I’ve seen it quite often in businesses both big and small: operating under the impression that each business department should mind its own business. Some believe this promotes competition between departments and thus facilitates better results and greater productivity.
Others isolate their departments because they believe HR doesn’t have any knowledge of and shouldn’t have much say regarding what goes on in the sales department. There is also the false idea that this will actually speed up your business functions in order to keep pace with a fast-changing market and economy.
But at the end of the day, your business is one single unit, and each department needs to complement the others to make up the whole. Like the organs in a body, each performs its own duties while simultaneously taking into account what the others are doing.
If your departments are cut off from each other, it can severely hamper your business’s success. What’s worse is that many modern companies have actually isolated their departments further in response to a fast-paced global economy, in spite of advances in communication technology.
Why Is Isolating My Departments A Bad Thing?
Simply put, it makes it more difficult for interdepartmental conversations to take place. This may seem logical in some instances – why does customer service need to know what’s going on in development? – but when you look deeper, you notice how flawed this strategy really is. Each department does not work in a void. What each department does directly affects other departments as well as the company as a whole.
Isolated assignments are generally a bad idea because they don’t allow for much feedback from other points of view. For example, someone in the accounting department might point out a major flaw in a project the design department is working on because they’ll notice key numbers don’t line up. This can understandably make it much more difficult for each department to perform its roles well when they each miss out on a lot of outside advice and viewpoints. Someone from a different department with different training and experience might look at a problem a different way and provide a more agreeable solution no one inside a department would have come up with.
This can also be a problem when it comes to making major decisions about purchasing tech for the company, which is critically important because of how integrated technology and software are in the modern business world. If the purchasing is left up to the IT department alone, for example, they might not take into account the needs of the HR department if they are not in regular communication with each other. The opposite is also possible – that the HR department might buy whatever software they want and not consult the IT department for advice on what to get and how often to upgrade.
Isolated departments also make it so employees don’t have a very good idea of what other positions in your company might be available to them, which can be a problem if they would be much better off in another role. If I was better suited for work in a different role than the one I currently occupy, I would want to be reassigned there, and in many cases it would be a poor choice for a manager to disagree.
This benefits business owners because it naturally allows employees to position themselves where they will give their best performance. As we all know, happy employees are going to be more motivated in their work, less likely to quit their jobs and thus necessitate a costly search for a replacement, more comfortable with voicing their ideas and simply more likely to give a better work performance.
Business departments simply do not exist in a vacuum, and to treat them as such is to do a disservice to your organization and even hold it back from its full potential.
What Can I Do To Bring Isolated Departments Together?
If you’ve already segregated your business out neatly into different departments or have inherited or purchased a business where this is already the norm, you might be interested in starting to bring everyone back together again. This might be easier said than done if each department is used to operating on its own without any input from the others, but hopefully you will be able to make them see the benefits of this new organizational structure.
The first step should be to start holding interdepartmental meetings to go over and create or reinforce aligned goals. This means having a representative from each department at key business meetings. Explain to everyone why having isolated assignments and departments is holding your company back and let them know of your intent to change that. Be sure to take any of their ideas, concerns and information into account.
If your company already does not have an open door policy, implement one immediately. Require your managers to make time for employees to come speak with them. I’ve seen firsthand how honest and open this makes offices and the kinds of amazing ideas generated simply because employees feel more comfortable talking to each other. Don’t be secretive about things that don’t need to be kept a secret. Encourage people from all departments to come to each other with questions.
Facilitate and even require interdepartmental collaboration and communication. To use a prior example, require that HR communicate with IT before any software purchases are made. Create teams with employees from different departments to work on the same projects together for stronger results.
The more collaborative your company is, the more likely you are going to see real innovation and cooperation among your departments and individual employees. This will keep every one of your business departments on message and ensure that everyone is following aligned goals.