Did you ever see an argument between a CFO and the VP of sales? The CFO is the cobra, attacking with vicious venom about how the sales team never follows process and seems to have ten different sales commissions structures. The VP of sales is the mongoose, seemingly undermatched, but capable of winning on sheer agility of wit and the bite of her political clout.
Imagine an alternate reality where the cobra and mongoose team up, two formidable foes now an even more formidable team. What could they accomplish if they used their different but equally potent personalities and skills to work together?
Having well defined roles and departments is great, but it’s unfortunate when people fall into the pattern of routinely defending the narrow interests of their own department. This natural tendency to protect one’s own turf is often put into hyperdrive by narrow departmental goals and highly individualized compensation.
When you start to evolve compensation to focus on overall company performance, and you promote a culture of teamwork, you can start to see some unlikely alliances, such as:
Bear and Wolverine – Carl the VP of manufacturing is the bear. He was grumpy to begin with and years of running the manufacturing plant made him grumpier. Phillip is the wolverine from marketing, running around, full of ideas, snapping at anyone who doesn’t agree with him. What if manufacturing and marketing could work together on a marketing campaign that drew on Carl’s years of experience and the subtle competitive advantages of the manufacturing processes? If Phillip’s eye for simplicity and clarity can be combined with Carl’s dirt under the nails knowledge, it makes for a gritty informative marketing campaign that resonates, instead of having Carl just write off all the marketing as incomprehensible fluff.
Kangaroo and Dingo – HR is the kangaroo, always hopping around making sure everyone is following the rules. IT is the Dingo, wandering around, hunting for new technology or scavenging for old server parts. However, IT’s true purpose should be to serve up meaningful technology to employees to help them be more productive. One of HR’s main goals should be to create an environment where employees have well defined roles and all the tools they need to do a great job. There is a great crossover point where HR and IT could work together to create a roadmap of new technologies that would be most beneficial to employees and therefore the company.
Peacock and Mule – Product development is the peacock, smart but always showing off its intellectual plumage. Services is the mule, working hard for the billable hour and carrying the weight of front line customer interaction on its back. In a company that services their own products, the product roadmap has a very direct impact on the quality of services. The front line services people should ideally work with product development in two ways, delivering customer requests and requirements back to product development, and delivering feedback on how to improve the product so the services team can service it more efficiently.
Cobra and Mongoose – We are back to accounting and sales who, if they worked better together, could maybe solve some of the normal problems that impact sales performance. Two areas for an alliance would be working together to redesign a sales commissions structure that has grown out of control, or reworking the sales reporting package, so it’s more relevant to what the sales team wants to see.
It’s part of nature for animals to fight, but we are supposed to be a little more evolved. Let’s all just acknowledge each other’s strengths and look for the common ground where the normal silos can work together for the good of the company. The top executives should do their part to promote this through the goal setting and compensation programs.
It’s not common to see a cobra and mongoose grabbing a beer together, but it would be great if it was. It would also make a great motivational poster: the cobra laughing and swilling a beer, the mongoose with his tiny arm around the cobra, laughing, and pounding his other little fist on the bar.