Leadership

Understanding cross team collaboration

The world stopped in March 2020, but individuals didn’t. The major shift focused on innovation in the online world. As businesses learned how affordable conducting business virtually was, we observed some of them closing their physical locations. Businesses have shifted away from using traditional boardroom meetings and toward using conference platforms like Zoom. Teams worked from home to provide services and innovate.

The importance of remote team collaboration increased, yet it’s not always simple. You also need to think about team communication between teams. For businesses to support innovative ideas and capitalize on the different skill sets of employees, cross-functional team communication is essential. But more than 75% of cross-functional teams are ineffective, with unclear governance, undefined project goals, and no accountability.

Understanding cross team collaboration

Cross-functional teams can flourish for a variety of reasons, but they consistently do so when there is effective collaboration. Effective collaboration techniques that are in line with the project goals are a must for successful cross-functional teams so that personnel from other departments or domains may easily work together. Well, in this article, you’ll have a proper understanding of cross-team collaboration as the following questions will be discussed:

  • What is cross-team collaboration?
  • Why is cross-team collaboration important?
  • How is cross-team collaboration different?
  • What are the best practices of cross-team collaboration?
  • What are the signs of an unhealthy team?
  • How to effectively boost cross-team collaboration?
  • What are the benefits of cross-team collaboration?
  • What are the limitations that prevent cross-team collaboration?

So, let’s dive in!

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Contents

What is cross-team collaboration?

A group of people working together on a project who have a variety of expertise is known as a cross-team collaboration. Consider launching a new product using solely your marketing team’s personnel. After that, envision releasing the same product with a salesperson and developer on board. It is simple to understand why cross-team cooperation can be more successful.

Furthermore,  Cross-team collaboration is when several teams cooperate to achieve a single objective. It enables teams made up of individuals from several departments or businesses to collaborate. Each team contributes a high level of expertise that improves the effectiveness of the whole team.

For instance, even if the core team consists of marketing professionals, they will still require the financial team’s knowledge to succeed. Alternatively, even though your core team is knowledgeable about human resources, they could need the support of the logistics and planning teams to complete a task. These collaborations have the potential to be effective. They frequently guide the company toward important advancements and innovative solutions.

Why is cross-team collaboration important?

Cross-functional teams and siloed departments are at opposite sides of the team collaboration spectrum. The larger workforce frequently pays a high price when individuals are separated from their coworkers in different positions and departments. Some reasons why cross-team collaboration is important, include:

  • Breaking down silos
  • Front line workers are included

 

Breaking down silos

A cross-functional team’s capacity to challenge the status quo is perhaps its greatest asset. Employees who are members of the same department as their bosses or who have been educated to approach issues similarly will frequently adhere to established procedures. That implies that individuals might keep making the same errors and miss chances to do their jobs more effectively.

Working with individuals from various backgrounds also motivates people to support more general company objectives. Working in silos can result in a tunnel-vision mentality that makes workers – and occasionally entire departments – feel alone. This perspective occasionally encourages unhealthy competition between people. Employee disengagement from the company or their position within it is the other extreme of the spectrum.

Work that is misaligned or duplicated is more likely to be produced by employees who don’t get along with others. Additionally, failure to communicate with coworkers might result in less informed judgments that affect people throughout the company.

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Front line workers are included

Workers without desks are frequently cut off from their coworkers who work in offices. The Deskless Not Voiceless 2020 Report discovered substantial differences in the two groups’ communication styles. Only 25% of frontline managers used email to communicate with staff members during various worldwide lockdowns, compared to 90% of HQ managers. On their own devices, more than half of frontline or deskless workers used applications. This covert and disorganized strategy forbids business executives from speaking with frontline employees and gives them little opportunity to respond to people filling crucial frontline positions.

Companies will require clear messaging to express change and stay connected as they restructure to weather rough times and adapt to fulfill pandemic-proof laws. During a crucial time, cross-team cooperation with frontline employees helps to strengthen values and raise team morale. Additionally, it invites deskless employees to comment on new procedures in a discussion. Businesses can make better judgments and adjust more rapidly because of the two-way dialogue.

How is cross-team collaboration different?

What is different about forming and working with a cross-functional team when you are used to interacting in your regular team? There are two important factors to think about.

Working with your team

When employees from several departments of a corporation collaborate, it frequently challenges accepted ways of doing things. Innovative methods and out-of-the-box thinking can provide results that weren’t possible in a single department, and new viewpoints present a wider range of options.

Cross-functional teams frequently skip the standard approval procedures and deliver their work at the highest level when approving an assignment. Problem-solving is typically more robust and teams can identify faults early in the work process when so many departments are contributing.

