A tale of two teams
And why they just couldn't collaborate
I once worked with two teams who just couldn’t collaborate.
Everyone was capable and committed. Nobody was aggressive or unreasonable. But joint projects were peppered with frustrations. Discussions went round and round in circles and nothing ever seemed to move forward.
One was a marketing team and the other was sales. They had to work closely together, particularly on large campaigns, but things just couldn’t come together. At this time, the issue was Christmas1, the most profitable time of year. The two had to agree on the messaging and, well, they just couldn’t.
Everyone was fed up. They knew time was being wasted and things delivered that weren’t as good as they could be. But no one seemed to know how to improve things, especially when the other team was being so unreasonable.
As an outsider, it was clear to me what the issue was. Both teams were working to different objectives.
Sometimes teams not working well together has nothing to do with how ‘nice’ everyone is, or the number of meetings you have, or the quality of communication. It’s simply that they can’t collaborate, because they are not trying to solve the same problem.
In the company above, the marketing team were focused on brand awareness. Their key objective was to make sure as many people as possible knew about the product and understood its values. They wanted to build long-term relationships with customers.
In contrast, the sales team were focused on income generated by people making the decision to buy. And that was driven by product quality and price point.
The two teams were trying to achieve two different things so collaboration became impossible.
This is why shared purpose is at the heart of good collaboration.
Sometimes what’s needed is the ability to step back and ask “what are we trying to do here?”
For these two teams, we sat down and talked about what a successful campaign would look like. And from that we developed some shared objectives which were used to steer decision making.
The teams took the time to understand each other’s priorities and pressures. They started sharing ideas rather than shutting them down. In the end, it was the most successful Christmas they’d had so far.
To work together well, individuals and teams need to work towards the same ultimate goal, whether that’s winning the Premier League or becoming the number one brand of baked beans.
Thanks for reading Human to Human! Subscribe for free if you haven’t already - then you’ll get new posts straight to your inbox.
I apologise for mentioning Christmas in September. Although anyone who works in Marketing or Sales will probably have been talking about it since March.