5 Tactics For Playing Nice And Aligning Across Departments

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A lot has been discussed around the need for marketing and sales alignment. I completely agree this should be a focus of all organizations, but I wonder why those two departments always receive the brunt of the “play nice” message. I’m curious why the pressure of alignment always falls to marketing and sales. Given the impact all business divisions make, why don’t people focus on HR, product development, and finance enablement? You could have perfect marketing and sales alignment, but if finance doesn’t support the effort, HR reinforce the structure, and development buy-in to the strategy then it’s all for nothing. Ultimately, you need total cross departmental alignment, and this can only be accomplished through understanding, collaboration, and enablement.

So how do you do this? Well, I look at a few tactics used with my children. Given that they’re only 13 months apart they’re sort of built-in playmates. They have someone close by, with somewhat shared interests, to play with at all times. They enjoy each others company about 50% of the time. The other 50% is typical sibling war. The battling over insignificant things causes them to lose sight of the totally awesome person they could be having fun with. This is so true in business. Siloed business structures cause unnecessary competition and bickering. Teams become combative and unproductive. But, like I tell my kids, you’re stuck with each other. Below are a few ideas for playing nice.

1. Engage a neutralizing party. It’s crazy, but introducing a 3rd party into their playtime always works. When friends and family are over they always get along so much better. Many organizations implement a similar tactic. For example, in the pharma space companies have introduced a “Center of Excellence”. The members of the COE have no brand loyalty and focus on quality execution. They engage with brand managers, agencies, IT, purchasing, and legal. This allows for closer alignment across all departments.

2. Gamify. Not always, but often, games allow for the kids to play nice. However, they can’t always be on competing teams. Gamification works best for alignment when typically competing parties are teamed up working towards a common goal. This can be as simple as fundraising for the Red Cross, or as structured as a digital gamification tool rolled out across several organizations. These digital tools allow for alignment, collaboration, and collection of ideas.

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3. Identify mutual common interest. Right now my children are keeping each other on the straight and narrow with reminders of Santa’s impending visit. Likewise, explaining how success in Department A equates to budget increases in Department B, and pay increases in Department C, can quickly get everyone on the same page. At a micro-level, people need to see the positive domino effect explained.

4. Ask for, and value, their opinion. I love when my kids teach each other how to do something. I love it more when they’re receptive to the teaching. In the military they explain to new 2nd Lieutenants that they will be assuming responsibility of a platoon. A platoon of soldiers with 10-20 years more experience than they have. The biggest mistake a 2nd Lieutenant can make is overlooking the experience the platoon offers. Departments must learn to recognize and respect the value each group brings to the table. Yes, IT may be challenging to work with, but they understand how even minor adjustments can compromise an entire infrastructure. Product development may have a vision, but oftentimes sales teams have customer facts and feedback. HR teams typically have a good understanding of human behavior and drivers. This can be very valuable to a marketing organization. Ask for cross-department input, listen, and test their ideas.

5. Make their life easier. Today my Daughter fetched a toy for her Brother. A simple gesture that went a long way. Departments can demonstrate similar gestures. How? Good question. This is going to vary with each department and each organization. You need to identify which tools, and what information, will bring value. Perhaps developing a recruitment scoring program for HR would allow them to better identify and screen quality candidates. Maybe you can provide sales tools that deliver insight into prospect behavior and allow the sales reps to communicate more effectively. Data and reports tracking revenue performance management would be welcomed information in finance departments and the C-suite.

Remember, you all work for the same organization and you’re all in it together. If the company succeeds then you all succeed.

How do you drive cross-departmental alignment?

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Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.
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