All’s Well that Begins Well

Interdepartmental communication

This note arrived from a young leader:

I’m spearheading some interdepartmental activities with the goal of more open communication and increased relationships between departments. Could you suggest some good resources? Would you consider posting  a question on your Facebook page?


You’re asking the wrong questions. Leaders often rush to fix painful symptoms before defining root problems.


The first question is, “What is the problem?” Craft an agreed upon definition of the problem. (Agreed upon by all stakeholders, not just upper management.)

Powerful solutions begin with powerful problems.
You can’t solve problems you can’t define.

Every solution to poorly defined problems is unsatisfactory.


  1. Why does interdepartmental communication (IC) matter? Think about mission, vision, and values.
  2. What’s frustrating about IC?
  3. What behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs interfere with IC?


The second question is, “What is the win?” Define success in behavioral and emotional terms.

  1. What does winning look and feel like?
  2. What improved results are we seeking?
  3. How will we act differently?
  4. How will success be measured?
  5. What does implementation look like?
  6. Who are the champions?
  7. How will we celebrate wins and correct failures?

Bonus: How will we stick with it?

You can’t implement solutions you can’t describe.


Engage as many as possible in the process of defining problems and describing wins.

Engage people if you expect people to feel engaged.

Design training activities that solve real problems and create tangible wins. Don’t waste your time throwing communication building activities against the wall to see what sticks.


I posted this question on Facebook: Leaders who cultivate interdepartmental communication _______.”

What suggestions would you make to this young leader?


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WBOLS 2013