By Maya Townsend \n\nSeveral weeks ago, a distraught vice president called. His organization had just been restructured. He needed to integrate his new divisions quickly and help them collaborate with his existing organization. The problem: He had inherited a group of people who didn\u2019t understand why the change had happened and were struggling with why they should redesign their processes to accommodate the new organization chart. In addition, they were used to working alone and saw no reason to collaborate with their new peers. The VP had to help them find the way while continuing to raise the performance bar. \n\nThis situation is not unusual. Technology executives live in a world of change where the only constants seem to be the need to boost performance, increase productivity and collaborate with others. In this highly matrixed, integrated, driven, global environment, there are too few people and too much work for us to section ourselves off from others. We rely on our colleagues to share knowledge, solve problems jointly, provide data and information and support our work. In return, we do the same.\n\nYet, collaboration is easier than it sounds. Successful collaboration takes time and focused effort. But where to start? Here are some tips on how to build effective alliances across divisions.\n\nStart with the Why\n\nPeople have a lot to do. If they don\u2019t truly understand the importance of collaboration, they won\u2019t do it. For example, someone might agree with a vague rationale for collaboration, such as, \u201cIt will improve our customer service.\u201d But that doesn\u2019t give a person the motivation to insist on collaboration and work across boundaries when deadlines loom and the pressure is high. Why take time for some fuzzy concept that may or not be achieved? \n\n\n\nA much more compelling rationale is: \u201cThe X Department works with our customers every day. If we don\u2019t develop close relationships with the department, we\u2019ll never know enough to please our customers.\u201d This rationale lays it all out on the table: what the partner has that is critical, why it is needed, and what consequences come from failing to collaborate. \n\n\n\nComing up with this kind of business rationale for collaboration is the first step in building a successful relationship across divisions. To clarify the business rationale, answer these questions:\n\n\n\nWhat is at stake for the company and customers if divisions don\u2019t collaborate effectively? \n\nWhat does each group have that the other group needs?\n\nWhy are others counting on these groups to perform? \n\nWhat could happen if both parties don\u2019t collaborate effectively?\n\n\n\n\n\nBuild Individual Relationships to Build Group Relationships \n\nSimply agreeing to collaborate doesn\u2019t make it happen. Successful collaboration takes time, interaction and effort. \n\n\n\nIf an organization needs synergy between divisions, individuals from both divisions must form good relationships. This doesn\u2019t happen overnight. Relationships grow when people develop rapport and trust. This comes over time as people learn that they root for the Red Sox, share a passion for old movies or enjoy vegetarian food. They learn one another\u2019s styles and come to know that one likes to get right down to business while the other enjoys engaging in small talk before beginning work. \n\n\n\nAll of these understandings lay the foundation for trust in the relationship. Trust is built when people can count on each other to do what they say they will do and to act with positive intentions. The best way to build trust is to be trustworthy. By delivering on commitments, a partner models the way for the two and sets the tone. If a commitment can\u2019t be honored, a simple, proactive telephone call to explain the situation and develop a contingency plan keeps the partnership positive. \n\n\n\nOnce rapport and trust are in place, individuals find themselves with powerful allies in the other organization. These become people to talk with when organizational politics become confusing, priorities shift or unique circumstances require special action. There\u2019s an added benefit to developing these relationships across divisions: People can develop friends at work, which, according to a recent Gallup study, is the most important indicator of job satisfaction. \n\n\n\nGet Specific About Execution\n\nMany find crafting visions and building relationships to be exciting and engaging. The work of execution can be more challenging. Yet, seeing a vision through to completion requires a strong sense of discipline. This is an area where many alliances fall short: They fail to get specific about how they\u2019ll produce.\n\n\n\nGetting specific about execution doesn\u2019t need to be painful. In a meeting with key representatives from both groups, identify:\n\n\n\nWhat are the short-term and long-term goals for the collaboration?\n\nHow will both parties know that the goals have been achieved?\n\nWhat process will be put into place in order to support successful completion of work?\n\nWhat roles and specific responsibilities will each group perform?\n\nWhat are the rules of engagement? In other words, what is the expected turn around time for tasks? For communications? \n\nHow often will groups meet? Who will convene, plan, and facilitate those meetings?\n\nHow will decisions be made? Which decisions need to be escalated? To whom?\n\n\n\n\n\nPrepare for the Unexpected\n\nIt\u2019s a rare organization that doesn\u2019t get thrown a curveball once in a while and a rare alliance that clarifies everything as well as it needs to up front. To develop a truly extraordinary alliance, get clear up front about how to handle organizational changes or group misunderstandings. What process will be used to manage through these challenges? What is the escalation procedure? \n\n\n\nTake the Time \n\nThe final tip for creating successful alliances across divisions is simple, yet seems to challenge many: Take the time to make it work. Groups can do this by scheduling periodic offsite retreats to refocus, plan for upcoming work, and resolve any accumulated tensions. Onsite meetings to share best practices, evaluate progress, or identify improvement opportunities can also work well. These ongoing connections, conversations and commitments can make an alliance thrive. \n\n\n\nMaya Townsend, founder and principal consultant of Partnering Resources, builds aligned, focused organizations that execute their goals more effectively.