The cross-team collaboration aims to bring different teams within an organization together to solve any range of problems. This type of collaboration helps companies stay up to date with the latest technological changes in their industry and gives them the chance to capitalize on new market opportunities.
Cross-functional projects require highly motivated individuals who understand the challenges that come with collaboration between departments. A successful team must be able to balance meeting their personal targets with maintaining an open mind and working toward common goals. If opportunities for collaboration are taken advantage of, adopting cross-team collaboration in your company will boost productivity and innovation.
Equipping your team with a clear plan and the right tools will keep projects organized and on track. Project managers and team leaders play key roles in encouraging their teams to engage in cross-functional collaboration and in guiding them through the obstacles that they are bound to face.
Table of Contents
- The Benefits of Cross-Team Collaboration
- Challenges in Cross-Team Collaboration
- Strategies to boost cross-team collaboration
- 1. Have a leader
- 2. Align project goals and share them with everyone
- 3. Centralize communication channels in one place
- 4. Set a clear timeline for the project
- 5. Encourage Knowledge Sharing and Organizational Learning
- 6. Systematize Your Collaborative Processes and Efforts
- 7. Give employees the right tools to collaborate
- 8. Develop KPIs and OKRs Focused on Collaboration ~200 words
- Final words for Cross-Departmental Teams
The Benefits of Cross-Team Collaboration
Cross-team collaboration maximizes the potential of your employees by giving different people with a variety of skill sets the chance of contributing. Combining your team’s abilities makes brainstorming powerful yet efficient. Conceptualizing project plans together helps create better ideas faster. Cross-team collaboration positively impacts your company’s collaboration culture in a variety of ways. Some of the benefits of cross-functional teams are as follows.
1. Fewer back-and-forth emails
Working directly with other teams can help reduce inefficient communication, communication delays, as well as email overload. Using instant messaging and video meetings cuts down on response times and minimize misunderstandings and confusion. Poor communication is extremely detrimental to effective collaboration, so establishing regular communication through dedicated communication channels will pay high dividends. Involving relevant teammates in your workflows can also lead to fewer back-and-forth messages, as all of the important information they need is already available to them.
It is also important to remember that not all employees sit at desks and have easy access to their email. Over 72% of the workforce is represented by people who do not sit at a desk and use mobile devices (nojitter.com). This is easy to see in hospitals, construction sites, and the maintenance industry.
When instant messaging or video meetings are not possible, emailing people directly is ideal. Sending long email threads to entire teams or departments is inefficient and results in wasted time and lost profits. Sending emails only to relevant employees streamlines the communication process and keeps things organized.
Centralized communication methods like chats and ticketing systems are often the best way to get things done efficiently. Chats let your team communicate with quick messages similar to a face-to-face conversation. Ticketing systems ensure that the resolver has all of the relevant information they need and reduces the need for repeated communication and prevents issues from being on hold while awaiting a response. In general, collaboration across teams helps build better products faster. Nurturing cross-functional collaboration will lead to increased efficiency and revenue for your company.
2. Better team-building and company culture
Team building is essential to employee morale, whether that be for your in-person/hybrid employees or your full-time remote employees. Remote employees often miss out on social events in the office so it is important to find other ways to keep employee engagement high. Cross-team collaboration builds trust between teams and makes them feel part of something bigger.
Keeping everyone involved can raise team spirit and make your employees go the extra mile for your project. In order to align individual employees with the shared goals of the entire company, you must first understand the roles of each separate department. It is important for project leaders to clearly outline the goals of each department and how they relate to organizational goals. This helps employees understand what their role is, and how they contribute to the bigger picture.
94% of entrepreneurs and 88% of job seekers think that healthy work culture is a key factor for success (teamstage.io). Putting resources into your company’s work culture can attract skilled candidates and raise your company’s value. Company culture is not only important for ongoing projects but for the future of your company as well.
Challenges in Cross-Team Collaboration
Working in cross-functional teams can bring many unique obstacles and challenges. Implementing cross-functional team collaboration in your company will take some hard work but it will be well worth the effort. Below are some of the biggest challenges that your company might face in cross-team collaboration.
1. Collaborating with remote teams in different timezones
Scheduling meetings across time zones can be tricky, especially when you are trying to fit multiple calls into your already busy schedule. Aligning multiple team members’ schedules just makes things even more confusing. Collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom can make this easier for you by helping you schedule meetings with remote teams, even if they don’t share the same timezone as you. Additionally, using a cloud-based audio chat tool like Dialpad helps you avoid having to switch devices during calls, helping your meetings run faster and smoother.
