…just accept and give up?
When conducting employee awareness surveys with business organizations, one of the more often selected statement options to define the issue awareness is “Collaboration between departments is not good”.
Some people say: “Because of conflicts of interest in profits of each division, there is nothing we can do”. Someone says: “Well, let’s create places and events where all members of the company can interact”.
However, if you ask a question like “Q1. Does Inter-departmental cooperation proceed smoothly?”, there are many companies showing “Yes” answers not reaching 30% and “No” answers exceeding 30%. In this case, it can be said that it is a problem that goes beyond the current situation and cannot be solved simply by event creation.
“Collaboration among departments” starts from “communication and information sharing”
Let’s take as an example a real case of a company JMAC delivered one employee awareness survey in latest release last year. Their answers shoed that the cooperation among departments was not good. Many issues were arising among functions (sales, development and production) that had been hindering collaboration between business divisions aiming to satisfy common customers, as well as some problems were felt about collaboration between management departments and other departments that had been leading to feeling in doubt and cause improvement not to advance.
Therefore, based on the survey result of the employee awareness survey at that company, we started studying what to do about improvement. We focused immediately on the following two questions. The graph in Figure 1 shows the results of the two questions by company level organization hierarchy.
- Q1 Communication with other departments is frequent
- Q2. Coordination with other departments is smooth
Graph 1 Answers by hierarchy level
Although the recognition that “Q2. Coordination is smooth” is low in all the hierarchies, the result that “Q1. Communication is frequent” is higher in the organization upper hierarchy and lower in the lower hierarchy is a clear outcome.
If in the lower levels there is a problem consciousness that “prior to coordination, there was a lack of information sharing with other departments”, on the upper levels it seems to be said that even though aiming to take communication to the lower hierarchy the it is not (cannot be?). As a result, it seems the common feeling to all hierarchy levels is a common issue awareness that “there is no smooth coordination”.
Among remedies we could suggest to
- transfer firmly to the lower hierarchy levels the information that the organization’s upper level is acquiring from sharing with other departments
- create a place and tools to share information with other departments including lower hierarchies.
What’s the kind of information that should be “communicated or shared”?
However, looking at the results of the above two questions by category, it became clear that there were differences in the response depending on the department.
The graph below plots the Yes rate of “Q1. Communication is frequent” on the horizontal axis and the Yes rate of “Q2. Coordination is smooth” on the vertical axis, by department.
Picture 2 Plot of answer results by department
Because the collaboration between C department, Z laboratory and C department is low both in terms of communication and coordination between departments, the measures taken when looking at the organizational hierarchy of the whole company that “information sharing is necessary” applies (here the status of the business department A becomes a benchmark).
One among the members who were considering this chart saw the result that “Q1. Communication is frequent”, against the low “Q2. Smooth coordination” in business division B. He asked: “Does the B division” do wasteful communication that is not useful for coordination? ”
Therefore, I decided to see the details of the results of other questions of B division, handling with new business areas and relatively motivated to achieve business policies and targets. Though, the following questions about customers showed distinctive results.
- Q3. Do you make efforts to get customer information and needs?
- Q4. Is the interdepartmental exchange of customer information active?
- Q5. Do you set and use indicators related to value provided to customers?
Picture 3 – Answers to questions about customers
Members of business division B are striving to catch customer needs and information. However, it seems that there is still no setting of sharing as a pre-condition the Q5. Indicators referring to the value offered to customers with the manufacturing facility, laboratory (development) and other divisions, yet. As a result, the following things seem to be occurring in coordination with other departments. When talking to:
- Manufacturing Plant: “Since the delivery date from the customer is this, please do” → “No, even if it is an urgent request, it will be not possible”
- Lab: “Can you make a bit more work on the specifications here?” → “I cannot afford to take any more time for that. I got a lot of work from the A division”
- Other Business Divisions: “It was said that the purchase manager of Company X said he has shared the information with Mr … of A Division. → “Was the information necessary? Sorry, but from now on please inform in advance”.
The business division B decided to tackle the following countermeasures.
- Specify the value offered to customers and objectives against business targets as division B
- Based on that, draw up a list of concrete work items that you would like to ask other departments to cooperate with you upon
- Hold briefing sessions involving relevant departments on the above two points and receive feedback
- Conduct periodic information exchanges with relevant departments by involving subordinate hierarchies
- Regularly feedback relevant information to the related divisions and exchange information
In order to improve “interdepartmental collaboration”
Regarding the “coordination between departments is not good” issue, measures should be taken to do events that can be an exchange opportunity to the entire company. However, the company and B division especially seems to progress dramatically by delving into the purpose for which employees want to improve “collaboration among departments” and focusing on their customers.
Picture 4 – Focus on ‘Customers’
Saiki Chieko – Chief consultant
JMAC Inc., Tokyo