02 Nov October 2009 | Building cross-divisional teams
The CEO of a multinational logistics organization identified cross-divisional teamwork as a core competency that was necessary to drive innovation and compete effectively in the rapidly changing logistics industry. The company had grown substantially through acquisitions in 2 of its 3 divisions and there was a need to integrate the acquisitions more quickly and to increase the collaboration across divisions to capture the obvious business synergies
Breaking down collaboration barriers
Each division was run as a separate economic entity and they had developed historically as independent units judged solely on financial performance. There was no incentive to collaborate and the word “silo” was often heard in discussions about the issues that the company faced.
Increasing competitiveness by capturing synergies across the company
Given the nature of the business, there were obvious operational synergies that could be achieved by combining technical platforms and other functions like purchasing, that could achieve savings by combining purchasing power. On the client side, each division approached the clients independently and too little client intelligence was shared across divisions. Hence, opportunities were lost that could have been easily captured.
The CEO had implemented a number of measures designed to bring the divisions closer together but was frustrated with the speed of the change. We proposed a 2 day intensive team building intervention for the top 500 managers and built the business case for this initiative. But we had one condition – the leadership at the top, the executive board, would be the first to take part in the team building. This was proposed due to the significant nature of the change required and the necessity in our view that the leaders must be the first to “walk the talk.”
The initiative was approved and several versions of the team building programme were customized to work with both intact teams and team leaders only. This allowed the organization to gain flexibility in progamme deployment and maximum impact of their investment. The programmes included skill building and practical application, where pragmatic business opportunities were addressed and follow-up commitments were agreed. By working from the top down a significant momentum was achieved in cross-divisional projects that had not been present prior.
The programme proved to successful against the original objectives: significant cross-divisional projects were started and maintained, senior leaders across divisions were engaged in finding solutions and supporting each other in ways that had not been happening regularly before, and the programme was in high demand by leaders at lower levels in the organisation. Ultimately, the key stakeholder in the process was the executive board and they continued to endorse the programme based upon the results delivered.