This section is very much an introduction to the next section on Structure, Strategy and Purpose.

In the entire course of my research, I came across just five institutions where they described their inter-departmental relationships as entirely harmonious. Though individuals do clash at times, in around 40% of cases the relationships between departments – particularly alumni relations and annual giving – was bordering on dysfunctional and obstructive.

Where the relationships were functioning well, organisations were more successful, and also achieved far greater resilience to change and lower overall staff turnover.

Why does this happen?

This is ultimately a failure of leadership and purpose, exacerbated (in the US, I am told) by the occasional unionisation problem.

However, with clarity of institutional purpose, and a breakdown of how to deliver this purpose within individual departments, there should be little to argue about except personal style.

In reality, however, in many places I visited the alumni experience was of being shouted at by both the alumni relations team and the annual giving team, both vying for attention. This is a surefire way to have the door closed in your face.

One recommendation here is obvious, and I will repeat it in the next section. What an alumnus/alumna thinks of the institution is a sum of all of the interactions they have with it. As a result, clarity of purpose is everything. There need to be fewer silos of strategy, a single purpose, and more open channels of communication. Running individual teams with explicitly competing objectives should be outlawed.

Read on for Structure, Strategy and Purpose.