More and more businesses are recognizing the benefits of “going remote.” Beyond enabling businesses to tap into a global talent pool far beyond where the company has offices, having a remote team can help businesses significantly reduce travel costs – estimated to exceed $111 billion annually.
But having a distributed team isn’t without its challenges. With employees working together across multiple locations and time zones, literal and figurative wires can get crossed creating silos and diminishing collaborative efforts. This leads to miscommunication and inefficiency. To solve these problems, many business owners, project managers and IT professionals turn to tech solutions, with project management tools and video conferencing solutions being among the most popular.
Below we explore why cross-team collaboration is so important to company performance, culture and functional teamwork. We’ll also dive into the various approaches businesses are taking to maximize remote talent for new ideas and fresh perspectives while maintaining a collaborative, efficient workforce.
What is cross-team collaboration?
Cross-team collaboration is when a group of people with different types of expertise from different departments come together in order to achieve a common goal. Cross-functional collaboration allows a group of people with different expertise – for example, marketing, finance, human resources, etc. – to work together to solve a problem. This type of collaboration can be powerful, leading to significant improvements and innovative solutions.
Cross-functional collaboration in the era of distributed teams
Collaboration has had a huge impact on the way people work together across the globe. With tools like video conferencing software, companies are no longer limited to hire professionals to work at their main headquarters; employees can work just as effectively as a team from all around the world.
The better equipped your employees are, the more they’ll collaborate and have meaningful and productive working sessions. With high quality and smart communication channels and technology, you can ensure that cross-functional teams are interacting regularly with each other. For example, team members can share real-time updates on projects, distribute information in a matter of seconds, and conduct remote team meetings. It also fosters team building and allows you to connect with highly-skilled professionals outside of your immediate network.
7 tips to improve cross-team collaboration
In a Harvard Business Review, study of 95 teams across 25 leading corporations, 75% of cross-functional teams are considered “dysfunctional”. That means that many, if not most, of these companies are wrestling with costly inefficiencies and poor company culture.
Don’t be a part of that 75%. Follow these seven tips to improve your cross-team collaboration at your company.
1. Show good leadership
Good leadership is imperative for a cross-functional team’s ability to achieve goals. Therefore, team leaders need to ensure that they are visible and accessible to the team. While they may not be able to attend every meeting, team leaders need to be flexible and easily contactable where possible in order to gain executive buy-in and support.
2. Promote diversity
Cross-team collaboration literally means creating a group of people that have different skillsets and new perspectives to come together and work on a project. The diversity in terms of skills, experience, location, culture, seniority, etc. each team member brings to the group should be celebrated. It promotes a fresh way of approaching tasks and the opportunity to learn new skills.
3. Communicate clearly
As mentioned, good communication is critical to any team’s success, so it should be easy for team members to communicate clearly and effectively. And while meetings are important, the best teams understand how to limit them in order to keep those touchpoints super productive. Not only does this help to ensure everyone remains focused on the goals and objectives, it allows everyone to stay up to date with what other team members are doing and how the project is progressing.
While it might be more convenient to use online messaging tools, it’s still very important to have face-to-face chats with remote workers to establish a better relationship and fully understand how they are performing with the task in hand. Not only does it promote transparency and candidness of project progress, it also gets answers to questions quicker, making it easy to get the project moving.
4. Set expectations
Once everyone within the cross-team has gotten to know one another, it is time to establish the overall purpose of the team. In order to meet business objectives, the following needs to be set: project goals, individual roles, specific tasks, expectations, budget, resources, and schedule. Incentives should also be aligned so Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be tracked effectively.
These should be agreed by all cross-team collaborators to further ensure buy-in and understand how everyone can work together.
5. Use online collaboration tools
Collaboration tools were invented to make it easier for people to work together wherever they are in the world. Tools like Lifesize enable cross-functional teams to work better together with instant messaging and video calls. Other project management tools like Asana and Trello help teams to keep track of their own tasks as well as the progress of the overall team and project schedule.
6. Acknowledge achievements
Working in a team has its ups and downs. Therefore, the wins need to be celebrated!
Stronger bonds between the group are created when you work together and recognize your peers’ efforts and success. Achieving project milestones or breakthroughs happen in almost every project but the importance of recognizing them boosts morale and maintains group motivation.
