How often have you been exposed to the conflict or different objectives between departments? If never, congratulations! You have probably seen and experienced healthy environments, meaningful shared goals, and true leaders. Keep on!
If your answer to this question is: “frequently”, “often” or “always”, this article might be helpful.
What is the problem?
I have coached many organizations. Dozens. I have taught thousands of people so far. 70% of them
indicated that there is still a challenging situation between their IT (sometimes called Delivery, Tech,
etc.) and Business (Product, Marketing, Sales, etc.) departments. Frequently, they both suffer from
mutual accusations of missed deadlines or scope. Sometimes there are plenty of misunderstandings
between these departments regarding their way of working and processes. It may happen that
Business does not understand the complexity of software development or engineering work. And
vice versa. Technology departments struggle with empathizing with Business, customer-faced teams,
not understanding how hard their work is.
Different expectations, and often goals, raise conflicts, a division of them and us, causing a lack of
trust, lack of collaboration and issues in general.
It must be frustrating to work and cooperate in such an environment. Also, I experienced it several
times when I was an employee many years ago. And quite the opposite, in other organizations, I
encountered close collaboration between parties. What was done differently in such organizations?
The following paragraph will answer this.
So, how to get along?
Regardless if you work for Business or Technology, be the first to start. Often, we wait for others
and for their first move. Don’t wait. Just initiate.
There are several suggestions based on my experience. They are in the presented order on purpose.
See next paragraph.
If you hold a C-suite or director-level position, it is relatively easier to overcome challenges. If the
initiative comes from your employees, support them by actions.
If you feel unempowered in a large organization, try to look for strong support from the decision-
makers. Try to engage with them.
Start talking and understanding your partner’s situation
I found it useful when I initiate the conversation, trying simultaneously to empathize and understand
others’ points of view.
Try answering the following questions (or create your own):
- Why did this situation happen?
- Was the origin? Is it a process? Is it a culture? Is it a legacy from the past, an old
- How do these people feel? What do they think about the situation, about us? (at the same
time, my suggestion would be to avoid us vs. them in a conversation. I am aware I use these
words here. Only to emphasize who is who).
And begin the conversation!
Work on trust
Lack of trust is the most common dysfunction in organizations and teams.1 My suggestion here would
be – to work on trust. Show that your department and your teams are trustworthy. Involve your
partners and stakeholders from other departments to collaborate and to share mutual feedback on a
This suggestion is one of the most important. A common objective might be a game-changer
regarding discussed challenges between departments.
Together, as both parties, create a common and single goal to keep the focus. This goal should be
meaningful and measurable. If you work together on the same product, I suggest creating a Product
Goal. If you are the Product Owner (or someone else has this accountability in your product area),
this initiative should come from this person as a decision-maker with regard to the product.
For more about setting up Product Goals you can read here.
Evidence-Based Management (EBM) – shared measures toward the common goal
Once you have a goal, it is crucial to measure the progress on cadence. Measuring gives you a chance
to validate your assumptions about the objective early on and lets you quickly inspect & adapt.
If your goal is not measurable, how do you know you reached it?
For example, you may have a goal: Increase customer satisfaction (by how much? Unmeasurable!)
Take a look at this example: Increase customer satisfaction by 25% (can be time-bounded as well)
–for instance, till the end of this quarter.
Set up measures together with your stakeholders. It creates greater transparency, trust, and more
effective collaboration toward the same – and measurable – goal.
Remember about cadences. Verify frequently.
I recorded and wrote a lot about the EBM. You can check my articles and videos here.
If you are a Product Owner or other Scrum Team member, you may use another opportunity to build
a bridge between two parties. Invite your stakeholders to the Sprint Reviews. Ask them for feedback
on what your Scrum Team delivered, look together at measures, at a goal and look into the future,
Product Backlog Refinement activity
In some cases, I found it helpful to invite stakeholders to the Product Backlog Refinement activity if it
makes sense, do it by all means. You may invite your stakeholders for some Refinements, primarily
“why” and “business” oriented. Let’s create personas and design experiments together.2 You can also
discuss business and customers’ needs and have mutual awareness and transparency.
Building bridges and overcoming challenges between Business and IT depends on you. Build trust and
a safe environment, start with a common goal, and measure and cooperate with your stakeholders.
Try to understand each other. You will have different backgrounds and different perspectives – but –
the same product, same goal and customers to satisfy. And, this is, actually, perfect!
1 Patrick Lencioni, Overcoming the Five Dysfunction of a Team, 2005
2 More information about personas and experimentation you may find here: https://magdalenafirlit.com/why-