How does an organization avoid the problems caused by departmental “silos”? Why is there so much miscommunication within most organizations? When another department fails to deliver what can I do? Working across the organization is often like crossing an active battlefield. There are missiles flying, proverbial hand grenades, and of courses the occasional landmine. Everyone is competing for recognition, status, or possibly just to get their project completed, often with disregard for the projects of others. Few companies have mastered the concept of collaboration across the whole of the organization and execution comes to a near standstill. The reason for this is most likely that no true management system exists and certainly not one that prescribes the process for working across the organization.
While we already established under the VARI principle that only a manager can assign tasks to a direct report, we need to establish how others in non-managerial role relationships will work together. What happens when someone in the Customer Service Department asks someone in the Finance Department for a spending report, or requests help understanding the cost impacts of a potential new program? How does the Quality Department work with Manufacturing to get a customer complaint investigated, or ensure that regulatory requirements are being met? How does the Finance Department gather information and projections to consolidate next year’s budget, or follow-through on the CEO’s assignment to report on cost reduction activities? What happens when other departments say they are too busy to complete your request, or can’t get to it until next year? How does Manufacturing ensure that Maintenance is working on the highest priority first? All these are everyday occurrences across organizations and they often are left as undefined processes which employees have to invent through the strength of their relationship building and/or negotiation skills.
Not too many years ago, I was an expert at what I now call “Cowboy Management”. I got things done, even when it required working across the organization. If my southern gentleman’s charm and cold logic did not work, I used anger and intimidation tactics. I have been known to write memos, copying select big names, explaining how my unenlightened colleague was not only disrupting my project but was hindering progress toward the companies mission. Sadly such tactics worked in the moment but left broken relationships and loss of trust which my manager was often required to address. Cowboys can shoot their way through many situations but it attracts attention and causes people to avoid a productive working relationship. Sooner or later it catches up with them. I’m glad I laid down my guns and learned how to create a process for working with others built on trust, commitment, and collaboration.
The process for working across the organization begins with the concept of Task Initiating Role Responsibilities, or TIRR’s. Someone besides the employee’s manager can initiate a task but the employee’s manager is still accountable for the results. These are the 7 (seven) specific authorities which non-managers can use to initiate tasks and get things done across the organization. The seven TIRR’s are prescribe, audit, coordinate, monitor, service getting, advisory, and collateral. One or more of these authorities are used when the initiator’s manager and the responder’s managers have authorized them to be used. Often this authorization is part of the management system and is stated in role descriptions. However it is best that managers regularly review touch points across the organizations value chain and specify when and how TIRR’s will be used. A helpful chart of the TIRR’s are shown below.
Adding a personal note; if you are not currently experiencing the freedom of high accountability, you may have tendency to use a stronger TIRR than is needed. I recommend the use of a consultant to implement TIRR’s while doing an in-depth review of your work processes and value chain. You will receive permanent benefits in sustained execution as you make a major step toword a high performance organization.