Improving collaborative productivity among cross-functional teams is key to supporting innovative ideas and aligning project goals. Through cross-team collaboration, leaders can gain better insights, combat silo mentality, and eliminate the gap between members across several organizational departments. However, cross-functional team collaboration is not as easy or fun as it sounds.
A Harvard Business Review report shows that more than 75% of cross-functional teams fail to meet task-related objectives, stay within budget, and maintain alignment with organizational goals. This is mainly because of vague project goals, unclear governance, and the lack of accountability among team members. All things considered, knowing how to facilitate cross-team working in a remote environment is even more difficult.
In this article, we’ll discuss why is cross-team collaboration important and some effective strategies you can implement:
1. Set Clear Project Goals
Setting clear project goals is one of the cross-team collaboration best practices. As users evolve with the current working state, team leaders must let remote employees know what is expected from them and how to work along with other departments to boost productivity.
Often, cross-functional teams start seeing problems when there is lack of clarity and alignment in the organization. This lack of clarity usually results in each team member handling tasks with a different goal in mind, which ultimately leads to the team going nowhere. By setting clear project goals, leaders can measure employee success based on objectives and goals that are specific to task responsibilities.
However, it is important to gather your teams when setting project goals to brainstorm numerous ways you can produce the end results when you set your targets. This prevents misaligned expectations and allows you to create a definite action plan to determine how your target can be met.
2. Establish a Communication Plan
Communication is a vital component of the cross-functional collaboration framework. Without excellent cross-team communication, collaboration falls apart and could ultimately affect the work turned in by remote employees. The challenge of cross-team collaboration is departmental teams usually operate as silos and create their respective workflows that the rest of the organization may not understand.
By establishing a communication plan, you can ensure that teams know who they need to reach for specific business issues and prevent misalignment. When creating a communication plan, you have to initially set a centralized communication method. Although using several internal communication tools may seem advantageous, it could result in confusion and information overload that could hinder employee productivity.
Your communication plan should also include how many times you will communicate with teams to ask for progress. This means regulating the type and timings of virtual meetings to avoid deviating from your goal. Ideally, you must ensure that each meeting has a proper agenda, appropriate documentation, and a designated team member to outline the meeting minutes.
3. Assign a Leader
Friction in team dynamics is a common issue among cross-functional teams when coming together to collaborate. Often, this is a result of teams having differences in key performance metrics and priorities. Without someone calling the shots, you increase the likelihood of team members failing to fulfill their roles and developing even more significant issues.
Therefore, you have to assign a capable leader to offer guidance to every team to ensure they stay on track of achieving project goals. Unlike traditional team management, leading a team of this complexity and diversity requires leaders to have a system for organizing research, information, documents, notes, deadlines, and whatever else everyone will be bringing into the project. Regardless of your goals and requirements, you may need someone who has excellent people skills and a public relations degree for this position to promote essential remote working values.
When looking for someone for the position, you have to ensure that the leader is capable enough to keep everyone’s morale high, considering that roughly 19% of employees feel lonely while working remotely. Usually, leading a cross-functional team can result in leaders in individual team morale to fall by the wayside. By providing each member of your cross-functional team individual attention and time, you can become better acquainted with the different skills and strengths at your disposal as well as acquire a better view of each project and talk to disinterested parties effectively.
4. Organize Employee Engagement Activities
The importance of employee engagement in cross-team collaboration is too hard to ignore, especially if teams are spread across several geographic locations. When cross-functional teams are engaged, they become more focused and motivated to meet project goals and avoid dropping out of the loop. This is especially evident for teams working in several departments wherein getting to know one another is often a challenge.
By organizing employee engagement activities, you can establish more opportunities for individuals from different departments to create personal connections that would reduce feelings of isolation and disconnection from colleagues. When organizing employee engagement activities, you must create a narrative for the event that keeps everyone engaged. This can be adding an element of gameplay to your exercises or perhaps making work fun with emojis.
Be sure to leverage video conferencing as well. Although digital chats and emails are excellent ways to keep in touch, face-to-face communication will help your virtual cross-functional teams to feel more present in the office environment. You may also opt to establish a culture of recognition and celebrate small wins to help everyone feel satisfied and connected towards their work. Nevertheless, organizing activities that would reduce the friction between teams should be a priority before you get down to the nitty-gritty details of your projects.
5. Provide the Right Tools
Providing cross-functional teams with the right tools during the lifecycle of a project is key to boosting productivity and efficiency for remote teams. Often, leaders running cross-functional teams make the mistake of letting employees use the different tools to perform their work and collaborate. The reality is that cross-team collaboration is time-consuming and usually stressful, especially for dispersed workforce.
By providing the right tools, you can help remote cross-functional teams to adapt to evolving work settings and eliminate silos. When picking the tools for your cross-team collaboration, you have to evaluate your existing processes to ensure that you can pick a solution that has some familiar aspects.
For instance, project management software tools that automate your tasks all have third-party integrations and time-tracking capabilities. Opting for a tool that has similar features that your cross-functional teams already know will assist in easing its adoption and providing a basis for helping teams understand the new software. However, it is important to note that giving cross-functional teams the right tools is only halfway to achieving collaboration
You should also develop a strategic approach to close the skill gap and train cross-teams on how they can maximize the tools you’ve provided. This means taking into account the different learning styles of the different members of your cross-functional team to easily break down training into smaller yet easy-to-follow segments.
Improving Remote Cross Team Collaboration Effectively
Leading a diverse team made up of people from various functional areas and geographic locations are brimming with a myriad of challenges and barriers. After all, it is not only about finding a group of individuals with the right combination of skills but also establishing the right policies to enhance collaboration.
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