In my role as an operations consultant, one of my primary goals when on a client assignment is to ascertain the level of inter-departmental communication. I believe this is important as the level of service received by the paying customer is directly impacted by how well internal departments communicate with one another. How does one improve internal communication? Here a few items to consider implementing.
Map Your Internal Processes – I recommend this for the first step as it will clearly identify where inter-departmental hand-offs or dependencies occur. Departments can then clearly see how and when they impact one another. For instance – How does sales effect operations? How does operations affect customer service? How does customer service affect field services? How does field services affect customer service? One can then determine if departmental requirements are being met. This creates the need for cross functional dialogue which leads to the understanding of departmental perspectives and needs. Discussion around what is needed, what the fulfillment of that need should look like, when that need should be provided and how that need should be provided is a typical conversation that takes place after mapping processes.
Develop Internal Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the Hand-offs or Dependencies – I always suggest that key performance indicators are developed to measure how well departments are servicing one another via hand-offs and dependencies. The goal for each KPI should be set at 100%. For instance – if sales is responsible for gathering specific new customer or prospect information that is to be utilized by others within the company, how often is it actually being done? Or when customer service is tasked with advising customers of field services arrival time, is it in fact taking place? Now this particular recommendation requires an effort to record how well the hand-offs and dependency KPIs are being met, but it’s important to have real data to discuss during inter-departmental communications. KPI results must be discussed on a regular basis. This requirement promotes focused cross functional communication and fosters teamwork within the company. Remember, when internal needs are not fully met, some form of rework is required to properly meet the required standard. Rework is a costly, inefficient use of an employee’s time.
Put Your Internal Customer’s Shoes On – In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to improve internal communication is to spend time with your internal customer as they perform their particular duties. One can then see up close and personal the impact of one’s actions. I feel that this should be a mandatory exercise as it has a three-fold effect:
1. Cross functional communication is once again fostered.
2. Employees gain mutual respect for one another.
3. Employee morale improves. When one feels heard and understood and when one’s concerns are acted upon, one’s morale usually responds in a positive manner.
Want to improve internal communications? Try Mapping Your Internal Process to identify hand-offs and dependencies, Develop Key Performance Indicators for these hand-offs and dependencies and Put Your Internal Customer’s Shoes On. These threes items are sure to create a lot of internal communication!