Cross-team: Collaboration for Remote Teams

By
Santa Hartmane
August 9, 2022

Cross-departmental cooperation is frequently a weak point in many businesses, resulting in uncoordinated work processes and significant efficiency losses. While most leaders recognize the value of cross-functional team collaboration, it remains a significant challenge for many organisations. Bringing together people from various departments (as diverse as sales, IT, HR, engineering, and logistics) and backgrounds to complete projects and drive innovation has both advantages and disadvantages.

Employees and teams are frequently accustomed to a particular way of working, communicating, and collaborating. When they become part of a cross-functional team and must change gears and behaviours to achieve project goals, it can be a very challenging experience. Solving these issues and putting together a cross-functional team that works like a well-oiled machine can be difficult, and the adoption of hybrid and remote working styles adds to the complexity.

What is cross-team collaboration?

A cross-functional team is a permanent or temporary group of people with diverse skill sets who work together to achieve a common goal. The lines between individual departments become blurred in a cross-functional team. Team members from various departments collaborate, communicate, and align to achieve a common goal. Cross-functional cooperation can be used to accomplish a variety of tasks, from daily duties like marketing and customer service, teams collaborating to manage the company's social media pages to product and sales teams collaborating to introduce a new feature to customers.

The benefits of cross-team collaboration

In the business world, synergy refers to the fact that a group's overall performance exceeds the sum of its individual participants. To put it bluntly: collaboration pays off. By merging and acquiring other companies, large corporations attempt to create synergy effects. They want to cut costs, pool resources, and benefit from knowledge transfer. However, such synergy effects can be achieved within a company if all departments work effectively and harmoniously together and pursue the same goals, such as providing a great customer experience. This has a lot of potential in marketing, sales, and customer service.

Collaboration in the workplace can fuel innovation, increase productivity, improve problem-solving, and boost employee engagement and satisfaction. Amazing things can happen when you combine individuals with diverse talents, viewpoints, and ideas. HR can foster a workplace culture where everyone feels empowered to contribute by facilitating the flow of knowledge, giving workers chances to connect, and upholding transparency at every level of the business.

Several benefits of cross-group collaboration are identified below :

1. More innovations. Good teamwork can foster innovative ideas and lead to solutions to complex problems that would not have been discovered otherwise. Consider a particularly fruitful brainstorming session. Your team was probably brimming with ideas. Your employees most likely inspired each other throughout the process, resulting in a fantastic plan. That is the power of good teamwork: your employees could only come up with this brilliant solution if they worked together. It took all of you motivating and inspiring one another to find a solution.

2. Happier teams. Teams that get along well are happier. Working on projects together promotes team building, highlights individual strengths and talents, and shows appreciation to employees by making them feel like they are part of something bigger. Furthermore, happier teams can have a direct impact on the quality of their work, which ultimately affects your organisation's results and success.

3. Team members share a database of knowledge. Members of your team are constantly engaged in one another's work when they work together. Individual team members must share ideas and gain understanding of one another's work as they collaborate on projects or solve problems as a group. The team's transparency is enhanced as a result.

4. Better team building and company culture. Cross-functional teams foster an understanding that each individual is valuable outside of their own team or department. That people can accomplish more when they work together, and that collaboration can open up more doors, challenges, and opportunities than what is available within their own department.

The biggest challenges of cross-team collaboration

Many managers and employees are often unaware of how important, if not critical, optimal cross-departmental cooperation is for the company's long-term success. Because the overall result in the company is determined by the optimal, coordinated interaction of all areas, departments, teams, and employees, rather than the respective individual services or the addition of individual services. But, despite defined existing processes, why do employees frequently fail to think outside the box of their own department, and sometimes actively oppose cross-departmental cooperation?

Cross-functional teams often fail for the same reasons that traditional teams do. However, the reasons for poor or weak cross-departmental cooperation are more complex. We have gathered major contributors for pitfalls

1. Communication. It is impossible to collaborate without good communication, which at its core, is something that occurs between people. Every comment, tag, and tweet is a human interacting with others. Unfortunately, when using digital media, the human element is sometimes lost. In order to communicate mindfully with one another in the increasingly varied digital formats,  the same effort that we make when we are face-to-face should be made.

2. Different perspectives and goals. Interdepartmental collaboration entails communicating with someone who is not a member of your team. Someone outside of your team is unlikely to be aware of the inner workings of your team. There might even be different goals, approaches and cultures involved.

3. Competition instead of collaboration. Give envy no place to thrive within your organisation, and refrain from igniting internal rivalry with special rewards for individual performance. Instead, make the case that collaboration across departments is crucial to your shared corporate success and that, in order to succeed, everyone must work together.

4. Lack of dedication. Most members of a cross-functional team will have responsibilities in their regular department. It's critical that they figure out how to balance the new assignment's priorities with their regular responsibilities. If the new team is not confident in the commitment levels of others, it can have an impact on enthusiasm and efficacy.