Building your team

Traditional departments are typically designed on employee experience. We use phrases like “junior,” “midweight,” “senior,” and “executive” in job titles to describe someone’s qualifications for the position. Teams with members from many departments can naturally establish cross-functional teams to cover a wider variety of talents.

Single-function teams frequently include individuals with a range of experience, although the majority of members typically function at the same level. A team member with less experience leading a group of team members with more experience is called a cross-functional team.

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What are the best practices of cross-team collaboration?

The following will tips are the best practices for cross-team collaboration:

  • Get support from the senior management
  • Use the right collaboration tools for the job
  • Encourage face-to-face interactions

 

Get support from the senior management

Engaging department heads in your cooperation is a surefire way to give it more impact. The senior team members can assist in monitoring the development of junior team members if you hire coworkers from the same department. Your cross-functional project shouldn’t be prioritized over routine tasks with a thoughtful addition to your team. The best part is that you will have the support of a company powerhouse for sign-off.

Use the right collaboration tools for the job

Success in a cross-functional team also depends on making sure everyone uses the same technologies, whether they are office-based, remote, or both. Find a communication tool that works with the applications you already have. Make sure your company is interconnected so that employees may use mobile devices to remain current on corporate news and interact successfully from any location.

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Encourage face-to-face interactions

One of the simplest methods to develop trust within your team is through face-to-face encounters. Ask coworkers to turn on cameras before video conversations, and encourage them to share their screens.

Some other best practices of team collaboration include: 

  • Assemble your team carefully
  • Host a kick-off meeting
  • Keep track of progress
  • Make the most of your meetings
  • Set a transparent decision-making process

What are the signs of an unhealthy team?

If you observe any of these symptoms, your team collaboration is probably suffering:

  • Personal conflict across teams
  • Misalignment of goals
  • Lack of time and focus on collaborating
  • Double work
  • Information silos created by poor communication
  • Lack of clarity in communication of responsibilities
  • Micromanaging
  • Unclear chain of command
  • High emotional tension and isolation

How to effectively boost cross-team collaboration?

Cross-collaboration is difficult for unhealthy teams. Therefore, if your teams are exhibiting some of these signs, it’s important to assess where they are right now and begin implementing tactics to help them transform from being ineffective to being highly effective. Here are five suggestions for improving cross-team collaboration.

Communicate Clearly

Communication is paramount. Say that again and again. Let it into your soul. The key to any successful cross-team collaboration is communication.

If you examine the statistical data on why individuals leave businesses, why relationships break down, or why there is a lot of mistrust in our government, you will see one clear pattern: poor communication. The converse is also true. In the area where success was high, communication was good. Your team’s communication and methods of communication must improve when new members are added.

When your team was still tiny, interpersonal communication was sufficient to get by. However, the level of communication required for the project to be effective increases as more participants is added. Problems arise from poor communication, whereas issues are resolved by effective communication. If the team is serious about succeeding, effective communication must be the foundation of successful cross-team collaboration.

For effective communication, have monthly team meetings and weekly check-ins. The weekly check-ins are intended to be quick sessions when you may speak with your team in person. You will present the vision, go over expectations and goals, respond to inquiries, and deal with issues during these meetings.

Weekly check-ins are not intended to address every issue facing the business. They are meant to be brief meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page. Weekly check-ins and monthly meetings have a lot in common. However, because the purpose of the meetings is to educate and train your cross-collaborators, they will last a little longer each month.

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Set Cross-Team Expectations

The management of projects can be difficult. The project might become more complex as you add teams and team members. You now have to manage multiple teams made up of various personalities in addition to managing the project. The success of the team depends on establishing expectations for cross-team collaboration. This guarantees that each cross-team member is aware of the duties, objectives, conduct, communication, and roles that will govern their interactions.

The best way is to establish the standards that everyone else will aspire to meet as a leader. Do not disregard this obligation. The goals of the team will serve as the main motivator for much of what you do. Reflecting on your actions is one of the best strategies for this. Consider the behavior you want from your team. Consider the project’s objectives, as well as the timetable, money, resources, and individual responsibilities and activities.

Next, decide what level of effort, task accomplishment, and behavioral standards the team will require. Write them all down. Don’t forget to let the team know about them frequently and in clear terms.

Define Team Roles and Responsibilities

One of the quickest and unhealthiest ways to sabotage a cross-team collaboration is confusion. Clarity is the key to success. When we are unclear, we unintentionally breed distrust among the team members. There is never success when there is mistrust because there is never any development.

