7 Crucial Strategies to Boost Cross Team Collaboration
Companies need cross-functional team collaboration to support innovative ideas and benefit from the diverse skill of employees. But over 75 percent of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional with no accountability, unclear governance, and vague project goals.
While cross-functional teams can fail due to many reasons, they succeed because of the same reason–good collaboration.
Successful cross-functional teams need effective collaboration strategies that align with their project goals so that employees can easily work with each other, even if they belong to different departments or domains.
What is cross-team collaboration?
Cross-functional team collaboration happens when employees from different functions or teams (like sales, development, HR, marketing, and IT) in the company come together to work on a common project, goal, or responsibility.
The aim of cross-functional collaboration can be anything from the day to day responsibilities like marketing and customer support departments coming together to manage the company’s social media pages or product and sales team collaborating to launch a new feature for customers.
However, efficiently managing cross-functional team collaboration is not always as easy or fun as it sounds.
The diversity introduced with cross-functional teams allows organizations to:
- Create a collaborative culture where employees work together to achieve a common goal or solution while taking responsibility for their actions
- Increase efficiency as it takes lesser time to resolve the same problems with all the relevant departments working together
- Improve communication between different departments
Crucial strategies to boost cross-team collaboration
1. Choose the right team
A successful cross-team collaboration starts by assembling the right team members who know how to work together and collaborate with others. The team members should be able to easily communicate with other department members in their own jargon.
The focus should also be on shared skills that each team member should possess to create a well-oiled machine that can work with minimal disruptions. When you are picking team members for a cross-functional team, start by choosing independent self-starters who can make decisions autonomously with little to no help. You should also choose employees who know how to listen and understand the other person’s perspective.
2. Have a leader
When two or more teams from different departments come together to collaborate, there can be some initial friction. If there is no leader to take the final call, then it can lead to bigger problems in the future. Team members in cross-functional teams need to be more responsible and accountable, but with no leader to guide everyone, there is a greater risk of a captainless ship which never makes it to the shore.
Cross-functional teams need a leader who can delegate, educate, and give autonomy to every team member while always following up on the project progress.
3. Align project goals and share them with everyone
When there is a lack of clarity and alignment in the team, you will start seeing even more problems when you try to break the work down into different tasks and assign them to the members.
Each team member would handle the task with a different goal in mind, which will eventually lead the team to nowhere. You will hit a wall with no results to show at all.
To avoid situations like these, it is important for cross-functional teams to discuss the important goals before starting the work and make sure they align with the overall company goals as well as the goals set up by the different departments.
4. Employees should be aware of other teams’ projects and initiatives
Organic collaborations are always better than forcing teams to come together. After all, when employees are actively interested in working on a project it directly leads to improved team efficiency, productivity, and collaboration.
But organic collaborations are not easy to come by. For every time that you stumble on a cross-team collaboration opportunity, there are many that skip through the cracks because employees just didn’t know what the other departments were working on.
The best way to solve this is by regularly sharing your team’s projects and upcoming work with your entire company. You can even create a dedicated communication channel where employees share their work with everyone else.
5. Set a clear timeline for the project
When employees have their own core work responsibilities, it can be incredibly daunting and overwhelming to take on a new project. You may even have employees who are interested in a cross-functional project, but they might not have the time or space in their schedule to start the work any time soon. If you decide on the team members before even factoring in the total timeline for the project, it can lead to excessive delays and the project might even get pushed back indefinitely.
That is why it is important to estimate the project timeline before you even start asking other employees if they are interested in being a part of it. Accurately estimate the total time it will take to finish the different phases of the project.
You should also outline the average time commitment that would be needed from the other team members. Once the employees have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how long it will take for them to finish the project, it would be easier to get team members on board and ensure the project is finished within the stipulated time.
6. Build greater communication and management skills across the organization
Cross-functional teams require a whole another degree of communication, management, and leadership skills. They need employees who can step up in difficult situations, manage diverse project needs, and communicate effectively to get their point across. As a result, to create successful cross-functional team collaboration, organizations need to upskill employees to make sure they can collaborate seamlessly with other coworkers who might not belong to the same domain as them or understand their jargon.
7. Give employees the right tools to collaborate
To make it easier for employees, give them access to the right collaboration tools that can help them communicate and work closely together, even when they are not sitting in the same physical office space.
When employees from different departments use different applications to manage their work and collaborate, it can become a big problem when creating cross-functional teams. You would not only have to shortlist new applications for the newly created team, but you would also have to train employees on how to use those applications.
By introducing a unified digital workplace platform in your organization, you can ensure that all employees are able to work through the same platform despite the department they are in.
All departments can collaborate and communicate through the same platform. You can even create dedicated message boards or communication channels for teams to discuss the new projects they are about to start which can in turn boost organic collaborations.
Cross-team collaboration is a discipline
Cross-team collaboration discipline is not a one-off thing. It is an ongoing process that needs to be a part of the company’s work culture. Cross-team collaborations happen in companies almost every day, but it is the way they are implemented that can make all the difference. Successful cross-functional teams help meet organizational goals and ultimately, more success.