Cross Functional Collaboration
Cross-functional collaboration is a process that occurs when teams from the same company work toward a common goal. Each contributing party offers its own functional expertise or specialization that’s necessary for the project to be successful. This type of collaboration can occur when a manager or project leader asks another team to participate in completing a project. Sometimes, the company might ask skilled employees together to work together on a large-scale project. In a nutshell, cross functional collaboration is when people from different teams or department within an organization come together to complete a specific goal or project.
If you’re responsible for forming a group of teams, consider each team’s goals to ensure each team member has the same objective and understands the company’s priorities. It’s helpful to communicate each team’s tasks to the group so they can provide each other with support and help each other complete their tasks efficiently. You can also share what each employee’s responsibilities are to clarify expectations and minimize confusion. There are three important elements of successful cross-functional collaboration:
When creating a team, it’s important to consider the details that help diversify the group. Here are some factors to consider:
Experience: When forming a team, consider including professionals who have significant experience so they can offer guidance to their less experienced team members. Their expertise may ensure that the project reaches completion successfully, with the expected level of quality.
Skills: Depending on the scope of the project, the manager may consider which skills are necessary to complete it successfully. He may form a team that includes people with unique skill sets to help ensure that each aspect of the project has someone with the capabilities to complete them.
Ability: Project managers may consider the abilities of their potential team members before asking them to join a team. For example, a manager might ask prospective team members if they know how to use specific computer software before considering them for the team.
Seniority: When an employee has seniority, they typically occupy a managerial or leadership role. Senior team members may manage cross-functional collaborative projects, which means they might develop a project plan and help the team set effective goals.
Location: Some employees may work within a department that operates in another location, such as in a different city, state or country. Including team members who work in a variety of locations can provide your team with fresh ideas and help with localization efforts.
Demographics: Depending on the type of project you’re leading, it may be important to consider the demographics of the professionals you include on the team. Creating a team that’s demographically diverse may help your team connect with its target audience more effectively.
Subject matter experts: Subject matter experts, are people who possess advanced knowledge and expertise about a specific product, discipline or process. They’re essential for a cross-functional collaborative project because they know how to complete the most challenging work and can guide other team members on how to perform a task most efficiently. SMEs are often the first people a team consults when attempting to solve a problem or address an issue.
Influencers: Influencers are employees who perform leadership duties at a company, regardless of if they have a leadership role. They may be skilled in communication and team-building, which can help them develop a positive reputation at work. They may also motivate their colleagues to contribute to a project or improve their productivity. Therefore, influencers are essential figures to include within a cross-functional collaborative team.
Cross-functional collaboration at a food company
A cookie company sells five different cookie flavours and has done so for the past 10 years. While sales are consistent, the company plans to increase them by reaching out to new customers. In order to drive traffic and grow its customer base, the company decides it’s going to offer five new cookie flavours. To execute this initiative successfully, it gathers a cross-functional collaborative team that includes the product development, communications, and marketing and policy teams. Each team performs their assigned duties:
Designing the new cookies: The product development team designs and creates the new cookie flavours, using the feedback they receive from customers to adjust the flavours until they’re satisfactory to the test groups.
Updating team members: The communications team handles the written communication efforts to keep every department up to date about what’s going on in the project, including the deadlines, budgets and other critical information.
Marketing: The marketing team develops and implements a new marketing campaign to reach as many people, such as through newsletters, infomercials or promos.
Checking the product for compliance: Since food products often follow food safety regulations, the policy team can help to make sure that the product adheres to those regulations at all stages of the process.
4 Cross Functional Teams Best Practices
The following five tips will help you excel when working with multiple departments.
Does your cross functional team trust each other? If they’ve never worked together before, the answer is probably no — at least not completely. The folks from the same department may feel comfortable with one another but when it comes to “outsiders”, there may be a barrier.
As the leader of your team, you can overcome this by first making sure that your team’s goals are aligned with your company’s overarching objectives. You may also want to start the collaboration process with a few simple projects. A quick win or two will go a long way toward building trust between teammates. And once a project has been completed, even if it’s a small one, celebrate the success with your entire team. This will bring new collaborators together and help to bond them in positive ways.
Diversity in the workplace is a good thing. The same is true of your cross functional team. The more skill sets you have access to the better and competing viewpoints and will give your group the best chance at consistently discovering the right solutions. When choosing personnel for your cross functional collaboration, look for professionals with different and complementary experiences, abilities, and seniority levels. A variety of ages and genders can really help as well.
In general, the most effective teams are the ones who can look at problems from every angle and devise creative solutions to solve them. By building a diverse cross functional team, you’ll ensure this happens more times than not.
Respect Each Department
Group members may feel threatened when asked to divulge information and sacrifice autonomy. They may begin to feel like their area of expertise is being encroached upon and worry that they’ll become less valuable to their company. The way to overcome this collaboration hurdle is to recognize each team member for the contributions they make. You should also let each of them know that you respect and appreciate what they bring to the table.
And finally, make sure that the folks in each department oversee their own area of expertise and have final say in all matters pertaining to it. For example, defer to sales experts in matters concerning sales, marketing folks when it comes to marketing best practices, and so on.
Incentivize as Needed
Lastly, incentivize your team when necessary. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to award prizes for jobs well done — though if your collaborators respond well to this, you may want to give it a try. But it does mean that each team member should understand the benefits of collaborating beyond just additional company-wide success.
Perhaps the project you’re currently working on will boost the reputation of all involved. Or maybe it will reduce the amount of mundane busy work team members will have to complete on a regular basis. Both outcomes are strong incentives for effective collaboration. Make sure each of your team members knows what’s in it for them and they’ll be much more likely to collaborate.
See also: Best Practice in Creating Cross-Functional Teams