To establish a foundation of confidence with our cross-team collaborators, we must first establish who is responsible for what and who reports to whom. Helping people understand their roles at work and who their direct supervisor is has a powerful simplicity to it. People are more likely to trust you if you take the effort to define these terms. They will contribute to the team’s effectiveness and success once they have faith in you.

Although it may seem simple, when we understand the fundamentals, we can succeed on all fronts. Do not despise little beginnings or small things since it is precisely these things that will help your cross-team collaboration get you to the finish line. Create the tools you need up front so you won’t have to deal with damage control later.

The best practice is to write job descriptions and flowcharts. People act on what they observe rather than what you say. It’s also important to realize that people rarely recall things when they need them. Your cross-team collaboration will be more successful if you have a visual of both the team flow chart and job descriptions in a place where individuals can access them quickly and frequently.

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Create Systems

A system reportedly helps you save time, energy, and money. If you give it some thought, the systems (processes) you develop are the cornerstone on which your team will expand. Every aspect of existence operates within a system.

Consider the physique of a person. This system executes other systems. The neurological system, endocrine system, and several other systems are all housed within the intricate human body. The human body is robust and healthy when these systems function at their peak levels. Why should we perceive your teamwork any differently? With several improved systems, the team will perform at its best.

The team’s leader must create and put into place mechanisms for the team to effectively increase cross-team communication. A system is necessary for anything you do. For instance, you will require a system for following up, a system for budgeting and spending, a system for marketing, etc. The cross-team collaboration will function more smoothly the more systems you implement.

Construct a sharable document that contains all the systems after you have taken the time to create each one individually. Since systems can and frequently do change, this will be a live document. Give the rest of the team the chance to offer suggestions for how to make the system better. The team will have more buy-in and the systems will improve the more input they provide.

One thing to note is that not all changes are implemented. Instead, discuss the modification with the team members and find out their thoughts on how the system will be improved. Change the system only if the suggested change improves it. If the suggested modification does not, however, enhance the current system, then disregard it.

Be Transparent and Remove Informational Roadblocks

Every cross-team collaboration is driven by trust. A person will give you less work as a result of their decreased level of trust in you. Inauthenticity and ambiguity are two of the main factors that reduce trust within a team. When these two characteristics are present in the team’s leadership, the team starts to believe that the leaders are ambiguous and concealing something.

That is not what you want your staff to be feeling or thinking. Instead, you want your team to know they can believe you are who you say you are and that they can rely on you. You want the team to realize that the leadership is completely transparent. Everything is connected to effective communication.

One of the healthiest and most productive teams would be visible if the leadership of the cross-team collaboration dared to be open and remove barriers to communication. The inability to be truthful frequently destroys team spirit and prevents the team from realizing its full potential. The significance of this advice cannot be overstated.

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I have seen team after team disintegrates over the past 20 years as a result of the leadership’s commitment to their demand for secrecy. They were living in secrecy rather than being open. Instead of speaking up and being courageous, they remained silent and afraid. Any team that has an unstable leader will eventually fail. Avoid feeling as though you have to conceal anything.

The best practice is to discuss the difficulties you have with the team during your weekly check-ins. Be open and truthful about the team’s progress toward its objectives. Discuss the team’s apparent difficulties and limitations. Express your regret for any possible abuse or contempt you may have shown to a team member.

Make sure you have considered when and when an apology is appropriate before offering one. You shouldn’t be expressing a feeble apology to them. However, when you recognize a mistake you’ve made, own it. Above all, always work to be as open and honest as you can with the team you have been given.

What are the benefits of cross-team collaboration?

The followings are the benefits of cross-team collaboration:

  • Faster progress
  • Robust results
  • Improved creativity and innovation
  • Increased engagement and team spirit

 

Faster progress

Progress can be a slow, exhausting process when several corporate processes operate in isolation from one another. Consider a situation where you called a business with a question and were then transferred from one extension to the next. It isn’t only annoying, but time-consuming too. Imagine that a small group of specialists picked up the phone to take your call. You could come up with a more useful response much more rapidly with the proper arrangement.

Robust results

Different sections offer various viewpoints. A decision’s financial implications are more likely to enter an accountant’s mind. The impact of the same choice on employee relationships and wellbeing will likely be examined by HR. A team member from a third department might be able to spot flaws in both strategies that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. Building more reliable solutions can benefit from knowledge sharing and the use of diverse techniques.

