Energy running vertically within a matrixed organization is of little benefit to customers. Value is only created for the market when energy flows horizontally across the enterprise.

Despite knowing this, most organizations struggle to break the cross-functional barriers that block value creation. From 30+ years of experience we’ve discovered three steps that are essential to increasing the horizontal value delivered to the market:

  • Create deep Alignment. Many organizations operate with shallow alignment: They align team members to shared objectives and clarify ways of working (i.e. roles and responsibilities). Then they scratch their heads wondering why stakeholders aren’t working together effectively.

    Intellectual alignment is shallow. Human bonds are deep.

    Deep alignment occurs when cross-functional team members are also aligned to a human imperative. When colleagues integrate actions that bring out the best in others while they work, higher performance follows.

    P.S. Don’t buy the lie that team member must be in-person for deep alignment to occur.
  • Model true Collaboration. The reason many organizations struggle to collaborate cross-functionally is because they have failed to correctly define collaboration. As a result, employees are trying to collaborate too frequently – and are ineffective when they do.

    Collaboration is the act of co-creating new knowledge. It’s more than brainstorming; it involves vigorous debate, data, and critical thinking – together.

    Cooperation or coordination are both essential, but they are not to be confused with collaboration. When cross-functional colleagues get this right, they solve big problems faster.

  • Grant Trust. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so heartbreaking: The number of employees who proclaim “We don’t trust them – so we can’t work with them” is significant. And of course, trust is key ingredient in any relationship.

    When you peel back the layers, however, and ask: What do you need to create greater trust, the answer is often: more time together. And therein lies the flaw: No one has “more time” to connect with others.

    This is why we see big things happen when team members decide to grant trust to one another. Granting trust means “starting over” and remembering that they have the same logo on their shirt. It means assuming positive intent in others or demonstrating empathy or caring about your cross-functional colleague even if they don’t care for you.

    Granting trust is not for everyone. (Nor is being a part of a high-performing cross-functional team.) Those who do this begin again from a place of trust, model self-confidence and operate with emotional intelligence.

When you put alignment, collaboration, and trust together, it spells A.C.T. Which is why we named our popular program A.C.T. in Partnership. Because creating the right value at the right time and the right price for customers isn’t done in a vertical silo. It requires cross-functional colleagues acting in partnership.



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