Finding common ground is the key to managing the complicated relationship between these two very different departments.
Montagues vs. Capulets. Hatfields vs. McCoys. Famous feuds have existed as long as time itself, but few are more significant in the business world than the classic battle between Sales vs. Operations. This struggle exists in every industry, and left unchecked, it can seriously impact productivity. So how can you help these two teams finally learn to get along?
First, it’s crucial to understand what the two sides are fighting over. Pain points often exist when Operations believes Sales has oversold, or when Sales believes Operations has (or will have) underdelivered. It’s almost as though the Sales team is collectively saying, “Why can’t you deliver what we’re selling?” and the Operations team is saying, “Why are you selling what’s impossible for us to deliver?”
So how can you transform that struggle into a symphony? While some may believe it all comes down to communication, and that is an important element, there is one more important focus: culture.
Here’s how the best organizations can help foster a culture of cooperation and understanding:
1. Encourage Teams to ask for Help
Capable teams know when they need help, and they’re smart enough to ask for it. While it’s well-known that team members outgrow positions or companies once their skills develop to a certain level, few organizations (and people) are willing to admit that the opposite is also true. Some positions and companies can actually outgrow the people in them, and a little humility goes a long way.
A team member (or leader!) should know when to ask for help – and have the courage to admit to not knowing everything. This help may include taking a course, getting some outside training or employing an organizational coach. It’s impossible for any organization to break through the next growth or revenue milestone if team members aren’t empowered to seek out professional growth.
2. Celebrate Everyone's Unique Success
Many sales people are driven by crushing numbers and celebrating sales successes, so a sales leader may think that sharing sales numbers with everyone in the organization is the key to motivation. But sometimes being too transparent can actually be demotivating to Operations, who may feel like sales leaders are never satisfied. It’s important to remember that different people have different motivations.
While it is helpful to deliver a “State of the Union” in regards to sales figures, it’s equally important to celebrate successes both on and off the spreadsheet. The sales team often receives most of the spotlight, but without a successful Operations department, there wouldn’t be anything to sell. Effective status updates should include a mixture of sales and delivery celebrations, goal setting and improvement discussions. Sharing weekly departmental highlights, such as positive guest feedback, a 100 percent departmental attendance rate and a sales goal exceeded are all excellent achievements to recognize.
3. Provide a Place for Honest Feedback
Communication is still a critical component of a strong culture, and you definitely need regular meetings between Sales and Operations to share successes, unique upcoming group needs and process improvements. Encourage team members to put emotions aside and get to the heart of issues so that they can be identified, discussed and solved. Talking about the same problem over and over without making a plan for a realistic resolution won’t solve anything. Try asking questions and try to understand where both sides are coming from. If you’re new to this, anonymous resolutions via surveys or even a simple suggestion box can work better than asking during the meeting, where one team may feel too intimidated to be honest. Compile a list of common issues and begin by addressing them one by one.
4. Respect Everyone's Time
The most successful teams know to use their time together wisely. Have you ever sat through an interdepartmental meeting and thought, “Well, that was a complete waste of my time. I only needed to be there for the first five minutes”? It’s happened to everyone.
While your weekly events meetings need to have good interdepartmental communication, make sure that topics discussed with the group at large are relevant for everyone and save more isolated issues for smaller meetings. More meetings does not equate to more communication, and it can often have the opposite effect. Be deliberate and clear about expectations for each interdepartmental meeting and be sure to reassess the validity of each on an ongoing basis.
5. Define a Common Goal
It seems simple, but sometimes it’s worth saying it plainly. Ask your team members to consider what the overarching company goal is and how their job directly impacts that objective. For example, if the company goal is to help families have fun, each team member will play a specific part in making that happen. For example, the maintenance crew keeps the attractions safe and in working order so that guests have the best time possible. Making specific connections for each department can make a huge difference in how people view themselves, other departments, and the company as a whole.
6. Cultivate a Spirit of Good Will
When you notice your team beginning with accusatory statements such as, “Sales always …” or “Operations never …” remind them that you’re all working toward the same common goal. Remind everyone that coworkers in other departments are equally committed to success, and so it should be assumed that decisions were made with the best of intentions.
Then take time to learn more about the action in question and determine if an error was made and what can be learned from the situation for the future. Keeping an open mind helps you to see all sides of the story, and you can often find a new way to solve problems you hadn’t considered before. Remembering that coworkers are operating in different job functions and with different motivations, but that they are all equally invested in the success of the company, can help teams get along better and find common ground.
How do you manage the conflict between departments? Is your culture up to the challenge? Share your best practices in the comments or connect with us on Twitter.