“Don’t involve them, they will just bog things down.”
“Stay under the radar with this project or they will try to hijack it.”
“All they do is whine, don’t bother give them sign-off approval.”
“We must avoid their involvement or it will never get done.”
The “Us vs. Them” dynamic is insidious. It’s always there to some degree in any gathering of humans. But improperly aligned goals, faulty processes, or even unchecked ambition can cause it to strengthen in an organization. Here are a few places you’ll find it:
Sales vs. Marketing
The story is as old as dirt. Sales complains they’re not getting enough leads. Marketing generates more leads. Sales complains the new leads are useless – they’re not ready to close. Marketing sends the unappreciated leads to another channel for nurturing. Sales angrily demands the non-closable leads be given back to them immediately. Marketing stops seeking Sales input on initiatives. Sales starts quietly initiating their own rogue direct mail and email projects at the local level.
Marketing vs. IT
Marketing needs a new landing page for a spring campaign. IT develops all web assets, and estimates 4 weeks. Marketing says it shouldn’t take more than 4 days. IT got burned with all the changes Marketing required on the last landing page, so the unwritten rule is to geneously pad all Marketing estimates – 4 weeks. Marketing instead has their intern build the landing page and host it on his fraternity’s server. When the page goes down during the frat’s Minecraft Marathon weekend, Marketing calls IT for help.
Colocated Team vs. Distributed Team
Anaheim doesn’t scrum with Baltimore because it’s at 5:30 am Anaheim time. Anaheim resents Baltimore’s meddling with their self-direction and their negative impact on velocity metrics – so they don’t ask a lot of questions. Baltimore doesn’t offer the Anaheim unsolicited feedback either. They didn’t want the west coast team in the first place, and their failure wouldn’t cause many tears back east. The lean requirements are carpaccio-thin. The UX team and interaction architect are in Baltimore. The lead programmers are in Anaheim. So let’s see what the product looks like at the end. Yay.
It’s obvious that communication is the antidote. If it’s the higher-ups that are feeding the “Us vs. Them” mentality, you’ve got a dilemma. If you will be punished for reaching out to the “them’s”, then start looking for another job. That’s a sick organization. If not, then you can probably still set an example. Reach out. Manage up. And stay off the Minecraft server.