By Jennifer Rivas and Lydia Govinden
Reaching across silos to work more collaboratively is much easier said than done. It means treading into uncertain waters where we feel we lack permission. It requires initiating challenging conversations that take time and effort. It requires determination to affect change within an organization. And, it puts us in a position that feels uncomfortable and foreign. But, the upside to and the benefits of silo-busting are numerous and powerful, and we are inundated with outstanding examples of brands that have done it successfully, such as Google and Zappos.
Although there are many companies that thrive in a cross-functional environment, working cross-functionally is probably not something that comes naturally to most organizations. This is because it is easier to pigeonhole people, teams, and even ourselves into predictable roles that set clear expectations of responsibilities than put in the time and effort to create a more open culture. In addition, to orchestrate an overhaul of your organizational structure―with the goal of being more collaborative―is a mammoth task for many companies. However, doing so is not impossible. So, where do you begin the process? We advocate for harnessing the power of your brand and using brand-focused projects as the catalyst for behavioral change. Using brand work as a call to action for working more closely with others―in spite of job scopes and titles―is one way to bust silos once and for all. But, how exactly is this done?
Three Steps to Work More Collaboratively
Understanding needs to be built around the simple truth that branding is not marketing. A brand is the essence of what an organization says, does, and is―and any brand-related process is in itself about facilitating integration. For example, your Marketing and HR teams should be collaborating effectively―the communications that you broadcast should echo your culture, speak to the types of employees you wish to attract, and showcase how your company behaves on a daily basis. Unlocking the mindset that your brand should permeate every bit of your organization’s being is often the beginning of a rewarding journey of collaboration and brand building.
In the Olympics of organizational success, branding is definitely a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. Once there is internal buy-in to brand building―and team integration is established―there must be concerted effort to keep silo walls down. Set ongoing checkpoint meetings that bring in people from different teams for feedback on the brand. Go even bigger and hold organization-wide town hall sessions to update your employees on how your brand is doing and how their efforts have helped its progress. And, measure your progress on an ongoing basis so that you have something on which to report and share with your team. The idea is to take baby steps toward a cultural shift in which collaboration is encouraged because, after all, your employees’ ultimate objective should be to work towards a stronger, more valuable brand.
Last, but certainly not least, leadership needs to commit to creating an environment that celebrates and rewards working across teams. Share collaborative successes across your organization; establish a feedback mechanism between managers and team members that creates a two-way flow of ideas about cross-functional work; build a digital idea-sharing portal that connects people together in support of a common, brand-centric goal; and allow employees to have a say in the kinds of collaborative projects they would like to be a part of so they can feel empowered to play a role in brand building.
Internal collaboration continues to be a cornerstone of brands and organizations that just “get it.” Reaching across silos every day to solve your business and brand challenges will foster an environment where collaboration is second nature and having formal, functional teams is a nostalgic formality―because everyone’s door will be open.
Jennifer Rivas is Monigle’s Client Services Director and Lydia Govinden is a Project Manager. Both bring a grand spirit of collaboration to the office by never being afraid of having the hard―and, many times, awkward―conversations.