Continued…Cross-functional relationships: Start with one!

Cross functional relationships step by step guide

Ethan was ready to start making life better for his people by sorting out how their roles fit together across the organisation. I suggested he start with the role of Quality Engineer. He reached for the phone.

“Don’t do that” I jumped in. Ethan looked surprised. I continued; “it’s not up to your Quality Engineer to decide the work system, it’s up to you. We’re going to get her input for sure, but first, tell me what you are ultimately holding her accountable for”.

Ethan didn’t answer.

“We’ve found our starting point.”

“OK….” Ethan said. I needed to explain;

“Work occurs because someone gets someone else to start doing something, wait before doing something, or stop doing something.”

“Sounds reasonable”.

“And why do they do this…why does it happen?” I asked.

“Because…it’s their job?” Ethan ventured

“Yep. Or to get right to the bottom of it, they feel they are accountable for a particular thing happening or not happening, so to make sure they can do what they believe they are accountable for, they go and talk to someone else”.

“Well that’s obvious” said Ethan. “No point getting into all that across-department mess without a reason”.

“True. So a person needs to have a good reason to start with. Or as we put it, a clear accountability.”

“I’m with you”. Ethan was nodding along. “So I need to define exactly what I’m going to be holding my Quality Engineer accountable for as the starting point for a clear cross-functional relationship”.

“Yes!’. We were on our way now. “As a starting point.”

“No problem then. My Quality Engineer is accountable for engineering standards being met across the organisation”.

“Great. How will we know that’s happening?”

“All of our work passes inspection from government regulators and any other external audit functions we may choose to bring in”. This was familiar stuff for Ethan…he’d been in the role years ago.

He continued “On top of that….”

“Let’s hold there” I interrupted. “This isn’t easy at first, lets stick with the one accountability you mentioned for now, that all work passes inspections and audits”.

“But that’s not the whole role” Ethan protested.

“Each role relationship attaches to an accountability” I explained. By setting up a clear role relationship for each accountability, we can give your Quality Engineer the authority they need to get their work done.”

“Wish I’d had that years ago” Ethan smiled. “Might have saved a few arguments. Let’s do it then. What’s the role relationship?”.

“A couple more questions for you and we’ll be there”.

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