2. Social loafing
Social loafing describes a person putting less effort in and taking on less responsibility when working in a group. This phenomenon is a leading factor in stunted group productivity levels and is the reason why a poorly structured group can be less productive than an individual’s work. Social loafing can be caused by a lack of trust or respect between team members and a lack of commitment by individual employees. This behaviour is most common in groups where there is little history between members.
Project leaders can prevent this by setting clear expectations regarding the roles and responsibilities of team members. Distributing work fairly and in a way that plays to your team’s strengths will help motivate them and lead to faster project progress.
3. Different priorities and goals
Different departments often have different priorities and goals, which makes aligning your project team challenging. Aligning these different priorities and goals can require thinking outside the box to come up with creative solutions. Balancing departmental goals with project goals requires teams to work closely together to decide the best course of action.
When exploring the basis of different departments’ goals you may frequently find that a number of seemingly contradictory goals are actually in alignment. This is not true in all cases so it is the role of project managers to find compromises and avoid conflicts. Conflicts often escalate when members are assigned to tasks that are mutually dependent, yet do not fit together, or when individuals on the team have competing goals that lead to mismatched priorities. If misalignments go ignored in a project it will lead to bigger problems down the line.
Tools like SWOT diagrams or decision matrices can help visualize how choices affect different parts of a project. This can help managers make educated decisions along with the input of their team
Strategies to boost cross-team collaboration
Sharing similar communication styles and patterns with your team can boost cross-functional collaboration. Some employees might work better with a set meeting time each day while others may prefer a quick team meeting when a question comes up. Understanding what style of communication works best for the team will ensure time is not wasted in unnecessary meetings but also keep everyone on the same page.
No matter what style your team prefers, members should be able to work independently without constant supervision. If you find that your team is constantly lost or not meeting expectations, you can use some of the following strategies to boost cross-team collaboration
1. Have a leader
Cross-functional teams require strong team leaders who have the ability to manage all aspects of the project, including communication, education, and accountability. A leader must be able to fairly delegate tasks and empower each team member to reach their potential and achieve success. They develop trust and assurance among members of the team by leading with confidence.
Without a strong leader, cross-functional teams are destined to fail to reach their goals. Team leaders play a key role in team building and team culture. In any team, disagreements are bound to arise. It is the role of a leader to mediate these conflicts and come to an equitable and impartial resolution. A good leader will foster a collaborative culture where employees feel comfortable providing input and sharing their bright ideas. Encouraging and facilitating a space to freely share ideas can be a source of game-changing inspiration for your team.
Establishing a clear vision for your team should be any project leader’s first priority. When a team’s goals are unclear, team members tend to work against each other instead of working together. This leads to highly dysfunctional teams that produce suboptimal results. Dysfunctional teams are a common occurrence, according to a Harvard Business Review study, nearly 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional (workplace.com).
Ensuring that the goals of each team are aligned with company goals will help position your team for effective collaboration. Discussing these goals early on in the project will help prevent unnecessary conflicts later on. Your company’s senior project managers should be encouraged to make these goals crystal clear to all relevant teams. Along with communicating goals, it is important to emphasize the importance of each section of a project and explain how they come together. This will keep your employees engaged and set on a clear path to success.
3. Centralize communication channels in one place
Establishing a centralized communication method for everything project related is a fundamental part of cross-team collaboration. Letting your team use multiple platforms is a recipe for confusing and poor communication as control over project files and information is lost. Consolidating all of this into one single source is the best practice for projects of any size.
It is important to pick a tool that can be used on different devices and works for your whole team. When picking a tool, look for one that can be used on mobile devices and desktops. A tool that integrates with your organization’s SSO means your employees will never have to use personal accounts to communicate and can keep their work and personal life separate.
Companies like IBM, Airbnb, and Shopify have been using tools like Slack for years. Over 100k organizations including 77% of Fortune 100 companies use Slack as part of their communication toolset (www.slack.com). Having a single source of truth has numerous benefits. Online collaboration tools let your employees access important information whenever and wherever so that information access never holds their productivity back. These tools also mean that there is no need to waste time looking through dozens of Google Drive folders or trying to find that one email from last month with that Dropbox link.
4. Set a clear timeline for the project
Start by researching similar projects or comparable workloads to come up with an estimated project timeline. This should happen before recruiting your project team so that your team members know what they should expect. You should also make sure that you fully understand all aspects of the project before asking others to get involved. It is impossible to lead a project team if you do not have a complete understanding of what needs to be done. You should have a clear outline of the project and all the related responsibilities pertaining to the project before you pitch it.
