Many organisations are under pressure to diversify products, respond more aggressively to competitors, and reduce inventories. Businesses which operate along traditional, formal lines often cannot adapt sufficiently quickly to these new demands. To be more responsive, people in different functions need to be more collaborative and less insular towards one another. This article, the first of a two part series, describes techniques which can build understanding and active co‐operation between departments and hierarchical levels. The techniques are categorised into six levels: (1) awareness of one another′s perceived pressures and bottlenecks; (2) appreciating how different personal strengths can be complementary; (3) designing procedures for decision making and information flow; (4) setting up temporary teams to tackle company‐wide improvement areas; (5) identifying roles and responsibilities; and (6) changing the formal structure. These techniques are analysed in terms of the usual time‐scale of implementation and of the potential risk of “getting it wrong”.
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