Be a Cross-Functional Whiz

Mar 1, 2010
5 Min Read

In every company I’ve ever worked for, interdepartmental communication has been a problem.

Groups are viewed as silos instead of a part of a single well-integrated organization. Therefore, it stands to reason that the person who interacts seamlessly across departments would be a valued team member – a team member whom your group relies on to get things done and is least likely to be sacrificed in a layoff.  How can you be that person?

Here are some ideas:

E-mail your contacts from orientation

During the day or two you spent with HR at the beginning of your tenure, was there anyone who seemed interesting and went on to work in a different discipline?  Invite her to lunch and find out more about her personally and professionally.  Work to strengthen the relationship over time so that you have a friend to call on when your group needs something from that department.

Study the other departments

In order to be a cross-functional whiz, it helps to have a solid understanding of what the other groups in your organization do.  Pretend you are interviewing for a position in each department and study the relevant online and offline materials.

For example, if you want to establish a better relationship with R&D, learn about the product pipeline and attend a voluntary meeting of the innovation committee.

Walk around the building once a week

Slot a half hour to grab your coffee and meander around the floors of your office.  While you shouldn’t stop and chit chat for too long, it’s a good idea to say an in-person hello to people in other departments so that they can put a name with a face the next time you contact them.

"...colleagues (especially those not in your group) don’t care what you want — they want to know what’s in it for them..."

Engender cooperation

Always keep in mind that colleagues (especially those not in your group) don’t care what you want — they want to know what’s in it for them. By approaching negotiations with an attitude that allows both parties to win (i.e. do a good job and stay out of trouble), you’ll be more effective at eliciting cooperation and ultimately getting what your group needs.

Be the mediator

If a dispute between two colleagues is causing a breakdown in communication and/or effectiveness between departments, set up a formal meeting to discuss the issues. Once you are all together, tell the arguers that you wish to clear the air by talking to them one at a time about the situation and then allowing the other to respond to what was just said.  Remain impartial and encourage the arguers to come to a mutually-satisfactory resolution.

Are you the person who knows how to get things done in your organization?  How do you do it?

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