Improved creativity and innovation

In general, cross-functional teams are more imaginative than department-based teams. A firm can experiment with their responses to a problem or even mix skills that are infrequently brought together by combining a variety of available skills. Team members can question how things are done when different functions from their own are collaborated on across teams. The most effective cross-functional teams test concepts before beginning work.

Increased engagement and team spirit

Working together with distant coworkers improves working connections. People may feel more a part of the company as a whole as they interact with more coworkers. There’s a chance that staff members will even learn some new skills in the process. Businesses are more likely to retain their finest talent when employees work together to enhance their problem-solving skills, their abilities, and their relationships with coworkers.

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What are the limitations that prevent cross-team collaboration?

The followings are some limitations of cross-team collaboration all company owners and managers are expected to combat:

  • Absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results

 

Absence of trust

Before you start putting together your super team, team members may not have much of a relationship with one another, especially if you have a hybrid workforce. It can be challenging to develop a sense of camaraderie and trust among colleagues if they have low or no expectations for one another’s skills.

Fear of conflict

When coworkers are unfamiliar with one another, things may go either way. Groupthink can result when team members are afraid to discuss ideas openly to maintain a false impression of harmony. Or, if you’re unlucky, coworkers may argue over a simple misunderstanding.

Lack of commitment

The majority of cross-functional team members will be accountable to their regular department. They must figure out how to strike a balance between their regular responsibilities and the demands of the new assignment. The excitement and effectiveness of the new team may suffer if others’ levels of commitment are uncertain.

Avoidance of accountability

Those may be more prone to blame bad performance on people they don’t get along with if day-to-day business communication within the team remains an issue. Teams often let standards drop as they play the finger-pointing game.

Inattention to results

Cross-functional teams need to keep the larger picture in mind. Individual tasks being highlighted might divert attention from more important duties, which can lead to subpar performance.

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FAQs

As its name implies, “cross-team collaboration” (sometimes referred to as “cross-functional collaboration”) refers to a group of individuals from various teams cooperating to accomplish a single objective.

Innovation, cooperation, and learning increase when different talent teams work together. Cross-functional teamwork promotes relationships between teams that otherwise would not have come into contact, creating a collaborative culture that is advantageous to a business at all levels.

Crucial strategies to boost cross-team collaboration
  1. Choose the right team.
  2. Have a leader.
  3. Align project goals and share them with everyone.
  4. Employees should be aware of other teams’ projects and initiatives.
  5. Set a clear timeline for the project.
  6. Build greater communication and management skills across the organization.

Key leadership characteristics to managing a cross-functional team. Excellent Communication. Thorough Organization. Clarity.

For the team to view the full picture, cross-functional teams remove the “silos” of a traditional organizational structure. Working with individuals who have different perspectives, specialties, and backgrounds allows the team as a whole to solve issues more quickly and accomplish project objectives.

How Do You Create a Cross-Functional Workflow?
  1. Educate Your Teams. The first step to building a cross-functional workflow is to educate your teams on it.
  2. Catch Everyone Up.
  3. Make Introductions.
  4. Setup a Creative Collaboration Workspace.
  5. Establish Communication Best Practices.
  6. Lead by Example.
  7. Reward Success.
Improving cross-team collaboration includes:
  1. Establish a collaboration culture.
  2. Consolidate technology.
  3. Select the right team members.
  4. Balance collaboration and focus.
  5. Limit team meetings.
  6. Set objectives.
  7. Measure the impact.
  8. Foster creativity.

Cross-functional collaboration is about sharing the commitment to work together to achieve shared objectives. Establishing a solid framework for a collaborative approach to innovation and development is in the best interests of all business leaders. These methods are beneficial.

Executives must designate a responsible leader for each project for these cross-functional initiatives to succeed. This person will coordinate with senior management, make important decisions, and maintain team alignment. Additionally, each project should have definite timelines, resources, and goals.

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It’s one of the most successful tools for creative organizations, but it’s also one of the trickiest to utilize well. Cross-functional leadership success involves planning, strategy, and people abilities. To master it, you need patience and practice. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.

A group of individuals with various skill sets, responsibilities, and disciplines that collaborate to complete certain tasks is known as a cross-functional team. A crew combating a fire is an example.

A cross-functional leader is someone who oversees a team within an organization that includes employees from several departments and specialties.

Cross-functional expertise offers a comprehensive view of how a business is managed and the difficulties that each functional group faces. It’s almost like having the ability to weigh all options and see the bigger picture.

cross-organizational,  multi-disciplined

The Secret to Cross-Functional Success is Communication. Each cross-functional contributor’s chances of success are increased by combining the tools that are compatible with the methods that people naturally communicate and learn.