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Twelve Weeks to Becoming the Manager of the Most Kick-ass Department in Your Company

As organization development consultants we are often tasked with creating activities or events that “move an organization forward.” Clients ask us to solve problems related to communication, teamwork, poor workmanship, lack of commitment or accountability, and many other issues which stymie output and frustrate individuals.

Every organization is different, of course, but if you are a manager who would like to elevate your profile and your department’s reputation, here is an activity that anyone can use to achieve both. All you need to do is commit to one-hour per week for three months and follow the process below.

Week 1: (This works better if your team is co-located. There is something to be said for looking your colleagues in the eye.) Bring together your team and have each person stand, state their name, their role, and declare how their role interacts with or is enmeshed with another person in attendance and their role. Repeat until everyone has spoken.

Be aware: This will be an uncomfortable struggle at first, but by week 6 people will easily rattle off their inter-dependencies and accountabilities.

Weeks 2 – 6: At subsequent weekly 1-hour meetings add one-more-individual to the interdependency declaration. In other words, in week 1 each speaker must choose one other individual and declare how their role interacts with or is enmeshed with another person and their role, in week 2 they’ll need to choose two other individuals, in week 3 they’ll choose three other individuals, and so on.

Slowly your department will begin to recognize how they are dependent on one another. This process works because it is visual, verbal, requires people to think to make the association, and is repeated week after week.

Weeks 4 – 6: Once people have the routine of choosing co-workers and declaring how they work together, “step it up” by having them add something about the other role that is frustrating, confusing or that they always wondered about. This might sound like, “I’m Susan Jones. I schedule the demo-rooms for the sales group. Sean Rhodes is one of my internal customers; he frequently meets with prospective clients in the demo rooms. Sean, I’ve wondered how far in advance you schedule meetings with prospects that need a demo. Is it usually the same-week or do you have more notice?”

What Susan is really getting at is, “I am tired of Sean always yelling at me that he has a client arriving within the hour and no where to put them.” But perhaps Susan doesn’t realize that Sean gets little advance notice himself. Or perhaps she just made Sean aware that he needs to schedule the demo rooms with more notice than he has been giving. Further conversation can happen after your 1-hour meeting, allowing Susan and Sean to come to a solution so that neither of them regularly feels frustrated by the other (without your meeting, and this process, the chance of this conversation happening at all is slim and perhaps the whole “issue” would lead to a major blow-up down the road).

Weeks 7 – 12: Time to step it up again. Now that you’ve got your team regularly focusing on the way they work with and are dependent upon one another, start bringing in “guests” from other departments (directly upstream and downstream are easiest at the start). Stretch their knowledge of and accountability for other roles and departments. The same process is used, but now each speaker must include someone (the guest) outside your immediate group. Let’s assume you invited a mechanic from the maintenance group. This might sound like, “I’m Susan Jones. I schedule the demo-rooms for the sales group. I also issue a monthly report to maintenance for each machine, which logs how many hours each machine was used during the month.” Susan may or may not know that the hours-used report allows maintenance to conduct preventative maintenance on the demo-machines which are otherwise out-of-sight, out-of-mind for them. Preventative maintenance ensures that a salesperson isn’t embarrassed by a demo-machine that fails during a client presentation.

If Susan doesn’t know that’s what her report is used for, she’ll learn it during your monthly meeting (by asking “I’ve often wondered what that report is used for,”) and will understand the value and utility of it. If Susan does know and declares the purpose of her report, the rest of the group will come to learn that this maintenance occurs unbeknownst to them in order to ensure the sales group has the equipment they need to be successful.

In addition to your current group of workers becoming more knowledgeable about, and accountable to, their co-workers and the larger organization, this is a great process for bringing new hires in to the fold. They will quickly understand the work processes and outputs of your department and how they are interrelated, which is crucial in doing their own job well and knowing who to ask for help.

In just 12 short weeks you’ll have the most highly functioning department in your organization, guaranteed. Drop us a line and tell us how it went. And don’t be stingy! When other managers ask how you created such a high-functioning team – share the process, like we just did for you.