According to the Center for Creative Leadership about 86% of executives report that working across boundaries is important. They believe it is a key factor in leadership success. It has become more and more a part of daily operations yet only 7% of the executives in the research felt they did it well.
What about you? is it something you do well? We are working in environments that increasingly require this skill but where are we getting the training to do it in an efficient and effective manner? Many of our organizations still have silos that that makes it even more difficult. Few have the corporate culture support that would make it easier.
It sounds to me that there needs to be change in the corporate culture along with training to give the skills to do the boundary spanning that is so important. There are skills to be learned but if the culture does not support the kind of trust that is required to actually do boundary spanning it will not work very well.
Here are some important points about boundary spanning to consider:
Leaders need to learn that buffering defines boundaries to create safety. Where they can work together on this there will be even greater mobility across boundaries in an organization. Buffers provide a zone where individuals and groups can share information and work together for the greater good of the organization.
Reflecting creates understanding of boundaries to foster respect. Boundaries are there for a reason and they probably cannot go away altogether – maybe they even should not go away. Thinking about their usefulness and how to leverage them for success can be a major contribution to the organization and to the work being done.
Connecting suspends boundaries to build trust. Trust is the key to working together. It allows in-time working together and it allows boundaries to be rebuilt as appropriate. Connection is the under-girding that allows the trust to happen.
Mobilizing reframes boundaries to develop community. When there is a sense of community there is a sense of common purpose. This too builds trust and enhances group functioning. Boundaries, when flexible, can be reframed as often as needed to allow communities to address different and changing issues.
Weaving interlaces boundaries to advance interdependence. Interdependence can be very good if it supports working together and community. Skillfully done, it encourages workers to be a part of many communities simultaneously and still get the work done well.
Transforming cross-cuts boundaries to enable reinvention. This is the ultimate concept and when it happens it results in a more flexible and responsive organization. The trick is to remember that reinvention cannot become the status quo – it needs to happen over and over again.
By Nathan Dean