EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 25 Aug 2010
Link: http://empoweringabc.com/2010/08/25/a-is-for-alignment/

EmpoweringABC.com
The Building Blocks of Business and Personal Success

Posted on: 25 Aug 2010

A is for Alignment – Marketing and IT

It’s like…
   Oil and Water
   Night and Day
   Politics and Religion
   Marketing and IT

Is it possible to align your Marketing and IT departments? Or for that matter, any groups within your organization that just don’t mix? Is it possible to get them working together smoothly for the betterment of the company?

Love to hate relationship

Marketing vs. IT - Gollum and human batteries
People love to hate Marketing.

The image of Marketing tends to be that of sleazy, ignorant, flirtatious, unscrupulous people thinking up all sorts of empty promises and ways to open people’s wallets. Think of the stereotypical used car salesman. Give him a few more years and you can just see him morphing into a disgusting creature like Tolkien’s Gollum.

People love to poke fun at IT geeks.

Often portrayed as either skinny or fat (rarely just “normal”), unkempt, and lacking social skills, IT professionals are so in love with their metal boxes and flashing lights that they have lost touch with reality and would probably enjoy being turned into batteries to power their machines, a la the Matrix.

Clearing the air

Okay. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at why Marketing and IT are always at each other’s throats.

Marketing people and IT people are fundamentally different in the way they look at the world.

Marketing

People
Grand ideas
Excitement
Possibilities

IT

Machines
Stability
Problem solving
Limitations

Add budgetary constraints on either or both of these groups, plus the fact that they usually work in silos that are completely separated from each other, and it’s no wonder there are clashes.

Kiss and make up

So how do you get these two equally important groups to play nice together?

Communication.

I have one foot firmly planted in each camp and have worked in large organizations where I have experienced the tension firsthand. Each group often pokes fun at the other (Dilbert comic strips anyone?) and while a little teasing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the real problem is that there are almost never attempts at understanding… We are usually stuck with contempt, and that doesn’t help anyone.

Acceptance of the value and necessity of each function can only come through communication, and eventually mutual respect.

Here are some ideas for alignment — for bridging the gap between your Marketing and IT departments (or any other departments that need to work together):

1. Personality assessment activities

DISC assessments and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) are character assessment activities commonly used by companies. I’ve participated in a few and, on a personal level, it is just interesting to learn the results.

But companies conduct these assessment tests with the goal of teambuilding, improved efficiency, and reducing interpersonal problems among employees — are they getting these benefits?

One of the problems I see is that the tests are often paid for by a single sponsoring business unit (silo) and coordinated through HR. They tend to be intra-divisional rather than inter-divisional.

Because of this, often times participants in these activities already know most of the other people in the room and the results may simply serve to re-affirm previously held perceptions.

How about DISC or MBTI sessions across divisions? In particular, between divisions that historically don’t get along — like Marketing and IT? That is where the real team building benefits can be reaped. Align these groups and you supercharge your company.

2. Work and Play

While we’re at it, why not mix in more team building activities across divisions?

One large company I worked at had a great team building program based around a board game. The game was created in-house by young employees, and designed to teach people about the company, its history, and different aspects of its business — which many people didn’t really know… Most people were primarily concerned with their own job function and didn’t know much about the business or the company as a whole.

The game sessions were also inter-divisional. Groups were intentionally made up of people from different departments who usually didn’t have any opportunity to interact. The sessions were led by facilitators to help and encourage discussions, and teams needed to work together to get to the goal.

It was a huge success. People loved the game and it provided real and tangible benefits.

And get this — Partcipants often volunteered to come back as facilitators!

3. Connect minds through stomachs

Businesses need to get their Marketing and IT departments talking to each other on an equal footing.

Since inter-departmental meetings can be tense and uncomfortable, why not conduct them in intentionally informal settings like at a restaurant? (just make sure there aren’t a lot of sharp objects lying around)

Or if you can’t go outside, how about setting up something informal inside? Again food can help to loosen up the atmosphere, but just make sure it’s food you can eat and still have people talk and participate at the same time.

Make sure that there is a clear agenda for the meeting, and perhaps even bring in a 3rd party from another division to facilitate the meeting or brainstorming session. This would help to avoid “leader bias”, where the discussion leader from one camp unknowingly stiffles contrarian viewpoints and guides outcomes toward his or her own objectives or beliefs.

The goal should be building mutual understanding between these two divisions so feuding can stop, and progress can take off.

Any success stories on aligning your Marketing and IT departments, or any other groups that traditionally don’t get along? Please share them!
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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 12:06 pm and is filed under Business, English. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.