IT vs. Facilities vs. Security vs. Vendors vs. ______ playing well in the sandbox

Posted by on Jun 3, 2012 in Facilities Management, Leadership | 3 comments

Rivalries between people are caused by competing goals, limited resources, or personal issues.  As the leader of an organization, you can control goals and resources.  When it comes to personal issues, more often than not you wind up removing them from the organization one way or another.

The different groups within organizations also operate as people do in the sense that collectively they have competing goals and must vie for limited resources.  It’s natural that rivalries would develop as groups with divergent goals compete for limited resources; but, left unchecked, rivalries can be very detrimental to the efficiency of an organization as a whole.  So how do you as a leader of such an organization prevent this type of rivalry and create an environment that promotes cooperation and organizational efficiency?

Communicated goals tend to unify organizations

The answer lies in communicating the goals and priorities of the organization.  While goals usually remain consistent over long periods of time, priorities can actually change from day to day – even hour to hour.  Yet when everyone knows the goals and understands the priorities, they will naturally work toward those as informed.  Leadership needs to make sure that each group understands how their tasks work to achieve the goals and where they fit into the priorities of the organization as a whole.  It sounds simple enough, but it’s actually far more difficult to put into practice. So hopefully an example or two will illustrate how things can go awry.

The data center’s Operations Group has the goal of no downtime to the customers.  The Facilities Operations Group has the same goal too; but because most facilities do not have multiple redundant systems and there always seems to be a single point of failure, there will be a time when Facilities will have to take the systems down for maintenance or they will fail on their own, usually at a very inconvenient time.

Even though both groups have the same goals, the realities of the situation require that systems be shut down and maintained to prevent an uncontrolled outage.  Operations will naturally try to delay the outage as long as possible and will question the need for it at all.  Facilities will understand the consequences if the scheduled maintenance is not performed and will try to make the case for periodic shutdowns.  If one organization doesn’t understand the other’s reasoning for their actions, some form of conflict will occur.

While it may appear to be a minor conflict at first, it can escalate to the point where neither group does anything due to analysis paralysis, issues stemming from communication failures, or other forms of conflict.  The systems then fail on their own, causing an outage.  Each group speaks unflatteringly about the other and real organizational problems soon become the norm.

But misunderstandings like this aren’t unique to in-house groups.  They can occur between vendors, contractors, operations, security, and other groups as well.  For example, Security has the goal of keeping things secure and the best way to do this is to lock everything up. While that may serve Security’s interests, it will conflict with the interests of the Facilities Group and contractors who need to accomplish their tasks quickly and efficiently.  If Facilities must “go get a key” every time they need access to certain areas under their responsibility, then time is wasted and they will earn the reputation of not responding in a timely manner.  Ultimate security adds costs to the overall operation.  I have personally seen where security rules added an additional $200,000/year in costs to the operations – over and above the cost of security operations.  In all fairness, there are many times when these rules of security are necessary; but sometimes they are “over the top.”

In general, leadership needs to investigate and find ways to break down the barriers that cause inefficiencies in the operations.  When it comes to the disruption caused by competing goals and limited resources, leaders can help the organization to be efficient by ensuring that communication around the goals and priorities (and reasons) are known by all involved.  This is most important for the people actually doing the work as they are the ones that compete for resources and need to know how to prioritize the work to maximize the resources being used (time and money).

Setting goals and making the priorities known by all parties is one way that leadership can help reduce these potential conflicts.  If all leaders of the various groups have a daily priorities meeting and then promulgate that information to the workers, this will go a long way toward organizational efficiency.  Then your organization can focus its effort on the tasks that reach your goals instead of perpetuating useless rivalries.


  1. Love the title of this post. I suggest that all the “vs.” be changed to “and” for the real situation to materialize. In all my experience with IT the “versus” begins with a lack of Clear Agreement which is remedied by clear agreement and accountability up front. In several cases when we work to achieve clear agreement and accountability up front the decision is to change vendors or not to proceed with an internal partner because it is clear they don’t like the clarity and don’t agree! Hundreds of thousands of dollars saved in exchange for taking more time to get clear and then agreeing in writing, up front about accountability and ownership for results and success using Clear Agreement. Stunning improvement in ease of holding vendors and internal partners accountable and at the same time decreasing finger-pointing and blame if execution is faltering or unsuccessful.

  2. I have these discussion with my husband (who is an IT senior director, MBA and loves to study CEO’s) aka the nerd. He is of the opinion that the way organizational units, departments and all the way down to the workers interact, don’t interact, silo themselves, or engage in competition and sociopathic tendencies is all driven from the top senior leadership or even the CEO himself. I have to agree. What is allowed from the helm creates the corporate culture and this permeates down to every crevice.

    Every day I see examples of managers at all levels engage in (forgive my language) pi***ng contests with one another to push off responsibility or ownership, establish territory or power, or engage in what’s called “empire building.” The employees often have no choice but to step back and watch, or find their own ways to work out a hush hush way to make things work with another department while the managers wage a personal war with one another that makes absolutely no sense and has nothing to benefit the company. At one firm I worked for, things were so bad that even if senior leaders knew their peers were making decisions detrimental to operations or legally dangerous to the company; the rule was to not trespass onto each other’s tree. That’s where I learned the true meaning of “co-hesion”

    We can all talk about communication and it’s benefits, but we tend to sit behind these catch phrases, names and logo’s as if they’re abstract thoughts or institutions bigger than all of us and we lose sight that the decisions we make while sitting behind the desk are actually OUR decisions, as people we own them, and they aren’t absolved when the clock hits 5pm. If communication is to work, it has to be used. To be used, it has to be incentivized. This incentivization has to come from the top. Corporate Culture is set from the top… Just like ITIL.

  3. Excellent approach on the subject. The efeciencia is always left out due to huge bureaucracy that create departments. There is a role reversal when they should collaborate, compete, negatively affecting overall results, just to maintain internal metrics. Lack of focus and their leadership teams on strategic goals, just looking for day-to-day.

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