Competitors or Comrades?


Gaining aligned commitments from competing groups or teams is rarely a simple endeavor, but without that effort, the resulting drain on energy and profits can be debilitating to your organization.  These teams evolve naturally and necessarily in many business structures: … when one team delivers critical support for the strategic or day-to-day efforts of another team, … when one must hand off their results for another team to complete, … when one team creates something another must approve or evaluate.

The propensity to be siloed in their work is a big reason these groups become competitive.  The silos can form when each is trying to deliver their best possible result, but in their effort, they neglect the systemic impacts on others.  Differences in their work-structures cause blindness to the others’ needs.  One group may be tied to phones, while the group that should be their partner works out of vehicles; one may be housed in a corporate location while the other group is made up of tiny, isolated offices.

Often these critical groups are not aligned clearly on their most core objectives, and, because of this, they have no footing to work through their naturally resulting conflicts.  If you choose to make the effort to turn these walls into bridges, there is specific work that can add to your success.

Go Looking for Landmines and Elephants

This honest investigation should be done by leaders who are committed to building this alignment bridge.  Landmines are easily identified by the fires you put out regularly.  Elephant hunting, however, takes more courage, because people have created paths to avoid these huge, hidden issues that are blocking the path to effective relationships and processes between the groups.  You will need to peek behind the curtain to distinguish between the levers that the teams can adjust on their own and those that will require cooperative collaboration to correct.

Prioritize the Controllables

Leaders also need to identify the core organization objectives that are common to both teams and use them as the foundation for their bridge.  From there you can prioritize 1) the controllable issues your individual teams should adjust 2) the uncontrollable boulders you must escalate for excavation by executives, HR or others, and 3) the controllable challenges that your teams need to tackle together.

Facilitate Their Buy-In

You next effort may be to bring the teams together to gain buy-in required for this bridge construction, so they can all claim success in reaching the larger goal they now have in common.  The facilitation of this buy-in must be well-planned, well-manned and well-executed.  Critical in planning is clear understanding of the unique motivators of the individual teams; you must influence both groups.  Manpower is needed for two key aspects: 1) to ensure every function of each team is represented in the room as process-adjustments are proposed and validated and 2) to ensure authorities in the room can approve steps toward creating performance expectations that everyone can be held accountable for.  This facilitation can only be well-executed if the activities are crafted so they reduce emotional history and prioritize clinical tactics that drive toward solutions. This execution often requires a facilitator not seen as biased toward either group.

Celebrate Partnership that Matters

As team members manifest their empowerment to bridge differences and adjust processes and actions to effectively meet their now common goals, celebrate large and microscopic changes that build relationships: respectful questioning, assuming good intent, following up, information sharing, responsive listening, confirming understanding, etc.

You probably have the skills for the construction of the bridge, but if you need help with the strategy and tactics, we have experience in designing and supporting team initiatives foundational to significant changes in performance and results.  Let’s get together!