Are you rarely communicating with people across functions in your company, except for at the occasional Christmas party? Then it might be time to collaborate with cross-functional teams.
Bridging the gap between different teams is important as you can achieve better results and widen team expertise. Collaborating across functions allows employees to resolve issues and produce projects with perspectives and knowledge.
What is cross-functional collaboration?
Cross functional collaboration involves teams with different priorities and responsibilities in an organization working together for a common goal. This can entail joining forces on a specific project or collaborating long-term as an ongoing process. Permanent collaboration tends to be more successful, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Implementing cross functional collaboration can be challenging, particularly in a remote setting. It takes a shift in the entire business culture. Due to physical distance, your product marketing team can’t just walk down the hallway to ask the social media team a question. So why go through all the trouble?
Benefits of Cross Functional Collaboration
Cross functional collaboration eases chaos by building harmony across business functions in a team. According to Forbes Advisor, cross functional team collaboration allows employees to efficiently tackle problems by working with various viewpoints and expertise. When different teams collaborate, innovation and productivity increase. It fosters new relationships between teams that would have never crossed paths. This creates an innovative environment and space for fresh ideas.
The common goals of an organization are promoted through cross collaboration. Without it, a team just focuses on particular issues related to their role. It allows teams to see the big picture, rather than having tunnel vision.
For example, customer success issues with clients might not feel like a priority to the marketing team that wants to launch a new product. Nevertheless, both projects might see improvement if teams collaborate to include key customer pain points in the communications for the product launch. Working collaboratively on projects means that the goals of the organization are all aligned.
Working in isolation is often inefficient, restricts innovation, and is time-consuming. Along with hitting those KPIs, the well-being of team members in a remote setting improves by avoiding such a business culture.
How to Improve Collaboration: Cross Functional Teams
Bridging the gap across teams can be difficult, particularly in a remote work setting. Cross functional partnerships must be deliberate in such a setting. Let’s take a look at how you can improve collaboration in cross functional teams in a remote setting. Here are our five main tips to collaborate cross-functionally:
- Foster personal relationships first, get to know employees across departments
- Find cross collaboration meaning and value with shared goals across departments
- Develop clear collaboration plans
- Send a weekly loom to increase collaboration
- Introduce a sub-space for communication within different teams
1. Start building company-wide relationships
The first step is to break the ice and encourage everyone to get to know each other. This is a lot more intuitive in a physical setting. Nonetheless, it can still be successful when done remotely with the right tools. Without a sense of trust and communication, different departments are unlikely to want to work together.
Book some old-fashioned team bonding time, but across departments. Book short 1:1 coffee chats where employees from different departments can take a break from work and meet a coworker. You can also look into opening virtual coworking slots with tools such as Gather if the team is looking to connect more.
Transition to more work-related events such as company-wide “show and tells”. Employees present projects they are working on and other teams from different departments can provide input with their expertise and knowledge. It could potentially lead to useful feedback or an innovative new project emerging from discussions.
2. Establish a new set of shared goals
A major challenge you might face to promote teams to collaborate cross-functionally is a misalignment of priorities. If you assign a collaborative project, team members of a particular department might feel like that task is not a priority. Find shared goals that benefit all involved to avoid the feeling that departments are working toward opposite ends.
A common goal could be a user-focused goal that all departments benefit from. This collaborative approach allows all departments to be focused on the user, whilst bringing in a diverse expert point of view.
At times, it might seem that departments are working towards opposite goals, but this is not the case. The entire business structure is carefully considered and risks assessed by providing different perspectives on a project.
For example, the product marketing team is looking to set up a new help center, but SEO and content is only focused on increasing traffic. Value of the help center also depends on how easy help material is to find for users, which is where the SEO team can provide value to the end project. Both teams can share a metric in the project to work towards the same goal: creating seamless education flows for users.
3. Set up a collaboration plan
Assign a project that lies at the intersection of two different functions and set a clear plan. Think outside the box. What business functions rarely work together but could generate an innovative project?
Business functions that often clash in their way of thinking could be your best bet. For example, the marketing and IT departments. Putting distinct types of people together leads to cutting-edge ideas that would otherwise never occur.
The key to setting a collaborative project in a remote setting is to present clear proposals. Identify a shared goal, timeline and time commitment. Starting a new project, especially when it involves various stakeholders, can feel like a time-consuming and scary task. With a clear collaboration plan, both parties have a clear understanding of the task at hand and are more likely to be eager to collaborate.
Having a set plan is especially important if you are an employee looking to collaborate with someone from another department. Employees are not always welcoming to the pitching of new projects. Be respectful of them by outlining their workload and role honestly. Define each individual activity in the project, where ownership lies, and how it all concludes in a common goal.
4. Replace standups with weekly looms
Another easy way to foster collaboration remotely is to plan an asynchronous weekly standup that is open to all departments. Instead of the traditional weekly standup you can share short-form videos through Loom with information that might be interesting to the whole team.
A virtual loom actually makes it easier for people with different roles to add their thoughts and feedback. People can add comments at certain timestamps, and the author of the loom receives a notification that someone has added new comments.
People can be more thoughtful of their feedback when done asynchronously. Instead of being limited to a 20 minute standup every morning they can add a comment to a loom or watch a new standup when they have time.
Maybe someone from customer service or finance makes a point you had not considered and offers solutions. You might even find that they are willing to connect and get involved in the project to help you out.
5. Sub-space for communication
While a weekly loom goes a long way, having a set sub-space for communication fosters a long-term open environment for employees in different roles.
Back in the office, people with different functions were likely to bump into each other in the hallway or during their coffee breaks. They were likely to talk about their ongoing projects and the roadblocks they were facing.
In a remote setting, introducing a digital sub-space for communication that replaces these moments is imperative. Instead of having a single chat for the product marketing or SEO team, collaboration should be more centered. For example, set up a sub-space for all employees to discuss new projects, goals and objectives under the marketing umbrella.
Sending a message to pitch a collaborative project or asking for a different point of view will become an intuitive part of the workday.
Using Rock for Cross Functional Collaboration
The lack of effective cross functional collaboration can negatively impact the growth of a company, even in “normal times”. According to Accenture, this can prove disastrous in times of economic downturn. While improving collaboration is more easily achieved when a common workspace is shared, there are plenty of technological solutions to mitigate remote collaboration issues.
Rock’s all-in-one functionality makes collaboration with cross functional teams a walk in the park. Rock empowers remote teams to be more productive with full-fledged project management in one place.
Change how you collaborate remotely with multimodal communication that allows you to collaborate in different ways through structured documentation, communication and project management. While employees will not be running into each other at lunchtime, Rock’s features still foster an environment of open collaboration and communication.
Collaboration with Rock: Task Management and Organization
Task management is highly organized on Rock and makes collaboration simple. If you want two employees of different functions to collaborate, you can assign a task to both. You can also filter through all tasks to see which ones have more than one assignee to track their collaborative progress. If you find that some employees have no converging tasks, think of ways in which these could collaborate through their distinct areas of expertise.
Remote collaboration is also more organized than in the traditional workplace as everything is highly documented. When two employees collaborate on a task, they can document details with attachments, statuses, and descriptions of each task.
This makes it easy for a third party to join in the process at any stage and nurtures the ongoing collaboration. A third employee can figure out what still needs to be done and then go on to document their progress on the task.
With asynchronous work features that aid in communication and task management, Rock fosters cross functional collaboration. From real-time messaging, video looms, and more, Rock mitigates the collaboration challenges that arise in a remote setting.