Michael Schrage’s recent Harvard Business Review Blog highlighted both barriers to cross enterprise collaboration and ideas such as internal competitions to overcome these challenges.
Over my career in the Royal Air Force, in a very large global consulting firm and then in a smaller firm, I have been surprised / disappointed by the way groups form in social settings. All too often they comprise people who spend almost all their time working together. As an Accountant Officer and then as an HR Manager I used to enjoy Friday evening “happy hours” spending time talking to a full spectrum of aircrew, engineers and fellow administration officers. I used to learn a lot and this helped me secure interesting “one-off” out of branch appointments that involved working closely with other branches). Sadly it was always an uphill task to convince my teams to engage in such “cross function” dialogues for more than the briefest of periods. They appeared to be much more comfortable staying in their “organisational bunker” groupings in different sections of the bar! Latter I witnessed similar tendencies amongst my colleagues in other organisational settings and again wasted opportunities to find out about activities in other parts of the organisation and more importantly to expand personal networks and improve communication across the enterprise. Attached is a link to a short Tom Peters video that tackles this cross functional communication issue in his typically forthright and practical style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE_iY_1MGCQ
During Michael Schrage’s experience in a large global, compartmentalised /silo-ed global organisation a programme was introduced to shift values and attitudes to cross functional working. Top management recognised and rewarded people who demonstrated an ability to secure real value from their colleagues across functions. They created two complementary “competitive awards: “Thief of the Month” — a modest prize and high-profile internal acknowledgement for teams and small groups who “stole” an idea or innovation from another unit and successfully incorporated it into their own business; and “We Wuz Robbed” — a comparably modest prize and recognition for having one’s group’s best practice or process adopted by another internal group.” These initiatives were designed to promote greater sharing of ideas, information, best practice and innovative processes; however, I suspect that they also motivated individuals by acknowledging their efforts.
Recently I have been reminded of the importance of acknowledgement and recognition in two ways. Firstly I was updated on how a process / system to encourage individual “Thank Yous” has evolved into a practical tool that measures emails sent within an organization that thank others for particular actions / contributions / help. Thanks and Recognition now have practical experience of implementing the system in a number of organisations of all sizes. Secondly a new ebook from Tom Peters “You Matter to Me” includes a wealth of quotes and short case studies to reinforce his central point that recognition matters. He begins and ends with a quote from Ernest Becker “It is the burning desire for the creature to count. What man really fears is not extinction but extinction with insignificance”.
As you start thinking about 2013 I encourage you to commission material actions to:
1.promote the effectiveness with which your people work across your enterprise
2.recognise your people for the great things they do for you, each other and your enterprise
I would love to help!