how to keep other teams from being your team’s roadblock

If your projects depend in part on working with teams outside your own, those teams might not always be on the same page as you regarding priorities — and sometimes they can become a roadblock to your team’s progress. How can you address that without causing additional friction?

You can read my answer to this question at Intuit Quickbase’s Fast Track blog today. Plus, three other careers experts are answering this question there too. Head on over there for answers

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl*

    I’d add some more:
    * Be clear about deadlines. “COB Tuesday” could mean 5:00 Tuesday to some, or 11:59:59 to others.
    * Let them know the format you need. If you can provide a sample of the format it helps
    * As Alison stated, always let the other team know how their work plays into the whole.
    * Never promise a specific date. Instead promise “two weeks after I receive input X”. If they come back with a specific date, repeat “No, two weeks after X”. Make sure all your schedules show dependencies and critical paths.
    * Work with the team lead to get what you need. Ask what that team needs from you.
    * Always let your higher ups know “Team lead and I area working on it”. Do this in Team leads hearing. Develop a partnership of success.
    * Do inquiries via email so you have a written record of promises / statuses.
    * Keep data out in a common storage area where everyone (including the boss) can access the info and get status.
    * Try to work a tag-up into the weekly/daily rhythm. This can be as quick as a 1 minute line “Today’s goal is…”

    1. Bea W*

      I work late so when some tells me COB or “end of day” and then gets all het up when they don’t get something by 1 pm I get really really annoyed. If you want it earlier than 5 pm (more likely 6…or if you said “end of day”, before I go to bed which could be midnight or 1 AM), that needs to be stated explicitly. It’s not my job to remember your working hours.

  2. Christine*

    I would add…
    *Understand the whole functions of the teams you depend on for support, and keep your finger on the pulse of what is going on in their worlds, at least at a high level!
    *Be realistic about where your project lies on their priority list, and what steps you can take to simplify the tasks you need them to do, if there’s a big priority gap. Can you summarize information to make it easier for them to review, for example?
    *Where possible, align the turnaround times you’re asking for with the priority level on their side. Don’t be the person always asking for quick turnaround times on their low priorities/your high priorities when you could easily be planning differently to allow them more time.
    *Build goodwill with them in advance, so you have something to draw on in a pinch, when you’ve got nothing else to work with. Do more than the bare minimum for them, if you’re asking them to do it for you. This can be as simple as answering questions promptly, being warm and friendly, and being willing to explain your team’s constraints and processes as it relates to them, to make it easier for them to work with you!

  3. Lora*

    Curious as to what you’d recommend when this doesn’t work? I’ve seen many, many toxic workplaces where nobody EVER gives a single eff about another team, and the senior management whose job it is to make sure the teams are getting things done simply bicker with each other in meetings and come up with excuses for why it somehow isn’t their fault. Naturally, this puts the company in a vulnerable position as a whole, because whatever assets it might have become targets for a takeover/buy-out: it suddenly looks to a Board that they need to clean house. CEO gets golden parachute and doesn’t have a care in the world, but everybody else gets a pink slip. The notion that this is a natural consequence of not working together like grownups seems to be very novel and offbeat to aforementioned teams and managers, and just telling them “do this or we’re all fired” doesn’t seem to work very well.

    One option I like a lot, which has worked well for me in the past, is to organize teams so that one team follows their project from beginning to end. Instead of having a Department of Whatsits, Department of Gadgets and a Department of Thingamabobs all working on different projects and having to work together periodically with competing priorities, simply make a team consisting of a Whatsit expert, a Gadget expert and a Thingamabob expert and tell them, “you’re on Project XYZ for the next 3 months. Here are your deliverables, here is your timeline. Get ‘er done.” This does mean that you can’t be wishy-washy in your prioritizing as a senior manager–something comes up and you’d like to move your Widget expert onto a different thing? Too bad. You have to commit to a schedule and say No to requests and/or orders which do not support that schedule, or demand additional resources to support emergencies.

    Eliminates the problem of silos, competing priorities and the plague of getting 50 projects half-finished yet nothing actually accomplished, and there is minimal “it fell through the cracks”.

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