Cross-functional collaboration is more than just a trendy buzzword. Effective cross-functional collaboration can transform your entire company and boost employee engagement.
Building a collaborative mindset and organizational culture starts at the top. To get key project managers on the same page and promote cross-functional collaboration, your leaders must understand what cross-functional team collaboration is and the benefits it can provide an organization.
This post will define what cross-functional collaboration is; we’ll examine the benefits of cross-functional collaboration and some of the common challenges that organizations face when different teams work closely together.
Implementing cross-functional collaboration could be a significant game changer for your organization and get the different departments of your company on the same page.
What Is Cross-Functional Collaboration?
Cross-functional collaboration refers to members of different teams within an organization coming together to achieve a common goal. For example, when members of the development team work closely together with members of the marketing and sales teams, they form a cross-functional team.
Some companies allow cross-functional teams to occur organically as a project demands. While organic cross-team collaboration is great and should never be discouraged, relying solely on organic cross-functional collaboration won’t yield the same results as a planned cross-functional collaboration initiative.
Successful cross-functional collaboration generates new perspectives. The most effective way to gain different perspectives is to include team members from various departments with diverse backgrounds and skill levels.
For example, suppose your organization wants to develop a new product. In that case, it is beneficial to bring in people from the sales team, marketing team, development team, and other teams that are relevant to improve project outcomes.
Cross-functional collaboration promotes knowledge sharing. For example, the knowledge gained by your marketing team could help team members from other departments develop new features or strategies to increase a project’s success.
How to Build an Effective Cross-Functional Team
Let’s look at ways your organization can improve collaboration and turn individual teams into a collaborative business unit. Your organization can use these tips to build an effective cross-functional team or promote a company culture of collaboration.
Use Collaborative Tools
Collaboration software can break down barriers between departments and make team members work together to complete common projects. However, software should never hinder a team’s progress. As a result, many collaborative software options are cloud-based to facilitate remote teams and collaboration on the go.
The key role of a collaborative software solution is to simplify workflows. If the software fails to do this, it won’t be effective at promoting collaboration. Therefore, it is critical to closely evaluate all software before implementing it organizationally.
Cross-functional collaboration falls short when organizations lose sight of diversity. Diversity means more than pulling people from various teams and departments. To truly create a diverse environment, you should include people of all backgrounds, skill levels, ages, races, and from different locations.
For example, suppose everyone on the cross-functional team has a leadership role in the organization. In that case, you’ll only get one type of perspective, even if they all work in different departments with different priorities.
To fully see and understand the bigger picture, diversity is vital.
We’re not talking about social media influencers, but the concept is similar. Certain people possess natural leadership qualities and charisma even if they don’t hold a formal title in the organization. These individuals are well-liked and respected and work well with others.
If you want to promote a culture of collaboration organizationally, identify influential people within your company and get them on board with your cross-functional initiative. When building cross-functional teams, it is essential to choose people who work well with others and have the respect of their coworkers.
If you have a team member that is a subject matter expert, include them in your cross-functional teams. Experts not only offer valuable insights and perspectives, but they can help transfer knowledge to other employees.
For example, the marketing department can likely gain a lot of value from an expert sales rep that knows what messaging points resonate with certain clients and which ones don’t. This expert can help employees understand their tasks and goals in a different context and give them ideas that can help lead to innovative solutions.
Cross-functional team collaboration fails when there is a lack of trust. How do you build trust? Clear communication is a great way to start building trust between teams and departments. Without clear expectations, one department may distrust another and pursue conflicting goals.
Transparency is the bedrock of trust, but it needs to be consistent across the entire team and organization, or else trust will fail. Effective collaboration requires trust. If you want to build cross-functional teams, first you must build trust.
The Benefits of Cross-Functional Collaboration
There are several business benefits associated with the utilization of cross-functional teams. The top benefits of cross-functional collaboration are:
- Improved operational efficiency
- More innovation
- Improved employee engagement
Improved Operational Efficiency
When work occurs in silos, it is less effective. Cross-functional collaboration can streamline business operations by leveraging each team’s strengths and reducing operational barriers.
Often multiple teams have to touch a project before it can be completed. Instead of moving a project from department to department and waiting for replies and additions, a cross-functional approach can address project needs more efficiently.
Work silos create organizational barriers. These barriers can make your business less efficient and stand in the way of broad innovation.
Cross-functional collaboration encourages innovation and gives ideas a chance to surface from unlikely sources. You never know where the next great idea is going to come from, but you can encourage creativity and innovation through collaboration.
For example, your social media team might not be able to build an application, but they might produce an idea for a new feature that delights users. Additionally, your developers might not have sales or marketing experience, but they may have greater insight into customer pain points than anyone else in the organization.
Cross-functional collaboration leads to more innovation because more ideas are able to surface and be discussed. Sometimes the best way to produce an innovative idea is to bring a fresh perspective.
Improved Employee Engagement
Collaboration increases employee engagement because employees get more daily variety in their tasks. When the status quo is disrupted, not only do you improve engagement, but you also increase collaboration and productivity.
A more engaged group of employees will help yield better results for your organization and customers.
The Challenges of Cross-Team Collaboration
While cross-functional collaboration is an incredible asset to organizations, there are challenges associated with it, including:
- Building trust
- Poor communication
Building trust between teams that don’t often work together is a challenge organizations will have to overcome. The best way to build trust is to start small. Don’t attempt cross-team collaboration on a large project. Start with small projects to build confidence in the approach and trust between teams before launching a large project.
When cross-team collaboration fails, it is often due to poor communication. The issue many organizations run into is confusion over team leader, individual responsibilities, and protocol for bringing up an issue or question. All of this is poor communication. Team leaders need to actively promote open communication. It is far better to over-communicate than to under-communicate in this situation.
Collaboration is the key to innovation and efficiency. Organizations that want to improve business outcomes need to seriously consider fostering a more collaborative work environment. Cross-functional collaboration can be challenging to implement at first, but if you focus on communication and start small, your organization can create a more open, innovative, and collaborative work environment. If you want to learn more about the value of cross-functional collaboration, reach out to an experienced app development partner.