Sometimes it feels like each department has a force field around it that other departments can’t cross. There are super secret meetings that happen behind closed doors, and the bigger the organization, the higher the walls are between teams. But, everyone is expected to be on the same page regarding business objectives and goals, right? How is that even possible if marketing is deciding to move to a new project management software without looping in IT? Or, when finance stops using a software because it’s too cumbersome and goes back to manually putting everything in spreadsheets (which other teams don’t have access to)? It might sound elementary, but collaboration is the key to success across an organization. Getting everyone on the same page, especially IT, means different teams now have the expertise and support that they didn’t have in the past.
About getting everyone on the same page…easier said than done, right? Bringing together multiple teams with multiple business philosophies may be your definition of a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. Holistically changing how each team works might cause an uproar, but making small changes and incorporating aspects from the Agile methodology might just be the game changer you need to begin a whole new world of collaboration within your organization. Many IT organizations are familiar with agile, so here are a few agile pieces that you can use to better see into business objectives and decisions across departmental boundaries:
What vs. Who/How
More often than not, the biggest culprits of closed door meetings are the executives. And, from these meetings come a list of tasks that need to be completed and goals that need to be exceeded immediately (okay, not immediately, but sometimes it feels that way). Agile helps you define how these tasks will move forward. The executive team determines the “what” — i.e., what is the project, what needs to be accomplished, and what the goal may be. But, that’s all they get. The teams that execute the tasks determine the “who” and the “how” for the project — who will be working on this and how are they going to accomplish it?
There’s a disconnect between what leadership wants and how the work will actually be done (and sometimes it feels like it can’t be done at all). By taking leadership out of the execution equation, teams and departments — the people who are going to actually be performing the work, are free to collaborate together to determine the best course of action to ensure that tasks are completed in the most efficient way possible. This will ensure that you set realistic expectations for a project.
Ditch the one hour status meetings, where conversations spiral out of control and everyone feels like that’s an hour of their day they’ll never get back. Unite project team members from multiple departments with quick stand up meetings. These should only last 15 minutes or less, and yes, everyone stands up the whole time. This meeting is strictly to discuss what was accomplished, what needs to be accomplished, and any roadblocks that are preventing on success. But, fun fact, the whole reason everyone is standing is because you want to avoid going into ridiculous amounts of detail, which will result in torturing everyone with long bouts of standing. Use these conversations as a catch up, then the stakeholders involved in the roadblocks can have a separate conversation on how to overcome them.
Less meetings + significantly less meeting time + collaboration across departments = a successful cross-departmental project.
Maybe you already use a project management software, but more than likely you have no idea what other teams or members of your own team are working. Agile has a large focus on accountability and transparency and that’s where sprint boards come in. A sprint is the time frame you set for a specific project. Are you going to complete this in two weeks or one month? Set your sprint time frame based on the estimates you create for the tasks that need to be done. Once your time frame is set, you delegate these tasks to the team members who then continuously update their progress through a sprint board. On your sprint board you have columns for “Backlog,” “In Progress,” “Blocked,” “Review,” and “Done.” Each row is a person’s name. As tasks move through the sprint board (digitally or on a physical whiteboard), the entire project team will be up to date on where items are at in the process.
These are just a few ideas to help you get started stepping out of the IT corner and on to the business strategies dance floor. Check back Thursday for step two in becoming an IT transformational hero!