How can we make our departments/ functions more accountable to each other?

by Sam on January 21, 2012

If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ~Mark 3:25

A revealing exercise in the Leadership Academy begins by asking the cohort of twelve emerging leaders this question. “On a scale from 0 (lowest) to 10 (highest) rate the quality of service that you believe your organization provides to the customers it serves.” The average collective response is typically between 7 and 8—let’s call it 7.5.

A second request is for cohort members to use the same rating scale to judge the quality of service its several internal departments provide to each other whether HR, IT, Finance, Engineering, Procurement, Sales, Marketing, Quality, Legal, or Production. In other words to what degree are the functions dedicated to making each other a success? The average number given this time is frequently in the 5 to 6 range—deserving a 5.5.

The third question (“What’s the surest way to raise the 7.5?”) is so obvious to participants that I tell them not to bother answering it.

Years ago, a Baldridge Award-winning company devised a clever scheme to raise its “5.5”. At about the same time that yearly employee performance appraisal forms were being submitted, the members of each function within that organization were required to appraise all other internal departments that they did business with during the year. An agreement scale somewhat like this one was used to respond to statements similar to those below. When an item received a score lower than 4 on the survey, an explanation was required.

5 : Strongly agree

4 : Agree

3 : Slightly agree

2 : Slightly disagree

1 : Disagree

0 : Strongly disagree


A. They respond to our requests in a timely manner.

B. They respond to our requests competently.

C. They are execution-oriented and display a keen sense of urgency.

D. They keep us supplied with the information we need to do our jobs.

E. They are dependable; fulfill promises; meet deadlines.

F. They are honest.

G. They treat the members of our team with respect.

H. They understand our needs.

I. Their vision, values, and goals are consistent with ours.

J. They collaborate to help us achieve our goals.

K. They fulfill the core values of this organization.


Breakthough! The greatest value is gained from this survey when these steps are taken. First, raw scores by item, sans comments, are made known to all participating functions. Second, the manager to whom each rated function reports sits down with his boss to review the scores and the explanations. Third, the boss tasks function heads to collaborate with direct reports to create action plans addressing items scored lower than a “3” and perhaps selected items scored higher. Fourth, action plans are publicized to all participating functions. And fifth, assessments are repeated in six months to provide feedback to functions on the success of their action plans. It’s then up to senior managers to coach or impose appropriate consequences on function leaders whose teams have yet to show progress on their action plans.

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