Always set an ambitious goal for your project and never settle for mediocrity. Understanding the abilities of you and your team will help you set goals that will challenge your team and push them to their best while also being a reasonable ask, considering factors like budget, human effort, and the timeline. Creating milestones with descriptions and due dates will also help keep your project on track. Large projects can be overwhelming at first, so breaking them up into individual tasks will help keep you and your team focused. Doing all of this planning work ahead of the project start date means that time will not be wasted later on. It also allows your team to see what the path to the finish line looks like and sets the pace for the project.
5. Encourage Knowledge Sharing and Organizational Learning
Knowledge is one of the most valuable assets of a company. Sharing knowledge helps employees understand what other departments are doing and why. This can help other departments make educated decisions as well as learn from the failures and successes of the other teams. Encouraging employees to freely share knowledge will boost cross-team collaboration and build relationships across your company.
Knowledge sharing and organizational learning are crucial to improving collaboration across departments because the lessons learned in one part of a project will most likely be applied to many other parts of the project as well. You should also remember your employees have different sets of skills and knowledge that should be shared across teams. The combination of these skillsets is the key to fostering innovative solutions at your company. These solutions can help solve complex multilayered issues quickly and with efficiency, When you facilitate knowledge sharing, you create a better environment for everyone involved.
6. Systematize Your Collaborative Processes and Efforts
Standardized collaborative processes allow organic collaboration to happen naturally. Standardizing your team’s processes lets everyone know what’s going on and what’s to come in the future. This also means your company can provide a consistent product or service while reducing internal errors and oversights.
Workflows should be put in place to make internal tasks as efficient as possible. Workflows make internal tasks fast and easy by clearly outlining the steps required to get the job done. Your company’s workflows can be as simple as a 2-3 step cause and effect process, while other workflows may span across multiple days and involve multiple teams.
Using project management tools helps you manage multiple projects at once while monitoring project progress in real-time. Workflow apps such as Jetdocs can build appropriate internal workflows for any company’s needs. Pre-built templates let you set up within minutes and the no-code customization tool lets you create a work that perfectly fits your project.
7. Give employees the right tools to collaborate
A unified workplace platform makes cross-team collaboration easy for employees. Cloud-based platforms enable employees to share documents, files, images, and other media in a secure digital environment. These platforms also take compatibility issues away and make important information accessible to your employees. Your hybrid workforce will be able to work wherever they are without worrying about accessing files they were working on at the office. This increases your team’s productivity and boosts project progress.
These platforms are very simple to use so you will not have to train your team to use them. User-friendly interfaces are designed with ease of use in mind. Features like drag and drop and file organization/sorting will already be familiar to your employees. This will save time and money for your company.
8. Develop KPIs and OKRs Focused on Collaboration ~200 words
Highlighting performance expectations lets you and your team see and understand what is going well and what needs improvement. Crossfunctional OKRs or objectives and key results are crucial to understanding how well your team collaborates across departments. OKRs help your team set measurable goals and track your progress towards those goals. They outline an objective that needs to be achieved and the benchmarks that should be met to complete that objective. Some objectives make require results that are the responsibilities of different teams in your company.
Teams will have to collaborate together in order to complete these objectives. The benchmarks let your team check off the boxes and see what still needs to be done. OKRs will motivate your team toward objectives and quantify results achieved versus results pending.
KPIs or key performance indicators are measurable values that quantify a company’s performance in key objectives. Low-level KPIs relate to departmental processes like customer acquisition cost (CAC) for your marketing team or average revenue per customer (ARPC) for your sales team. High-level KPIs are objectives at the company-wide level like annual growth or market share. Including metrics in your, KPIs work similarly to those in OKRs as they help track your team’s progress and bring areas in need of attention to the forefront.
A good way to assess if your team is doing a good job of working together is to look at the metrics associated with each function. Metrics like OKRs and KPIs help distribute your team’s time and effort to ensure that your company can achieve success in all sectors.
Final words for Cross-Departmental Teams
Bringing teams from various divisions of a company to work towards a common goal can improve a company’s efficiency and effectiveness if teams are able to balance their interests with company goals. Cross-team collaboration can bring many obstacles and challenges such as communication breakdowns and disagreements but strong management skills and the effective use of collaborative tools can help make collaboration run smoothly. Developing a healthy collaborative culture can be a leading factor in getting your company ahead of the competition.
Challenges like collaborating with team members in different time zones and schedules, dealing with team members who aren’t carrying their own weight, and putting personal performance above the team can all lead to a tough collaborative process. However, simple techniques like having an effective leader, a clear project outline, and giving your team the tools they need will put them on a path toward success. Implementing standardized workflows is a great way to streamline any project and get your team working productively. Using project management and collaboration tools like Jetdocs can be a difference maker when it comes to cross-team collaboration. With proper planning and preparation, the successful collaboration will lead to positive outcomes for everyone involved.