One of the most important tasks a production team/group/unit has is the interaction with a variety of different groups. We have external clients (ad agencies, print vendors, file conversion/prepress, etc), as well as internal (editorial, marketing, sales, etc). Often, we are seen as the bad guys because we have that delicate task of enforcing deadlines, so it is up to us to break down those silos that are sometimes built between departments.
In my last few jobs, I’ve busted into the silos by establishing what I like to call “Bridge Meetings.” These are short meetings (generally a half-hour, but certainly no more than an hour) that happen on a regular basis (every 4-6 weeks, every quarter, etc) that are set up with the manager/director of another unit, as well as a liaison from each group.
The purpose is “build a bridge” of communication between our unit and theirs. We talk about recently finished projects and how they went through the process (sort of like a mini post-mortem, without the entire project team), upcoming projects, and any small issues/concerns that may have came up recently. In regards to the last item, it is important to address these issues ASAP so that the small issues do not become larger ones.
It’s also important to keep the meetings small. You don’t want a meeting of 20 people talking and trying to address issues. The manager and the liaison of each group is responsible for querying their departments, coming to the meeting, hashing out the issues, determining a resolution, and then taking that information back and rolling it out.
I’ve found these meetings to be very productive, especially when there are company goals that require collaboration between multiple units. One final word of advice… remember that a bridge needs to be anchored on both sides, meaning that there has to be input from both groups or the communication will simply collapse. If you find that you’re not getting back what you’re putting into it, chalk it up to the fact that you at least tried.
If you start using this method, please post or comment on how it went.