“Marketing is a pain in my butt,” laments operations director Stephan on a regular basis. Such cross-functional bashing is, unfortunately, not uncommon. One HBR author has stated that 75% of all cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. Many people find that even doing routine tasks that require team cooperation are a challenge. What’s the secret sauce for working well with other departments? Here are three of our top tips:

  1. Start at the top. Sorry, Stephan, as an operations team leader, you need to stop complaining about the marketing department. Team leaders need to think and behave in collaborative, win-win ways. You need to talk and model “togetherness” and productive behaviors.
  2. Focus on common goals. Yep, your department is awesome. However, you need those other functions in order to succeed as an organization. Set an expectation in your team that you’ll be invested in the success of all teams, not just your own. This means sharing information widely, not just on a need-to-know basis. It also means sharing kudos when things go well. And when things go wrong, working to figure out how to learn and get better, not hang another team out to dry.
  3. Starting within your department, create an open culture. Then model that for others. Direct, honest and respectful conversations need to be the norm. If that isn’t the case in your own team, you can’t really expect those types of interactions to happen across silos. Make open dialogue an expectation, and if you or your team need training or coaching to build capacity, get it. (Yep, we happen to do that sort of work!) Once your team is sharing and growing productively, you’ll have a foundation for building relationships of trust across departmental lines. You’ll be better equipped to both give and get feedback that will help the entire organization grow.

It may seem like a lofty goal, even though it is possible to actually have more fun at work by successfully coming together across team lines. Think about the diversity of ideas and new ways of working you can gain from increased coalition within the organization. You might even avoid problems and achieve goals you never thought possible. Sweet reward.


Tell us about how you are successfully bridging across departments. Leave a comment below or message us here.

Photo from Dollar Photo Club.