Use a common language

In any organisation many different types of people have to work together — sales, marketing, finance, IT operations, HR — and they need to understand each other if they’re to work effectively together. A common language therefore is critical to effective cross-silo collaboration. But silos use different tools to communicate (e.g. business process diagrams in operations, excel spreadsheets in finance) which leads to translation errors and misalignment as these tools can seem like foreign languages to those from other silos.

This is why companies value people skilled in multiple areas who act as translators (the rare “IT person who gets the business side” or equally rare “finance person who gets innovation”). However, soldiers don’t need to know how to sail a boat to work with their colleagues from the Navy, nor does a sailor need to know how to operate a mortar to work with the Army. The military uses maps to collaborate and co-ordinate action between units.

The problem is the lack of a common language (like maps) with different silos trying to explain things in different languages creating confusion and resulting in unproductive inter-departmental meetings. But if you use a common language you can show others what you’re doing and explain why, in a way they’ll understand. Action will then be quicker and more effective.

This short article is part of a series exploring what ‘next generation’ organisations do that your organisation possibly doesn’t. There are 40 universally-useful habits and principles that highly-adaptive organisations (those with high AQ) employ. And there’s no reason why your organisation can’t adopt them too. In fact, you probably have to if you want to survive and thrive in a fast-changing world.

Links to other articles in this series are here:

  1. What do ‘next generation’ organisations do that you don’t?
  2. Focus on high situational awareness

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Marcus Guest

Marcus Guest

Govern the state by being straight-forward; wage war by being crafty. — Laozi