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February 17, 2011 / Astor ICS

Connecting Horizontally Through Better Communication

As organizations face these critically fast paced times of a more demanding need for innovation, they are becoming as Thomas Friedman has said, ‘flattened out’. Everything is becoming more connected; demographics are being recognized in more unique matrices and our abilities to communicate directly have put professional relationships in macro-mode. But do we really need to be everywhere at all times. Of course not. But it’s important to consider the horizontal nature of management as a reality and the vertical one as being a bit under pressure.

According to research, 72% of executives say that the horizontal boundaries and overlaps as their biggest challenge. It’s obvious that we all have been trained in the vertical boundaries of, ‘It’s not my decision or job’, but when it comes to collaborating, defining limits and effective productivity, it’s important to analyze some rules and advice.

Consider the words of a top-tier federal government R&D executive, “My organization consists of 8 functional units and 7 laboratories, in which more and more of our problems require interdisciplinary solutions. Unfortunately, each lab has its own management culture, and this causes real challenges in partnering. I have a mandate to attack this challenge.” If there are to be solutions to partnering they need to be implemented quickly. This way, innovation can bring about what the greater mandate demands.

Over 85% of executives polled by researchers say that collaborating across boundaries is essential and an astounding 6% say they do it effectively.

Here is some advice on how to activate the horizontal connections

  1. Bring leaders from other areas into your team meetings. Invite them to give ideas on organizational challenges
  2. Encourage conversations, casual discussions across each function of the organizations. Put different supplies like whiteboards, beamers, flip charts around to let the ideas be visual.
  3. Find and discuss the true and hidden sources of conflict between two divisions. Always be armed with two or thee solutions to every problem or challenge.
  4. Have ‘Possible Future’ discussions regularly about how the organization could look in five or ten years. Get the possibilities on the table and encourage all opinions openly and freely.

Astor ICS



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