Workshops that work: Addressing cross-functional interdependence

May 24, 2023
Workshops that work: Addressing cross-functional interdependence

For a company to build efficiency of scale, a certain level of departmental pride and competition is essential. It helps accrue pockets of expertise, and improves productivity and morale. However, as a company grows in organizational complexity or the sheer number of employees per department, there is the risk of functional silos emerging.When a company stumbles into functional silos in place of complementary departments, it brings with it information-hoarding, effort duplication and miscommunication, which in turn lead to cross-functional conflicts and one-upmanship. A bevy of remarkably talented departments then end up showing remarkably poor performance. The whole gradually ends up as less than the sum of its parts.

The whole gradually ends up as less than the sum of its parts.

Reversing this, to take full advantage of departments working harmoniously to complement each other’s’ strengths, should be top priority for the company’s leadership. As an important step in this process, it needs to ensure its middle management can deal with the realities of cross-functional interdependence. They need to understand:

  • The complexity of each function
  • How their objectives and metrics differ and
  • How this can lead to conflicts

Bridging the gapTraditional methods to do this would involve theory or case-based discussions - where the concepts above could be dealt with in detail. However, while participants may see the logic of each concept, they may not believe in it. This problem is particularly acute in cross-functional learning, where set ideas and a lack of expertise in other functions are significant roadblocks to adopting a theory in practice. The journey from knowledge, to agreement and appreciation, to practice and implementation in such a complex business context, requires a special type of support - one which can let learners apply these concepts themselves, and see them translate into results.

Simulation-based workshops bridge this gap - by going beyond plain knowledge transfer and letting participants experience the concept in action to realize its actionability. Retention (50% more), discussion and implementation are proven to be remarkably high for practice-based interventions. As Mayur Patni, Senior Vice President, HSBC,sums it up, it’s “A great and practical way to develop strategic thinking and to understand the dynamics of cross-functional decision making. A significant help to all senior leaders.”.

The journey from knowledge, to agreement and appreciation, to practice and implementation... requires a special type of support

How these workA pioneer in this segment is one of our programs, the Leadership Simulation WorkshopTM - where your middle management can go through iterative rounds of critical business decisions and, in 3 days, track business impact over three years’. They also see the effect of their decisions on other departments and the company’s performance. Supported by concept-reinforcing sessions and facilitated by leading industry experts, this program is a proven solution to this problem.

The participants appreciate the major drivers and objectives of their individual roles.

The simulation tracks an entire company, run by a team of up to 5 participants, across multiple quarters, with decisions and relationships across multiple departments, all of which are set in a complex macroeconomic environment. Each participant, who plays a specific functional role, is supported by experienced facilitators and sound business theories to imbibe multiple skills. For this particular skill of taking advantage of cross-functional interdependence, we do the following:

  1. Immersing each participant in a role. This is done with a simulation and a discussion so the participants appreciate the major drivers and objectives of their individual roles.
  2. Enabling them to experience conflicting objectives within functions in the same team.For example, in a simulated company - there is inherent conflict between the participant tasked with increasing market share, and another who has to increase bottom line revenue on sales. The decisions they take worsen these functional differences, leading to discussions and arguments that lead to A-ha! moments and learning.
  3. Working towards decisions supporting overall company objectives, where function-wise ambitions may take a backseat.
  4. Debriefing and reinforcing the concepts behind the events, with an expert facilitator and theory support.

This process, when done iteratively, has been immensely successful, with participants reporting significant improvements on the job and retention even a year after the intervention. 91% of our participants strongly recommend our workshops to their colleagues.In future posts, we talk about imparting other skills, like constant strategic alignment, linking decisions to impact, and acute financial awareness.

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