When Bob from Accounting Meets Eva from Marketing

 In Organization Structure, Sales & Marketing Alignment

Tear down the silos, step across barriers (ah, I mean cube walls) and take a seat next to a co-worker you don’t know.

It’s not like you have to be good at small talk. You’re talking business, and you have a common goal. The conversation practically happens by itself. Besides, it’s easier for you to get an answer (and someone is more likely to help you) when you are having a real life conversation.

What do you have to lose? Rather, you have an incredible amount to gain. For a great example of a company seeking to break down communication barriers in creative ways, let’s take a quick look at Freshbooks. At Freshbooks, they encourage

At Freshbooks, they encourage inter-office dating; platonically speaking, of course. People from different departments are sent on coffee or lunch dates to get to know one another, and to see how/if they may work together to build greater efficiencies, community or innovation.

A follow-up survey shows “65% of FreshBooks blind daters said they felt a meaningful connection to their date.”

Bob in accounting, meet Eva in Marketing

These kinds of cross-departmental conversations create a more cohesive, positive work environment. By enabling the following you will:

  • Start to change the environment for the better. It’s amazing how many people will sit in a chair all day and email rather then get up and go have a conversation. Conversations are essential to getting along. You need face-to-face (or for work from homers, video-to-video) time.
  • Create the freedom for others to talk to each other. When you actually get out of your chair, and others see you, they will start to do the same. You are actually letting others know that it’s OK to go beyond your jurisdiction to get answers. This will position you as a problem-solver (a win-win).
  • See more validation—of each other’s skills and project goals. In other words, the love will flow. When you talk in person, you express emotions outside the inbox. Body language goes a long way.
  • See the good and keep it going. If you’re a manager, letting colleagues in other departments know how much you appreciate their work – work that helps you achieve your goals – is incredibly appreciated. Expressed in a realistic, sincere way, this kind of communication creates solid relationships that will work for you, even when you’re not face-to-face. Your reputation will precede you, and will unmistakably work in your favor.
  • Create healthy competition. This may be more of the forced type of relationship building. But, when done right (again, be sincere and realistic), a little competition can create healthy banter between departments, and will get them talking on a more regular basis. This establishes a level of comfort so when the time comes to talk shop, the road is already paved.

Cross-department communication doesn’t have to be from the top-down. In fact, it’s better if it’s not structured that way. Now go forth and have a conversation with a co-worker. As a human, you’re meant to interact with people, and we all like to knock things – like barriers (perceived or real) down.

Personally, I see this innate love for destruction in my two-year-old. I’m sure it’s still in us adults too. We just have to bring it back to the surface. I’d love to hear your thoughts on cross-departmental communication, from challenges to successes, and everything in between.

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