Tag Archives: cross-functional relationships

Not a Personality Conflict

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I am trying to sort out an argument between one of my foremen and our safety officer. They have two different personalities. My foreman is driven, goal oriented with a knack for getting things done, even if he has to bend a rule or two. My safety officer is conservative, a stickler for policy without much admiration for getting things done. On the face of it, their personalities are suited to the roles we have them in. Until they get in the same room, or in the same meeting, or worse case, on the same job-site. It’s like oil and water. We have done personality testing to confirm what I have described, but they fight like cats.

Response:
You don’t have a personality conflict, you have an accountability and authority issue. Both roles have goals and objectives. Neither role is the manager of the other, yet they both have to work together. You could stand in and referee every interaction (if you have that kind of time on your hands) or you can get clear about the accountability and authority of each.

The foreman, no doubt, has production goals to meet each week and month for the duration of the project. The foreman has the authority, as the manager of his crew, to assign tasks, monitor those tasks and adjust work assignments as time goes by.

The safety officer has goals and objectives related to the absence of workplace accidents, the adherence to safety policies and long term, a reduction in work-comp modification factors. The safety officer is in a classic auditor role, accountable for safety, and, also with special authority to delay or stop work in the face of an unsafe work practice.

The conflict you witness between your foreman and your safety officer has nothing to do with personality, everything to do with the lack of clarity on your part, as their manager, related to their accountability and authority. The safety officer has the authority because you define it. If you don’t define it, you will get behavior that looks like a personality conflict.

What If There is a Hiccup on the Project?

“I just want to be clear on this,” Roger said. “For my project, I initially asked for five hours of accounting support from your department. It turns out I needed ten hours, but you are giving me three hours from Nancy and three hours of data entry. That’s only six hours.”

Javier smiled again. “Yes, Nancy collected all the data about your project, transaction volume, your reporting requirements on the project, integration with our job-cost accounting system. With that information, I am comfortable that we can get your project accounting done in six hours a week, and Nancy will be there to make sure it is on time and accurate. You are getting a service from my department.”

“What if there is a hiccup on the project, something changes. Do I always have to go through you to communicate with Nancy? Seems like a lot of bureaucracy?” Roger challenged.

“No, you don’t have to go through me. My role is to provide you the service. I created a system for the accounting work to be done.

  • Nancy codes the transactions
  • Data entry enters the transactions into our accounting software
  • Nancy reconciles the data entry, proofs and publishes your report

So, the system is in place. Within that system, as the project leader, you have prescribing authority to directly assign tasks to both Nancy and data entry. You are right. There will be a hiccup, you can make adjustments directly. If you call a meeting with the two of them, they are obligated to attend the meeting and participate with their best efforts. As long as the system works for you, I don’t have to be involved.”

“So, what if your system breaks down? Who do I talk to, then?” Roger was still a bit defensive, not sure he trusted the system.

“Actually, I will know before you will. Nancy is acting as my monitor. If something changes, she will let me know and I will examine the system in case we need to make more adjustments.”
_________

Cross-functional working relationships

  • Service giving-Service getting – a project or department receives a service from another function or department
  • Prescribing authority – directly makes task assignments within the system
  • Monitor authority – monitors a defined system and reports anomalies to manager

Hot Spots

“So, I am the one to fix this problem with my silos,” Regina slowly realized. “And I can’t just leave my managers in the room to figure it out. Where do I start?”

“Putting your managers in the room is not a bad idea, but they will not be able to figure it out without you. Your role is the integrator,” I said.

“So, I get them in the room, then what?”

“Your managers are competent at work flow charting. Get them to step back and draw, not a system flow chart, but a functional flow chart.”

“Not sure I understand,” Regina quizzed.

“Your managers can flow chart the steps in a system. This exercise would be to flow chart all the systems in your business model sequence. Take this list, put a box around each element and flow them sideways on the white board.

  • Marketing
  • Business Development
  • Sales
  • Contracting
  • Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Operations
  • QA/QC
  • Warranty

In this exercise, we are not looking for the problems inside each function, we are looking for the problems that exist as one function hands off work to the next. We are looking for transition issues, capacity issues, clarity, timing, dead space, delay, undiscovered defects, inspection points.”

“How will we find those?” Regina asked.

“This is a hot spot exercise, just look for the pain. Your managers may not be able to fix the issues, but they know exactly where they are.”

Cross Functional Working Relationship – Advisor

Advisor

“And this advisor relationship?” Catherine asked.

