It's easy to communicate vertically...everyone has a similar function, you spend most of your time with this group of people, you see the world through the same lens, you are all working toward the same goals, and you all get rewarded in a similar manner. For most of the people in this vertical alignment, this is the function of business in which you have spent most of your working life - and in which you have found your greatest success. It's warm and cozy in the silo...who wants to ever leave it? And yet, in order to get things done and make the best decisions for the organization, people need to get out of the vertical and move into what i call HORIZONTAL COMMUNICATION - talking across the verticals and learning to communicate with the "others."
We have already established why horizontal communication is do difficult. The need to do so has been characterized in many books, articles, blogs, and podcasts having to do with effective and efficient practices in organizations. So what can be done about it? Here are a few thoughts on how to get people talking horizontally:
- create a different organizational chart - remove the boxes and lines and show how different functions of the organization need to connect with one another
- bring people from different functions into the same room and force them to talk together (it may help if you force them to sit next to people outside of their areas). And then get them talking about important things with each other
- find a way to reiterate the importance of this over and over and over...and over. People will naturally fall back into vertical conversations when they are not reminded about it over and over and over...and over.
- name horizontal conversations as one of your organization's core values - and then find ways to reward people who do it really well.
- keep asking the question, "who else needs to be in this conversation before a decision is made?" and then get them into the room as quickly as possible
- when people forget to have the horizontal conversation, go and see then right away and ask them why that happened...and then get them to agree to have the horizontal conversation as soon as possible
- hold multiple horizontal conversations yourself...and let it be known that this is how you operate.
- hire people to work in areas different from what they may have been grown up in...not only does it expose them to new functions of the organization; it also forces them to ask questions because they will not have all the answers (not to mention this is a great way to develop future leaders)
I am sure there are many more ways to create a culture of talking horizontally. It is a process - and it is worth it!