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11 Tips to Instantly Improve Cross-Team Collaboration

Cross-team collaboration drives continuous improvement within the organization, reduces costs, and enables agility and creative problem-solving. Most importantly – it keeps everyone aligned with the overall goals of the company.

In the past, the only time the IT department and those in business operations might have interacted was at the annual office party. But it’s a different story these days, as more companies encourage – or even require – cross-functional collaboration.

But cross-team collaboration doesn’t happen by accident – it takes time and effort. Unfortunately, it’s easier to find examples of cross-functional teams that don’t work. According to research, around 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.

“Cross-functional teams often fail because the organization lacks a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, by a lack of accountability, by goals that lack specificity, and by organizations’ failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects.” – Benham Tabrizi, Stanford University

The truth is that successful collaboration requires trust. It’s hard enough to establish that bond of trust when someone works in the same room as you. This challenge becomes increasingly more difficult when you have teams collaborating from different departments.

To give you ideas on how you can improve cross-team collaboration in your organization, we’ve put together a list of 11 simple steps that have helped us establish a truly collaborative environment.

Read on: What Makes a Great Company Culture?

Improving cross-team collaboration

1. Establish a collaboration culture

Collaboration culture is about setting an environment in which collaboration is valued and rewarded. And although some managers see collaboration as a “nice to have”, smart managers know this is a shortsighted attitude.

Through teamwork and collaboration, employees can take advantage of the organization’s collective knowledge base, profiting from a much larger pool of expertise than would otherwise be available to them.

This enables businesses to avoid overlapping work and reinvention while accelerating problem-solving and innovation.

2. Consolidate technology

Different teams are often using a variety of different tools to get their work done. This can easily impede real collaboration. By consolidating the tools and getting everybody using the same ones, you will improve communication and simplify logistics and the allocation of resources.

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3. Select the right team members

Companies are finding it harder and harder to differentiate themselves from their competition. Those pulling ahead have learned that putting the right people in the right jobs doing the right things creates an opportunity that would otherwise not exist.

Indeed, collaboration works best when team members have complementary skill sets required to complete the project. And teams can make or break any project. There is a reason why smart VCs keep telling the world that they invest in teams first, ideas second.

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4. Balance collaboration and focus

It’s easier to work together when you have open rooms where collaboration can happen spontaneously. Therefore, to get people collaborating, many companies are embracing the open office floor plan. However, open floor plans can make it challenging for everyone to focus.

What’s the solution? Find the right balance between collaboration and focus. Make sure the design of your office brings harmony between working solo and putting your best brains together.

5. Limit team meetings

When working with large, dispersed teams, it can take a long time for everyone’s schedules to align for a meeting. Meetings also take away from the time your team has to work on their own personal tasks.

Therefore, it’s important to limit the number of meetings and make sure there are a strict agenda and a well-defined method to document follow-up tasks.

Read on: 3 Research-backed Tactics to Have More Effective Meetings

6. Set objectives

Managing a project of any kind requires strong leadership and knowing exactly where the team is headed. A clear focus is essential when setting the conditions for successful collaboration in the workplace.

Start a project by stating the shared challenges the company is facing and collect input from all the teams involved. Once everyone has agreed on what problems need a solution, the next step is to set collaboration goals and objectives for getting there.

Just remember that objectives should tie directly to the problems and large-scale company goals.

7. Measure the impact

On a larger scale, measuring every team’s impact helps you understand the ROI of your entire business and improves transparency in the organization.

However, measuring impact can have a positive effect on your team members as well. Because people want to know that their work is meaningful. And showing how their work has contributed to their team’s success (and the company’s success) can really improve their motivation and create a better environment within the team.

Read on: KPIs That Drive Smarter Business Decisions

8. Foster creativity

Your best people are creative problem solvers – so help them cut loose and listen to them. Make creativity a focal point of your company culture by encouraging employees to cultivate ideas, especially in a collaborative environment. Set up regular brainstorming sessions and get everyone involved.

9. Reward collaboration

People respond to positive reinforcement – so reward the behaviors you want to see more of. There’s something to learn from every project – even a failed one. Learn from mistakes and gains, and use those lessons to build stronger teams and a higher project success rate.

All of the other strategies can be undermined if employees are not recognized for their team effort. It is not uncommon to find incentives that are based solely on the goals of one department.

To improve cross-functional collaboration, it is important to set goals that improve the overall system, not just one part of it.

10. Identify existing problems

The truth is that cross-functional teams have too much potential to let them be derailed by obstacles. Therefore, it’s imperative to identify any problems early on. This way, you make them easier to solve, which means saving time, money, and resources.

Further, managers who can find their way around obstacles will be rewarded with teams that fulfill their purpose and achieve measurable impact.

INFOGRAPHIC: Why Your Teamwork Isn’t Working

11. Test out different things

Every team and organization is different – what works for others may not work for you. Don’t be afraid to try out a new strategy. Most changes will at least have a positive short-term effect on your teams, especially if the idea came from within.

Cross-team collaboration takes time and effort, but it’s full of rewards. Teams that make it a priority to focus on collaboration help pave the way for a smoother integration of new systems and processes.

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