Javier stopped, looked first at Catherine and then at Jim. “That’s easy,” he concluded. “Jim is your advisor. He doesn’t make task assignments. He doesn’t audit or monitor, but when asked, he gives you his best judgment, advice and counsel.”

Cross Functional Working Relationships

Excerpt from Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, soon to be released in softcover and for Kindle.

Cross Functional Working Relationship – Collateral

Collateral

“And, what is this collateral relationship?” Catherine asked.

Javier nodded. “It’s like a coordinating relationship, but typically between project team members. They are required to cooperate, support and help each other. Where they have a priority conflict, they have to decide how their manager would handle the priority. If they can’t figure it out, they have to ask their manager. In some cases, the manager has to step in, but if the team members can make the appropriate judgment, it speeds things along.”

Cross Functional Working Relationships

Excerpt from Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, soon to be released in softcover and for Kindle.

Cross Functional Working Relationship – Coordinating

Coordinating

“And what’s this between marketing and operations?” Catherine asked.

“The timing is tricky,” Javier explained. “We need to close a gate and shut down operations, but we also need to maintain confidence from our customer base. We need to communicate that we know what we are doing, and that we stand behind our commitments. At the end of the day, each ticket we issue is a contract for carriage, and we have to make that commitment good. Flight operations can decide what to do, but we have to coordinate with marketing to make sure we explain things accurately and timely to the public.” Javier stopped to make sure his explanation was understood.

“So, I got my flight operations manager and my marketing manager together to explain their accountability,” Javier nodded. “Funny, they both complained that they could not be accountable because they had to depend on the other manager to execute. I agreed that, yes, they had to depend on each other to effectively execute. If either called a coordinating meeting, the other person was required to attend and actively participate. Neither was each other’s manager, but, both required to be responsive to each other.”

Cross Functional Working Relationships

Excerpt from Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, soon to be released in softcover and for Kindle.

Cross Functional Working Relationship – Monitor

Monitor

“And for some cases, I don’t think we need a full blown auditor,” Javier explained, “but we may need someone to monitor the way we do something. The monitor and the auditor are looking for the same things, but the monitor does not have the authority to delay or stop the activity, only the accountability to report to someone who does have that authority. With this distinction, I can specifically assign the authority that is appropriate. Everyone understands, so no one gets bent out of shape.”

Cross Functional Working Relationships

Excerpt from Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, soon to be released in softcover and for Kindle.

Cross Functional Working Relationship – Auditor

Auditor

“We have some contractual commitments still in force,” Javier explained. “While we may renegotiate some of these obligations, until then, we have to abide by the contract. In some cases, I enlisted people to review the way we shut down some of the routes and gates. If we are about to do something that will put us in default, they have the authority to delay or stop what we are doing?”

“So, are they prescribing things for people to do, as a project leader?” Catherine asked.

“No,” Javier replied. “They are there to observe and review, but they have the specific authority to delay or stop anything that jeopardizes the project.” Javier thought for a moment. “An auditor is like a safety director. The safety director doesn’t tell people what to do, or give people task assignments. But, if someone is engaged in an unsafe work practice, the safety director has the authority to delay or stop the unsafe work practice, even though they are not anyone’s manager.”

“Okay, I get it,” Catherine agreed.

Excerpt from Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, soon to be released in softcover and for Kindle.

Authority Inside a Project Team

Service Getting (Giving)

“How did you explain it to the team?” Catherine asked.

“As I approached each department manager, I told them I was working on a project, Project X, where I needed specialized resources from other departments. I explained what I needed, how much I needed and asked for their recommendation.

“For the project accounting, I asked our CFO for a controller level person with ten hours a week to track the direct and indirect costs for the project. The CFO suggested this would be a subsidiary ledger inside our accounting system anyway, and she assigned someone to the project.

“That’s the way it went with the other five departments working on the project.” Javier stopped because he knew that Catherine would have a question.

Is it a Full Time Managerial Relationship or Part Time Cross Functional?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from last Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. So far, we’ve looked at three questions.

Today, the last question.

  • Is the work assigned to the Marketing Services role by the Product Manager full time or part time, and is the duration of that work forever, or in defined projects that start and stop?

If the work is only part time or the work is in defined projects that start and stop, then the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role is a classic cross-functional (service getting) relationship.

If the work assigned by the Product Manager to the Marketing Services role is full time, then it might be more appropriate for the relationship to be a managerial relationship. The Marketing Manager would then likely be in a cross-functional (advisor) relationship to the Product Manager.

So, the question posed last Tuesday sounded simple, but there are a number of questions to consider when designing the managerial and cross-functional relationships in your company.