Recently, staff at the White House Historical Association were asked to complete a job description questionnaire, which asked everyone to provide a list of key internal relationships. While I interact with many co-workers on a regular basis, this led me to think about the most important ongoing relationships within the organization–the people I depend on and who depend on me.

I understand all too well how easy it can be for each department to focus on individual projects without a lot of communication with other departments. Our new President started in June and one of his goals has been to find new ways to encourage teamwork and internal collaboration.

In order to begin collaborating more effectively, there were a series of editorial planning meetings amongst all of the managers of each department. The purpose of these meetings was to go through each calendar month for the next 3-5 years and create a list of all of the upcoming projects, programs, and anniversaries or commemorations so we could find common themes and connections between departments. This has helped to provide a greater awareness of what others are planning and create opportunities for collaboration.

The exercise of listing key internal relationships will not only help our President look at the overall organizational structure but it emphasizes the important role that internal relationships and communication have on our day-to-day work. For instance, we hosted an open house in December that was a collaborative effort across multiple departments. While the education staff facilitated the overall program and activities, staff from the communications and marketing department helped with promotional materials, publicity, and signage. The publications department helped with printed materials. The research department assisted with historic images and background research for various materials. The facilities department assisted with the set up and clean up and the sales department kept the gift shop open special hours for the duration of the event. With everyone’s contributions, it was truly a successful collaborative event.

Taking full advantage of your internal resources will help to strengthen your organization and empower staff to contribute and work as a team.  Not every project will require collaboration across departments but communication is paramount. Even if someone is not directly involved with your project, they can still serve as an advocate or provide inspiration. They may even find a connection with their work that will further fulfill your organization’s mission.

  • How do you encourage internal communication at your site?
  • How are you utilizing key internal relationships?
  • Are co-workers in other departments aware of your projects and day-to-day work?
  • Are there further opportunities for collaboration that exist internally at your site?