Cross-Team Collaboration: Tips & Strategies for Success
May 19, 2023
No matter how niche a project is, chances are always high that it might require specialist input - oftentimes from more than one area of expertise. With the right cross-team collaboration tools and techniques, you can always pull together a multidisciplinary team for any project and hit the ground running with them.
Cross-team collaboration, when done right, will bring projects to life fast and effectively. When done wrong, however, it can lead to inefficiencies and costly mistakes. For instance, attempting to collaborate while using poorly defined responsibilities leaves room for uncommitted team members to pass the buck and then play the blame game when things go wrong.
This article is designed to help you get a firmer hand on cross-team collaboration. We'll examine its unique attributes and why it's important to consider when planning and executing your projects. Plus, there are plenty of tips to help you shape and inspire a solid collaborative culture.
What is Cross-Team Collaboration?
Simply put, cross-team collaboration refers to any activity requiring the contribution of different experts, teams or departments. It’s often something that happens unconsciously every other day - but that is precisely why a lot of businesses fail to utilize it effectively.
Effective cross-team collaboration is a concept that requires special attention, but it’s often not prioritized. Instead, businesses manage cross-functional teams with the same principles and tools used to run a single department or team.
A 2015 study found that 75% of so-called cross-functional teams were "actually dysfunctional"- and it’s a problem that is still prevalent today. It reflects a historical problem with a workplace culture spanning the past few decades, something that can't easily be undone in just a few years. Instead, succeeding with a cross-functional team requires a systemic and strategic approach.
If cross-team collaboration has become a critical part of your business process, you'll find everything you need to get it right in this guide. And if you're still in doubt over the value of taking a strategic approach with your multi-disciplinary team, here's why you need to reconsider:
Why is Cross-Team Collaboration so Important for Businesses?
Oftentimes, different teams and departments work in silos focused on specific or specialized projects. But there are occasions when they all need to come together in real-time to execute a project. Their roles become much more intertwined, responsibilities overlap, and much of what they do depends on what's going on with the other teams.
By learning how to manage cross-team collaborations properly you can:
Eliminate any room for errors or misunderstandings
Promote seamless communication
Boost cross-functional team productivity
Raise the chances of succeeding with your multidisciplinary teams and improve company-wide results
You can bring different experts together - each with their different workstyles and terminologies - to speak the same language, stay on the same page on the project goals, and work simultaneously to ensure each other's success as well as the overall success of the project.
Key Benefits of Cross-Team Collaboration
Now you know why your cross-team collaboration skills can make or break a project. It might sound daunting to pull a team of different experts in one direction, managing them with a process that's unique compared to how you manage other types of organizational activities.
Here's why it will all be worth it in the end:
Eliminate Workplace Silos and Miscommunication
Business departments and dedicated teams often work in isolation from the rest of the organization, requiring little or no input from others. With cross-team collaboration, you can bring them all together seamlessly, without any friction or misunderstandings.
Here are some stats proving how invaluable this could be to your organization:
On average, business teams waste over 20 hours every month on unproductive collaborations. It can also slow productivity, with research revealing 54% of workers felt poor collaboration led to missed deadlines .
With cross-team collaboration management skills, you can quickly identify and eliminate any barriers to seamless collaboration and optimize productivity in your multidisciplinary teams. As a result of good collaboration, companies could see up to five times improvement in performance.
Create a Sense of Shared Responsibility
With cross-team collaboration skills, you foster good teamwork and productivity not only by eliminating barriers to effective communication but by also inspiring commitment and engagement among your team members. This is because, not only does everyone know their responsibilities, but that they also look out for each other.
Your team members will be united under the same vision and goals, and be as passionate about their individual efforts as they are about the efforts of their colleagues.
Employees essentially become more supportive, going beyond just their designated tasks to complement each other's work and ensure that all the requirements for the project are met.
Increase Team Productivity and Performance
All these benefits culminate in enhanced productivity and performance. Your team members will have no excuse to fail, and they'll all take direct responsibility for the success of the project. Work flows seamlessly, with little or no delays or misunderstandings that could cause a setback.
What's more, enhanced team collaboration also encourages knowledge-sharing. That means it's easier to get everyone to work using cutting-edge knowledge and best practices.
Must-Know Strategies to Boost Cross-Team Collaboration
Ready to knock your projects off the park with your cross-functional team? These cross-team collaboration best practices will help you get off the ground quickly
Develop a Shared Vision and Goals
First, you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page about your vision and goals. When all your team members have the same vision and goals in mind, they're all likely to head in the same direction and become supportive of each other.
Adopt Collaborative Tools
Your team members will be encouraged to commit to multidisciplinary projects when they work in an enabling environment.
Avoid miscommunications through endless email threads, or over complicated platforms that bombard teams with information and features. Instead, simply invest in project management software that will make collaborating between teams easier. Give them one place to centralize project information, track progress and share docs without having to embark on a big learning curve.
Create a Single Source of Truth
You can also eliminate misunderstandings and misgivings by giving everyone easy access to original files. Establish a central place for information that can be updated in real-time. This way, your employees will be able to work faster and collaborate easily when they can always find any documents they need from a single, easily accessible source.
Set a Clear Timeline
Instill a sense of urgency in your cross-functional team collaboration by locking everything into time slots on your calendar. Break down your project into trackable, time-bound bits, and make sure everyone is always conscious of what needs to be done per time. Ensure this calendar is accessible by all team members so everyone is aligned on expectations.
Develop Goals Focused on Collaboration
Track your team efforts through KPIs (key performance indicators) and OKR (objectives and key results). This will give you a clear view of each team member's efforts and their impact on the project outcomes, as well as the overall level of cohesion and dedication in your team. These objectives could be anything from “collaborate with one other department this quarter” to scheduling regular cross-departmental catch ups.
Make Continuous Improvements
Lastly, always be on the lookout for ways to improve your team. Find ways to further develop your team vision, instill current best practices in your team members, and optimize your resources and technology accordingly.
Time To Simplify Cross-team Collaboration
Make your cross-team collaborations a work in progress, a process that you constantly refine to bring the best out of your cross-functional projects. Bring everyone together on the same vision and goals, and always find ways to tweak those goals for more relevant outcomes. Invest in collaborative technology and ensure that your team members have all the tools and resources to collaborate effectively.
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