Do you understand the boundaries within your organization that are preventing better business results? Are the boundaries that create challenges between teams or divisions who work together, among disparate external stakeholders, across markets or geographical distance, across diverse demographic groups, or all of the above? Does your leadership team need to address how these divides are interfering with better local, national, or global business performance? Do you recognize how important it is to break down the silos in your organization but need help getting started?
To start the Boundary Spanning process, we’ll ask questions like:
- What is mission-critical work for your organization?
- What are the common goals and interdependent tasks among groups?
- Where is unity of effort most important?
- What is the real timetable?
- What are the consequences of failure?
- What type of leadership culture do you need to succeed?
Once we’ve assessed the landscape, we can define exactly where the boundaries exist, what impact they’re having on your business, and how they can be managed to improve results.
The Boundary Spanning Strategies
- Manage boundaries—The first step to spanning boundaries, ironically, is to create or strengthen them. You must be able to see group boundaries clearly before you can bridge them. It taps into the power of differentiation (e.g., clarifying roles, purpose, areas of specialization) to build safety and respect across boundaries.
- Forge common ground—To forge common ground is to bring groups together to achieve a larger purpose. It is about integration (e.g., creating shared vision and a unified force) in order to build trust, engagement, and shared accountability across boundaries.
- Discover new frontiers—The final boundary spanning strategy is about discovering new frontiers where similarities and differences meet. It merges differentiation and integration – creating a “team of teams” with differentiated expertise, experience and resources, yet driven by an integrated vision and strategy – to support interdependence, transformation, and reinvention.
To achieve these strategies, we help you create an action plan that includes six Boundary Spanning practices:
1. Buffering defines boundaries to create familiarity and safety across teams who interact together.
2. Reflecting creates understanding of boundaries to engender respect among those who hadn’t fully appreciated the experiences and responsibilities of their peers.
3. Connecting works to suspend boundaries in very human ways to build mutual confidence and trust.
4. Mobilizing reframes those boundaries to develop community and to align to a common purpose.
5. Weaving interlaces boundaries to advance interdependence and collective learning.
6. Transforming cross-cuts boundaries to enable reinvention and alternative futures.
Your organization’s action plan will identify principles and techniques for your teams that support boundary spanning work, including tactics like joint meetings to enhance communication and collaboration, development of creative team charters to align to a common purpose, role shadowing to foster understanding and respect, and many others.