As organizations scale and evolve from a One Man Operation (OMO) to a multinational corporation (MNC) employing tens of thousands of people, sub-division and specialization of work occurs for practicality and efficiency reasons.
Essentially, as the business grows and becomes more complex, boundaries would form and widen between functions and departments, thus requiring increasingly more communication, coordination and alignment of job roles to strategize and execute.
To mitigate the rising latency in response time and enhance the organization’s agility and responsiveness to the fast changing global markets, there have been creative, and many novel ideas.
From Jack Welch’s “boundaryless organization” that brought people across all levels, functions and geographies to solve problems and make decisions collectively, to Dave Ulrich’s Model for HR shared services and business partnership, which articulates how HR can enhance organization’s effectiveness – by evolving their roles to add greater value and help departments bridge the organizational white spaces.
Despite these efforts to bind the organization together into a well-knitted team functioning collaboratively, success has been limited. Studies show that only about 13% of organizations are capable of executing their strategies successfully.
A Harvard Business Review survey of 250 organizations sheds more light on this. It was found that although modern organizations had little issues regards alignment of organizational goals and seeking support from within their departments, more than 90% of the managers surveyed, felt that they could not rely on their colleagues in other functional areas.
This further implies that while intra-departmental synergy might be positive overall, there are disconnects in the inter-department workspaces that need to be addressed. Here are some suggestions on what can be done.
Foster Team Spirit
The “No Wrong Door Policy” implemented that, the Singapore government in 2004 is a prime example of esprit de corps that organizations should aspire to. As per the policy, public agencies work together as an integrated, responsive and networked government, such that, misdirected and cross-agency issues can be handled for the public efficiently.
HR can focus their employee engagement efforts towards this end while helping teams to breakthrough the silos and synchronize efforts and goals. For a start, HR can help organize and lobby for interdepartmental teambuilding, knowledge sharing or recreational events to foster a culture of team spirit and enhance companywide bonding through such networking opportunities.
Surveys and focus groups can also be conducted to gather feedback on culture, perceptions and challenges to team work, for seeking and devising appropriate interventions as required.
Enable Team Spirit
Although team spirit cannot be taught in a classroom, relevant training and communication can help build awareness and equip both managers and employees with the knowledge and tools to make its implications easier.
For example, from a theoretical angle, concepts like Belbin’s Team Role Theory and Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development poise managers towards building efficient teams through the understanding of group dynamics such that they can, for example, better prepare for conflict management. The skills for which, can also be trained and practiced vicariously through simulated environments in the absence of experience.
HR can also help craft the templates and set up the infrastructural platform and resources to enable team work and communication.
Practical tools like a competency map of employees that lists out current experience and skills, will help in the management and deployment of manpower resources across the company. This will also help in configuring teams with complementary and compatible skills.
To facilitate inter and intra team information sharing and communication, shared folders, Dropbox or Sharepoint may be installed and utilized. Of course, for these projects, HR will need to partner IT and be prepared to role model team players.
Reward Team Spirit
While cross matrix reporting structures, cross-functional teams and centralized project management offices can help facilitate teamwork and cooperation, HR professionals should also look at formulating more balanced reward processes that takes into account and motivates collaborative behaviors.
For instance, performance rating can be averaged and weighted out across different department managers, with whom an employee had been associated and working for a tenure.
Set track record of teamwork as a key promotion or hiring criteria in conjunction with capabilities and performance. Many companies usually have reward systems that recognize employees, who display desirable work behaviors with monetary incentives or tokens of appreciation.
HRs should include employees who display team spirit into the beneficiary list as well. These actions can help promote a work climate and environment that encourages, supports and recognizes greater interdepartmental collaboration.
HR in their unique role as partners to business, voice of the employees and ambassadors of the company – positions them as ideally suited to synergize and glue the organization into a boundaryless entity, such as to work in unison and strategize efforts to facilitate collaboration between teams towards a shared vision.
Chew Han Guan contributes articles regularly for the HR community, and is currently working as a Learning Development Manager with an aerospace company. He holds Ph.D in Material Science from NUS and an MBA with distinction from the University of Bradford.
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