“What’s wrong with my org chart?” Ron wanted to know.
“You tell me,” I said. “An org chart is just a piece of paper with a picture of the way you think.”
“What do you mean?”
“Organizational structure is simply the way we define the working relationships between people. Org structure is a mental construct, your mental picture of the way people ought to get on together at work. You drew the picture. What did you have in mind? You tell me where the friction is?”
“Okay,” Ron started. “Just this morning, the sales manager called a meeting with the marketing manager to talk about their expenses to date related to the budget each submitted at the end of last year.”
“And, the marketing manager said it wasn’t the sales manager’s business to see how marketing dollars are spent. She tactfully refused to attend the meeting. She said the sales manager was NOT her manager and declined to go.”
“What was your response?” I asked.
“I had to admit, the marketing manager has a point. The sales manager is not her manager. When she took the position, we were very clear that it was her department. She has very clear objectives and unless she is off track, we expect her to run things without interference. But, still, declining to go to the meeting seemed a little insensitive.”
“So, when you think about their working relationship, how do you see it? Clearly, neither is each other’s manager.” I said.
“Well, they seem to get along fine, at least until this meeting thing,” Ron shook his head.
“Let me be more specific in my question,” I replied. “How do you see these two questions? –
- In their working relationship, what is the accountability for each of them?
- In their working relationship, what is their authority?
“Well, when you put it that way, marketing should coordinate with sales, and sales should coordinate with marketing. We have significant trades shows we attend that eat up a lot of marketing budget. Our trade show booth is generally staffed with people from the sales department. So, the two departments need to coordinate together. The company has a high vested interest in their coordination.”
“And, in their working relationship, what is their authority to make what decisions?”
“Each department has a department budget, submitted each year and approved by their manager?”
“Same manager, between the two of them?”
“Yes, our VP of business development is the manager of both,” Ron clarified.
“How clearly have you spelled out their accountability and authority in the work they do together? You just explained it to me, how well have you explained it to them?”
“But, they are supposed to work together, shouldn’t they be able to figure it out?” Ron asked.
“Apparently not. You think you understand their working relationship, in fact, on your org chart, you drew a dotted line. So, the situation looks like insensitivity, when the friction is because you failed to define the accountability and the authority in that dotted line. You put the dotted line there for a reason, but failed to define it.”