7. Track KPIs
Obviously, KPIs are important to any project’s success. They provide a focus and a goal to work towards. In order to meet KPIs effectively, each cross-functional team member needs to have clarity around what they are responsible, for as well as understanding what the other members are responsible for. This reduces task overlap and ensures that everyone is measuring the results of their efforts.
Four benefits of cross-team collaboration
Collaboration usually happens organically when working in teams, especially if a team is all physically present in the room.
However, organic collaboration is less likely to occur when teams are spread across different departments and geographic locations. Ironically, these situations are when we need it the most. Here are a few ways cross-team collaboration can encourage teamwork and improve productivity for everyone involved.
Multiple ideas and solutions are surfaced
Everyone looks at a problem differently. Having diverse perspectives – like having multiple departments address a problem – can help you find a better, well-rounded solution that applies to everyone in the room. This way, every department is represented, and all concerns are voiced, instigating an environment for fresh ideas, new strategies and improved methods of getting things done.
Everyone learns more
Having the opportunity to hear from all departments speak on behalf of the same issue or project helps everyone understand how all teams are connected. everyone involved gets to see the bigger picture and how important their particular role can play in achieving a single goal, and everyone can learn a little bit about what other team members do, allowing stronger bonds to be created and better relationships across teams to form.
Increased momentum of change
Putting different people in a room that aren’t used to be together can completely change the energy of the room and the way work gets done. Diverse mindsets working together that usually don’t ever interact can get things moving and shaking in a different way than before.
This type of collaboration also helps facilitate trust, empathy, and buy-in from everyone on the team. Fewer delays and miscommunications occur because everyone is on the same page, and there’s less of a “turf war” that happens when team roles start to overlap.
Goals are achieved
When different teams work well together, the whole company can benefit. The cross-collaboration of knowledge and skills can help everyone understand how their own work and individual goals fit into the bigger picture, as well as the overall goals of the company. Additionally, having new perspectives can reduce errors, create opportunities for improvement, and freshen up the way we work.
Three common challenges of cross-functional collaboration
Working with people outside of your normal team adds new complexities. Quite often, people have different ways of working and varying levels of knowledge. Here are some challenges you and your cross-functional team might face.
Poor team communication
As with any team, whether its cross-functional or not, communication is key. Failing to communicate your areas of focus or missing important details concerning what other team members are doing can lead to misaligned goals or inefficiencies. It can also lead to the potential to have ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ with some people trying to do the same role or have an overlap in tasks.
Difficulty staying on schedule
Each individual has their own responsibilities, tasks, and goals to achieve. When working in a cross-functional team, it’s necessary to collaborate together and assign time to the tasks in order to complete a project within the deadline. Cross-functional teams may have their own different departmental goals and limited time to spend on cross-functional projects, therefore making it difficult to stay on schedule.
Difficulty Meeting Planned Budget
Keeping within budget isn’t always easy either. It can be hard to ensure that all team members are aware of the budget and the current status of it. When departments have their own budgets to look after and monitor, it is difficult to make sure that a cross-functional team budget is also met.
Collaborate across teams with Lifesize in five steps
Looking for a fool-proof way to communicate with your team? Start by using Lifesize for free to see how it can help improve cross-team collaboration and company culture.
Here are five steps to how to incorporate Lifesize in your business today:
1. Open up a browser
Open up your browser of choice – Google Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge all work great. Lifesize is compatible with all browser options making it easier for you to connect with your team members.
2. Navigate to go.lifesize.com
Initiate a Lifesize Go group video conferencing call. It’s free and cloud-based so there’s no need to download any software — just enter your email and go. It’s also compatible with most devices.
3. Add attendees
Now, you can add whoever you want to your video call, whether it be members from your cross-functional team or people outside of your organization. Simply invite attendees by text message or email address to simply click and join the call.
4. Begin your call free and start collaborating!
Lifesize has many great built-in tools that make cross-team collaboration easy, including end-to-end encrypted video calls for increased security, Outlook and Slack integration, international dial-in numbers. Collaboration really can’t be any easier.
5. Bookmark Lifesize Go for your next calls
Create a bookmark for Lifesize on your browser so you can easily access the link next time you start or join a video conference.
Cross-functional teams that celebrate their diverse skillsets, experiences and perspectives collaborate well together meaning they can enjoy the benefits of increased momentum, fresh ideas and achieving goals.
Despite the potential challenges working in cross-functional teams can bring, there are many ways to improve collaboration efforts. Lifesize is an easy-to-use cloud-based platform that enables teams to communicate effortlessly with each other wherever they may be.