Business Acumen and Organizational Navigation: Why Building Cross-Functional Bridges Leads to Success
There are times when it seems as if organizations go through the motions of organizational structuring: Distribute a new chart, hold a few meetings. But instead of thinking of organizational management as an episodic event, we need to approach it as a daily aspect of doing business. We can accomplish this by embracing specific communication and workflow priorities that enable managers to boost each other’s performance, which in the end, moves the entire organization ahead.
The 3 C’s of Communication: Consistent, Clear and Caring
Organizational structure tends to crumble due to poor communication. Organizational charts make it clear how work should flow, but it’s up to human beings to make that happen. There’s no such thing as over-communicating when it comes to assuring everyone is on the same page.
Leaders should model how to communicate effectively, and the best leaders know that doesn’t mean a quick sit-down to review to-lists. They know people are more receptive to listening when management makes the effort to connect on a more personal level. These efforts build relationships in which everyone cares more about each other, so they are less inclined to act defensively and more apt to provide valuable feedback.
These managers take a few moments to ask about another’s family, interests outside of work , etc. They do so at least a few times a week by taking a walk-through of their floors to touch base with people rather than sitting down with an employee every 12 months at a performance review. As relationships grow, it’s easier to ask people how their work is going, what they need help with and get an honest answer.
When leaders model open communication, staff members become more willing to help one another, instead of fearing power plays over mistakes and retreating into department silos to avoid blame.
Whether it’s manager to manager, employee to employee, or a CEO to a front-line person, the tenets of clear communication are the same:
- Maintain eye contact, put the phone away.
- Don’t step on the other person’s words or they’ll struggle to organize their thoughts.
- Get to your main point right away. If it’s an important conversation, write these out beforehand.
- To be sure you understood what their main points were, repeat them back.
- Stay alert to non-verbal cues, such as vocal tone and body posture.
Cross-functional Employees are Crucial
As communication acumen grows across an organization, synchronizing work between all the departments that touch a project gets easier. It also gets easier due to the work of cross-functional employees. These employees serve as point-people between departments to help assure company goals are met. Cross-department dependencies are not always immediately understood, so these employees also help identify those dependencies.
Today’s organizational charts should identify these employees, so everyone knows who the go-to people are when questions of another department arise. Additional information that is vital to these charts includes:
- Name of every department and its function.
- Name/title of person who directs each department.
- The flow of communication (who reports to whom).
- The work produced by each employee and how that work relates to a.) department goals and b.) an organization’s mission.
Once this information is established, those people working in cross-functional roles can help leadership know whether or not corporate strategy is on track.
Cross-Functionality + Communication Acumen = High-Functioning Organizations
Without taking the time to establish this kind of culture, people avoid conflict, which almost always results in dysfunction. If a business has adopted these practices, it will experience conflict as an opportunity to make sense of obstacles by seeing all sides and adopting a more objective perspective.
The stakes are high, as an organizational structure that doesn’t trust its people to work together effectively and communicate fearlessly often results in poor products, systemic breakdowns and costly redundancies.
Leaders want a level of organizational management that is one of discovery: It’s not a one and done exercise. Leaders need to finetune processes as conditions change, and the Business Acumen Institute helps companies create and guide cultures that are built on the level of transparency and communication required to help teams cross department boundaries and focus on everyone’s success.