Same Team

9 Tips for Breaking Down Interdepartmental Barriers

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

David BurneyDavid Burney is a graduate of JBU’s master's degree in higher education and serves as the associate director of financial aid at John Brown University. With over eight years of experience in higher education, Burney has witnessed the joys and challenges of working at a university.

One obstacle universities face is known as “interdepartmental silos.” A department becomes a silo when it doesn’t collaborate with other departments within the university. Silos create a wealth of problems, promoting rivalry and tension among departments. “If you treat departments like independent silos, you’re going to have a lot of frustration and miscommunication,” says Burney.

So how do you break down the walls between departments? Burney’s journey through JBU’s Higher Education Program helped him recognize the interconnectedness of the university. “I learned that building sustainable relationships is vital to the success of the university as a whole.” Here are a few things he learned about creating these relationships and eliminating departmental silos:

  • Understand that you can NEVER over-communicate. “When someone tells me how careful they are to not over-communicate, I assume they’re not very good communicators,” says Burney. A large portion of problems stems from a person or a group of people communicating poorly or not at all. Carbon-copy affected parties on your email communications. Have regular meetings with other departments; simply being in the room with people will help you establish relationships and have a macro view of how your departments are affecting each other.April Moreton collaborates with her colleagues
  • Build personal connections. Positive relationships among departments begin with individuals. Stop by other departments on your way across campus or have lunch with them someday. Ask them about their families, discuss the big game, or tell them about a recent conference you attended. Building personal connections helps you view them as people rather than some impersonal entity.
  • Communicate about more than problems. If the only time you communicate with another department is to voice an issue, Burney says it will generate a “Pavlov’s dogs” effect. Other departments will associate your department with problems. Rather than exclusively communicating issues to other departments, send a recent article that you found helpful or a positive word of encouragement once in awhile.
  • Present a problem as an opportunity to work together. People are more willing to help if you approach an issue as “let's solve this together” rather than accusing them of being problem-causers.
  • Serve others. Besides being part of our calling as Christians, joyfully serving others will help you build a network of people who can be a resource to you when your department needs help solving a problem.
  • Listen. When you’re frustrated with another person or department, it can be tempting to think emotionally rather than logically. Seek to understand the other department’s point-of-view; this will generate trust, make problem-solving easier, and eliminate interdepartmental silos.
  • Talk-up other departments. It’s easy to focus on the negative, but gossip and negative talk is damaging to interdepartmental relationships. Instead, focus your conversations around what other departments are doing right. On that note, If you have a recurring problem with a department and you choose to vent to your coworkers rather than approaching the department directly, you have no right to be frustrated. Present the problem to them directly (see tip #4), and work to solve it together.
  • Remember that you’re all on the same team. “It’s easy to look at things from the perspective of how it will affect you, first”, says Burney. All of the departments on campus have one very important focus: serving the students. By staying focused on this common goal, departments will find it easier to work together.
  • Learn from others who have more experience. Your most valuable resource is the people who have been through this challenge before. For Burney, his main source of counsel is the connections he made in the Higher Education Program at JBU. “I still seek advice from my professors and classmates,” says Burney, “they have years of experience in higher education and so much valuable insight to offer.”

If you’re interested in a career in higher education and want to learn more about the interconnectedness of a university, consider earning your Master of Arts in Higher Education at John Brown University!


Blog HomePosted By: Jessica Turner - 11/30/16 3:00 PM

Google™ Translate: