Do Your Teams Communicate With Each Other?

team communication“In our office, the right hand doesn't knowing what the left hand is doing. So we get calls from customers whose accounts are wrong. They said they paid on time. We don't have the record and we've charged them extra fees. Of course, they are hopping mad.”

A frustrated accounting manager, Dan, asked me how to solve this problem. As we talked, I found out the problem was not his staff. They were competent and knew their jobs. The problem was silo-itis when teams or departments don't talk with one another or talk past one another.

Whether you call it silo-itis or an “us” vs “them” mentality or communication bottlenecks, it needs to be dealt with. Here are the three suggestions I gave to Dan to bring teams and departments together.

1. Just start talking, playing, eating together.
Have a once a week or month free “all you can eat” pizza lunch. Set it up so people from different departments sit together. Have contests that get them working with each other. Use fun to break down barriers.
2. Conduct team building with department heads.
Properly conducted team building can dramatically improve how well people communicate with each other. The focus should not be on finger pointing but on how to work better together to serve our customers. Once the heads are in sync, then do team building between the different departments. This keeps the flame of cooperation – and innovation – burning brightly
3. Improve communication flow.
Sometimes we don't have the right information or too much or too little to do our job well. Here's a solution. Each work group develops an information chart to shave with others. The chart has three columns labeled: need-to-have, nice-to-have, don't need to have. It can also state the frequency and quantity of needed information.

In a recent team building effort, I've heard these comments: “You mean you don't use that report…wow, not doing it every week saves us at least 5 hours.” Or, “you really need that…hmm, let's see what we can do.”

Smart Moves Tip:

Pay attention to these danger signs: Missed deadlines, increased customer complaints, vital information not being passed on, duplication of work or bickering and blaming when things go wrong. Act quickly. Have regular scheduled “let's see how we're doing” meetings to address issues, conflicts and uncertainties. Also provide on going training in communication, group problem-solving and conflict resolution.

So, before it's too late, what can you do right now to improve communication flow between teams, work groups or departments?

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Copyright © 2011 Marcia Zidle business and leadership coach!

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