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Effective Communication Across Department Lines

Communicating is easy, right? The person doing the talking thinks it is! They state their message. Done! The problem is on the other side … how is that message interpreted?

This is especially true when communicating across departments. People with differences – in skill sets, backgrounds, education, and vocabulary – often have difficulty understanding each other.

The book, The Geek Gap, provides a great example. It illustrates the differences between techies (geeks as the authors say) and managers (suits to use the authors’ term).

Knowing how to close the gap is a critical skill for your company’s sake, but also for your own professional advantage. So how do you do it?

First, seek to understand.
We’re borrowing this term from Stephen Covey’s great book,  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Different departments tend to attract different personalities.
Think about your stereotypical geek. They like to solve problems, to fix things. They’re intelligent, but often introverted. They like to work on projects. They’re detail-oriented.

Now think about your stereotypical manager. They rely on their ability to influence people. They’re also intelligent, but more likely extroverted. They bring projects in for others to do. They’re bigg picture people.

Obviously, we are grossly oversimplifying here. And we’re purposefully stereotyping to make a point. We can all think of all kinds of people who don’t fit these traits.

But let’s continue stereotyping to keep making the point!

Geeks see technology as an end unto itself. Suits see technology as a tool to accomplish their goals. Geeks are the craftsmen, suits are managers.

To geeks, the goal is to build that perfect product or system that functions just the way it was designed. To management, the purpose of that perfect product or system is solely to meet larger business objectives.

Each side needs to learn to respect the point-of-view of the other. Suits respecting the craftsmanship and geeks seeing how their work contributes to the mission of the organization.

Second, come to value each other.

These diverse points-of-view strengthen the organization. If we’re both exactly alike, one of us isn’t needed!

The craftsman won’t quit until the end product is virtually perfect. There’s a pride of workmanship. The joy is in the creation. It’s about bringing an idea to life.

The manager won’t quit until the goal is met. He or she takes pride in getting things done efficiently and achieving results. The joy is in creating opportunities for people. It’s about moving the organization forward.

Geeks need the suits or they wouldn’t have any projects to work on. Suits need the geeks or the projects wouldn’t get done. It’s the two working together that creates something greater than they could do on their own.

Our bigg quote today is by George Bernard Shaw, who said:

“The single biggest problem in communication
is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Magical things happen when you communicate effectively. Learn the tricks of the trade so you can pull the rabbit out of the hat when you need it.   

Next time, we’ll answer a question from a listener who just lost her job unexpectedly. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!


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(Image by happyeclair, CC 2.0)