All too often, when we are working with another group their behavior can appear mysterious and difficult to explain. Frequently this is an indication that they are grappling with issues or problems that are not immediately visible to you as an outsider. One classic example is goal setting. While goal setting within groups or divisions is quite common, those groups do not share division specific goals with other groups within the organization. The failure to reconcile the often different and frequently competing goals between different groups in an organization is often the source of many misunderstandings.
So what can we do about this sort of misalignment? First, we can attempt to find out what the goals of the group are. Knowing group goals will help you understand what is motivating the decisions and processes that a group uses. It will also reveal opportunities to support those goals. That kind of understanding will carry us a long way toward building the kinds of organizational bridges that we need to create in order to begin breaking down silos.
We must understand the struggles that the group is dealing with. Is the group short-staffed? Do they have problem people whom they constantly struggle with? Are they learning to cope with a new system? Are they struggling to carry out a complex project? These sorts of issues are the types of problems that cause teams to change their processes and behaviors, often in a defensive reaction to the challenges that they face. Understand the problems, and you can often better understand the behavior surrounding it. Better yet, by understanding the problem you might be in a position to help them address the issue. Help them address the issue, and you will have gone a long ways toward opening new doors between your groups. It is actually a case of impediment removal applied to the organization as opposed to just the team.
If you are looking for a tool to help you accomplish this sort of organizational archeology, I have had some good success using root cause analysis. The application of structured thinking and problem solving techniques can help to sort out areas of opportunity for helping another group slay the dragons that plague them.