We call them intersectors. They are the human connections that hold the collaborative organization together. They act as bridges providing fluidity and insights, increasing the organization’s ability to react to internal and external change. Intersectors are the critical interfaces that most managers never knew they had or needed.
Why do we need them? The more flexible the organization, the more adaptable it is to changes in the environment and performs optimally in times of duress. There are four key benefits an intersector brings to the organization, making the organization more effective, efficient, resilient, and nimble.
Redundancy. In an organization, it is important that there is no single point of failure. Intersectors are perfectly positioned to provide redundancy without duplication. The intersector understands groups on both sides of the interface and will at least be informed, if not fully skilled, in the functions that each group must perform. With their breadth of understanding, they can hold each group accountable for work products, provide checks and balances between the groups, perform triage during times of resource contention and constraints, and support additional roles as required.
Communication. In a previous post, I described the importance of effective communication as a systems engineer, and this skill is also especially important for the intersector. Frequently, issues that arise in an organization are due to internal miscommunication. The intersector works with two or more teams and develops a repertoire with each. Because of the established relationship with the various sides, the intersector understands the best means of communicating with and between teams. The intersector understands the information needed by both sides of the interface with a focus on ensuring essential information is conveyed. Additionally, the intersector focuses information exchange to minimize details not pertinent to the task. The tight coupling the intersector provides between teams enables open communication and shortens communication lines, making the organization more effective, efficient, and reliable.
Mediation. The intersector is critical in managing problems that occur among people, departments, and disciplines at team boundaries within the organization. The intersector is a natural mediator between the teams who may find themselves in conflict with one another due to competing time constraints, contradictory requirements (or simply differing interpretations), lack of resources, or even misunderstanding of roles/responsibilities. Based on their knowledge of the organization and the teams, the intersector is the ideal person to raise concerns and provide visibility to the decision makers who can then make a more informed and timely resolution mitigating critical issues as they arise.
Impact Assessment. Having insight into the teams they are interfacing, intersectors have a unique perspective on changes to the organization or within the project. They can consider the impacts one change will have on each team and ultimately assist in providing insight into how it will affect the organization. The intersector is often the first to raise red flags on the adverse and unanticipated effects of a decision on a team and is a vital participant in the decision making process as they have a unique and synthetic perspective on the situation. They can use their knowledge of the teams and of the organizational structure to assess the risk to the organization, propose alternative solutions, and help determine the best way to address the impact on both sides of the interface.
Every organization needs intersectors, interfacing within collaborative environments to ensure organizational continuity. This person assures that communication and needs do not fall in the cracks between disparate teams. Providing redundancy, effective communication, mediation, and impact assessment, the intersector becomes a vital role in keeping the organization nimble and resilient in times of change.