Teamwork in Business "overhead" departments.


Recently, teamwork spanning across departments has been at the forefront as a result of a project that has ramifications across all of the "Shared Services" departments.  By shared services, we are talking about your "overhead" departments in most mainstream business.  Departments such as Finance, Legal, IT, Marketing, Business Development, Admin Services.  Traditionally unless in a specific industry most of these departments are not revenue generating departments but considered an overhead expense of doing  business.  What each of these departments can do in order to curb spending is a whole other discussion, however its' important to note that just because they are overhead, that they should all be able to justify their value and bring cost consciousness to their decisions. Depending on the size of the business, the teamwork could vary at different levels in the organizational chart however there is a certain amount of teamwork that needs to exist through these departments.  As an example, the IT department couldn't institute any new policies without having the language cleared through Legal, and replaced in corporate documentation by HR.  A basic situation such as this also can illustrate where issues regarding teamwork could arise.  Legal and HR may not see the value in the updated policy, nor want to have to add the task to their workload.  Having a leader that can illustrate the value of breaking down the department "silo" mentality is instrumental in providing a higher level, consistent and efficient process for the end client.  In this case as an overhead department the end client is the employees of the company.  It is often lost on the Shared Service departments that the revenue generating employees are their client, many times they are thought of as peers.  Its important to keep the mindset, if our clients were external, would we treat them this way or would we provide a different effort?

The goal is to have the overhead departments working in unison, by being productive with streamlined efficiency in order to support the line of business activities of the company.  Keeping in mind, that without the LOB Employees, there is no business for the overhead departments to support.  In that case the way the operations should flow is all of the staff between departments to realize they are a team.  An example process that could illustrate how that could work, is the intake of a new employee.  In theory one of the LOB departments puts in the approval for a new hire to the HR Department.  It would then be up to HR to notify the other departments on the needs of the impending new hire.  Example being, IT for user setup and equipment, Finance Department for Payroll and Expenses, Marketing for Business cards.  If that process isn't instituted or followed through correctly by the "Team" it gives a poor impression on to the new hire on their first day about the company, as well as hurts overall productivity an efficiency.

To usher in teamwork there are a few things that can help:

  • Communication:  It is imperative that all these different departments are communicating regularly.   There are always things that could arise from discussion that someone from a neighboring department maybe able to help with.  When those situations arise you can assign a "team" to a project vs. an individual.
  • Rewards: In some cases you could provide a reward for teamwork.
  • Accountability:  Everyone should be held accountable for their role, and\or projects.  That also means that regardless of who, both the positive and negative reinforcements should be applied.
  • Availability:  Management should be available to communicate any "direction" or conflict resolutions that may arise.

Lastly, its crucial to know that it teamwork can't always be built over night and requires time.  Be patient and constantly look at the members of the team in order make sure their needs are being made.