At Rhythm Systems, we specialize in helping mid-market companies grow with purpose. However, our team is still relatively small. We’re right around twenty people, and we have four departments - a Sales & Marketing Team, a Consulting & Client Services Team, an R&D Team, and a Finance “Team.” I say “team” because we have one person who handles all of our payroll, budgeting, AP, AR, financial modeling - everything. (On a side note, she also does our employee benefits, and she only works part time. She’s pretty amazing.)
One of the aspects of my job here that I love is working on improving our internal processes. We have a team that meets weekly called CANI - Continuous And Never-ending Improvement. Usually, our team focuses our energy on projects for our own department, the Consulting & Client Services Team. We work on updating tools and slides, new internal projects like refining the criteria for our Client Health Index KPI, and exploring how we can improve our team’s use of internal systems like CRM and file sharing platforms. But, we had some additional bandwidth this quarter, and we decided to invite Melissa, our “Finance Team,” to join us.
Wow. We had no idea what she was doing - how much extra work the processes in other departments were creating for her. Even simple things that seem like an easy fix, such as including a place for new clients to add a billing address when they give their credit card information, would save her significant time in trying to hunt down this information after the fact. The more she talked, the more our heads were spinning with ideas of how we might be able to integrate her finance system with our CRM to save time, or switch to a different credit card processing system that would allow her to send a customized receipt automatically to clients. But, I kept thinking, “If only we knew what Melissa was doing - we could have helped her sooner, and saved her precious time!” I can’t imagine how productive she’d be if she didn’t have these thorns in her side.
I bring this up because even in our relatively small company of A Players, where we are like a family and do our best to help each other and genuinely desire to work well together and have a collaborative workplace, we’re still at risk of developing “departmental team silos.” If we communicated better and collaborated more cross-functionally when we designed our contract process for new clients or set up our new CRM, we could have prevented some of the pain in Melissa’s daily work.
If you had asked me on Monday if we had silos, I would have thought, “No way! Not our company! We work really well together.” But, today, I can see some walls around Finance. Nobody goes to work and wants to build silos. But, what I’m learning is that it happens to everyone, to some degree or another. Patrick recently said that it isn’t a question of “if” you’ll have silos, it is more like, “to what degree” do you have departmental silos - the silent killer?
Think about your company. Really, think about each department. Are you sharing information and best practices? Do you understand how other departments do their work, what systems they use, and how your work impacts theirs? Do you have a forum to share questions, concerns, annoyances? Do you have a process to work collaboratively and a way to plan for shared resources?
For us, setting up a think rhythm to work cross-functionally has really helped us work on taking down the walls between departments. Although, I know all companies are different, and our small team has different challenges than our larger, more complex clients’ teams, a think rhythm, like our CANI, might just work for you, too.
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