Ways to improve cross-functional collaboration efforts

1. Set clear goals. A clear vision with a focus on the important factors is essential for creating the conditions for successful collaboration. At the start of the project, you should master the challenges that affect the collaboration of all departments involved and request solutions from the relevant teams. After everyone has agreed on what issues must be resolved, the next step is to set goals and develop plans to complete the project. If you keep the number of goals to a few and distinct ones, the project will be easier to manage and has a better chance of succeeding. With these objectives in mind, leaders should create a realistic budget and timeline, establish priorities, and document desired outcomes.  

2. Determine roles and processes. Everyone in a successful team knows exactly what is expected of him or her. The team leader is responsible for providing direction and a timeframe for all team members to successfully work toward the goal, as well as holding individuals accountable when they fail to do so. Good project managers understand that things can change and conflicts can arise.  If you're willing to change your plans when a better idea arises, you'll develop far more efficient processes in the long run. When team members understand the overall goal and their role, as well as the roles of other team members, in achieving that goal, they feel more connected to the organisation's goals and can work more effectively together.

Furthermore, bring in cultural intermediaries! Fortunately, most businesses already employ individuals who are excellent at the interpersonal skills necessary to establish rapport with various parties. They typically act as informal connectors between various sectors, functions, or domains because of their relationships and experiences that cross those boundaries. Such cultural intermediaries facilitate cross-border work by bringing people together and aiding in the growth of mutual understanding and long-lasting relationships, or by enabling people from different functions or geographical locations to collaborate with little disruption to their daily routines.

3. Use tools to facilitate cross-team collaboration. When your team doesn't share an office space, collaboration can be more difficult, but is just as crucial. Team members feel less alone and more a part of the organisation when they have access to the right collaboration tools. Use collaboration software to give your staff the ability to communicate with one another frequently, actively participate in brainstorming sessions and decision-making, and distribute work. Although team members are not physically present in the same space, these software solutions help them feel unified.

As cross-departmental teams emerge, online tools and apps make it simple to assign tasks, stay on top of things, and communicate across all the work that needs to be coordinated. Managers who can see where the project is at any given time help virtual teams work faster: each member can share updates in real time, and no time is wasted on unnecessary meetings. It is critical to make a deliberate choice of communication channels for team communication. To fully realise the project's potential, all parties involved must communicate effectively and have ample opportunities to ask questions and seek assistance.

4. Celebrate project milestones and recognize team accomplishments. When starting a new project, team energy, enthusiasm, and commitment are usually high, but it becomes difficult to maintain this momentum over time. When team members face the daily struggles and challenges of completing a project, they can become disengaged, causing the team dynamic to suffer. Leaders can inspire and encourage cross-team collaboration by providing something to look forward to for team members by recognizing project milestones, rewarding team achievements, and rewarding collaborative breakthroughs. While management recognition is appreciated, employees feel more valued when their colleagues recognize and applaud their efforts. Peer recognition is a powerful motivator that can help team members form stronger bonds, foster goodwill, and encourage cross-team collaboration.

5. Create trusting relationships among team members. Trust is a necessary component of high-performing teams. Building such trusting relationships generally requires cross-team members to spend time together, getting to know one another, and developing a meaningful sense of community in a variety of settings. While various strategies (in a physical office environment) can be used to accomplish this, today's remote work environment necessitates HR thinking outside the box to strengthen team bonds and build trust.

6. Encourage your staff to observe other divisions or positions. Employees can discover ways to contribute by job shadowing and learning about the various roles at your company. This kind of employee experience can also result in opportunities for growth and network building, as well as mutual respect and understanding among coworkers.

Conclusions

Although true cross-team collaboration is about people rather than software, the right solutions and tools can help make a significant difference. Businesses require software that fosters communication and improves cross-team collaboration by breaking down silos and simplifying teamwork in a world where remote and hybrid working are becoming increasingly popular. It is equally important for those who remain in the office to use tools and workplace designs that promote effective collaboration across teams as well as personally.

Most importantly, leaders must employ the appropriate data and analytics to comprehend how behavioural patterns and team collaboration influence business outcomes. These insights, when used correctly and ethically, can reveal latent opportunities for leaders and HR professionals to improve cross-team collaboration where it is most needed. Organisations can make continuous improvements to facilitate seamless collaboration and maximise both employee experience and team productivity by identifying what works and what doesn't.

To fully realise the potential of cross-disciplinary collaboration, leaders must give people the tools they need to learn from and relate to one another across logistical and cultural barriers. The procedures we've just discussed gradually remove the obstacles that make boundary-crossing work so challenging, and they don't necessitate advanced degrees or in-depth technical knowledge. If leaders foster an environment that promotes and supports these practices, cross team collaboration across the organisation will eventually become second nature.