#43 from R&D Innovator Volume 2, Number 6

FORUM – from our readers

Wasting Creativity On Turf Battles

I manage a small team in a large chemical company.  The chief technology officer (CTO), who works in a different state, visits our division several times a year, always stressing the need for interdepartmental and interdivisional communication. 

Nevertheless, my division is utterly divided.   Ever since I started working here, most of the research directors spend an inordinate amount of energy protecting their own departments—their turf. 

To take just one example, when the CTO visits, he holds a session with all the directors and a few managers.  At a session I attended, the turf-conscious director of another department—let's call him Dr. Greengrass—was discussing a technical hurdle in his work.  Since I had experience with that technology, I suggested a "workaround."  Before the session concluded, the CTO and Dr. Greengrass both thanked me for my suggestion and agreed it was worth pursuing, and that I should be involved in the implementation.  This would have required only a few days of my time.

Well, the day after the CTO's visit, Director Greengrass came griping to my supervisor about butt-in-ski's on the staff, and asked my boss to keep “his people” (in other words, me) out of Greengrass's projects.  I never found out if my recommendation was even attempted.

What does this add up to?  A company that's not taking advantage of its staff's creativity.  I wonder if the CTO has any inkling of the waste in human resources? 

But what can I do?  Even though my supervisor agrees with me, he's unwilling to risk his status by causing conflict.  And I fear trouble for myself if I try to reach above my boss in the hierarchy. 

Have readers of R&D Innovator  faced a similar problem—and solved it?  I'd like to hear about it.


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