Multidivisional cooperation within large public works departments is often easier said than done.

Responsibilities overlap. There’s competition for the same limited funding resources. Differing mission statements. Employees aren’t always under the same roof.

Budget cuts can make “no” the easiest answer to give. But when public works professionals come together to solve a problem and devote resources and assets to accomplish a shared goal, the results are inspiring.

The Fairfax County (Va.) Department of Public Works and Environmental Services discovered that several years ago. When a bid to dredge a small suburban lake came back much higher than expected, we faced the prospect of scaling back the $3.2 million project or coming up with an additional $1.5 million out of thin air.

Neither option was acceptable.

Through a team approach that relied on open minds and internal expertise, the project was completed as designed. In the process, we created a model for future multidivisional projects.

Next page: The ‘one-department’ approach