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More Coffee, Less Insurgency

Forging departmental connections

December 15, 2016
 
 
Have coffee and a conversation to forge partnerships with campus departments

It happens all of the time in higher education. We create nearly impenetrable silos within our campus environments. Departments that should be collaborating end up locked in adversarial "professional" combat. And, when it comes to campus IT and/or marketing/communications, there are often myriad examples of friction where a department, unit, or individual seeks to create, make, share, or produce something that hasn't been done before. I have lost count of the number of times university staff have complained about a nameless, faceless department as if it exists on an entirely different planet.

For example, a new initiative is met with resistance. After that a pseudo internal guerrilla war ensues wherein various players are brought in to help shore up either the opposition or the resistance. Basically, it's the Empire versus the Rebellion, but the stakes are generally a bit less galactic. Complaints are logged, policies are leveraged, and innovation comes to a standstill.

However, there is another way. It's called "coffee and conversation" or "tea and talking." Whatever you call it, the thing that's often getting in our way when it comes to creating some new initiative, adding a digital resource, or even launching a social media presence is a lack of in-person connection. We're often told "no" before anyone has even listened to the "why." Plus, if there are particular issues with what you want to do, it's much easier to understand a "no" when you "know" the person who is delivering the message.

Getting to know people on your campus in a wide array of departments, units, and functional areas should be a mandatory occurrence. It should be an element of performance review. At the end of the year, your many coffees, teas, and conversations should be an aspect of your professional motivation.

When you work at a university it is never an "us versus them." 99% of your colleagues at an institution will work with you when they know you. There are always a few outliers (can we send them to Hoth?) and I apologize in advance for the strife that they cause.

When 2017 starts up, make it a point to add at least 20 meetings with colleagues in various departments at your institution. Make sure that you include people who work within marketing, communications, information technology, and web services. Get to know your peers who have direct access to a lot of key infrastructure areas. They will help you with your projects if they know you.

 

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