide them and provide what is needed as they design and replace the broken process with the new one 

Why does this approach repair relationships as effectively as it repairs processes?

Most people want to feel respected by their colleagues and most people genuinely want to “get along.” As cross-functional teams work through a process improvement project, the close interaction helps participants of the different groups see each other as people just like themselves – reasonable people “doing the best they can with the tools and circumstances at-hand.”    
Once this enlightened perspective is in place, if the team is positioned for collaboration and provided with he guidance and tools needed to do a good job fixing the process, their response is enthusiastic. High engagement, strong buy-in, and energetic cooperation all follow as everyone pitches-in to get the job done.

Long Lasting, Easily to Sustain Results

A team working with all they need to design and replace the broken process will deliver a very precise, comprehensive, and sustainable result.  And once the new process is in place, they will protect it and voluntarily teach others, such as new employees, how it works.  As a result, without the problems that had previously generated ill-will between the groups, an environment characterized by healthy cross-functional relationships emerges.  With a good process design in place, and with occasional cross-training events, healthy relationships can be maintained.  The result is less waste and lower costs for the company and a more enjoyable work environment for employees.

No comments: