March 2020 was when the world stopped, but people never did. The great pivot emphasized innovation within the virtual space.
We saw businesses closing physical locations after discovering the cost-effectiveness of doing business virtually. Companies pivoted from the classical board room meetings to using conference platforms like Zoom to conduct business. Teams fulfilled services and innovated from home.
Remote team collaboration became the priority, but this doesn’t always come easy. There is also the cross-team collaboration that you need to consider.
In this article, I will discuss how teams can become successful at remote collaborations and how we can boost cross-team collaboration.
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What Is Cross-Team Collaboration?
Cross-team collaboration is when multiple teams are working together to complete a common goal. It allows groups of people from different departments or companies to work together. Each team brings an expert skill set with them that increases the effectiveness of the overall group.
For example, the core team may be marketing experts but would need the expertise from the financial team to complete their goal. Or, your core team may be experts in human resources but would need the assistance of the logistics and planning teams to achieve a common goal.
These types of collaboration can be powerful. They often lead the corporation to significant improvements and innovative solutions.
Before we talk more about boosting cross-team collaboration, we should first recognize a few signs of what an unhealthy team may look like.
You’re likely suffering from poor collaboration if you notice any of these signs:
- Personal conflict across teams
- Misalignment of goals
- Lack of time and focus on collaborating
- Double work
- Information silos created by poor communication
- Lack of clarity in communication of responsibilities
- Unclear chain of command
- High emotional tension and isolation
If your team shows a higher number of these signs, then it is safe to say that they are not a healthy team.
5 Tips on How to Effectively Boost Cross-Team Collaboration
Unhealthy teams struggle to cross-collaborate. So, if your teams are showing some of these signs, then it is time to evaluate where your team is at and start using strategies to help them move from ineffective to highly effective.
Here are five tips on how to effectively boost cross-team collaboration.
1. Communicate Clearly
Communication is king. Say that several more times. Allow it to get into your soul. Communication is the lifeblood of all cross-team collaboratory success.
If you look at the statistical data on why relationships fail, why people leave organizations, or why there is a high level of mistrust among people in our government, you will notice one major trend: Communication was poor.
We can say the opposite as well. In the area where success was high, communication was good.
The more people you add to your team, the better the communication and the methods of communication need to become.
When your team was still small, you could get by on interpersonal communication. But the more members you add to the project, the greater the level of communication needed to be successful.
Poor communication creates problems, and good communication solves problems. Successful cross-team collaboration must be rooted in excellent communication if the team truly hopes to succeed.
Have weekly check-ins and monthly team meetings. The weekly check-ins are designed to be short meetings that allow you to be face-to-face with your team.
During these meetings, you will share the vision, talk about expectations and goals, answer any questions, and address problems.
Weekly check-ins are not designed to solve all the company’s problems. They are intended to be a quick get-together to ensure everyone knows what they are doing.
Monthly meetings are similar to weekly check-ins. However, monthly meetings will be a little longer as the goal is to inform and train your cross-collaborators.
2. Set Cross-Team Expectations
Managing projects can be challenging. The more teams and team members you add, the more complex the project can become. Instead of managing the project, you have the added stress of managing multiple teams containing various personalities.
Setting cross-team collaboratory expectations is the key to the team’s success. This ensures that each cross-team member understands the tasks, goals, behavior, communication, and roles under which they will operate.
As the leader, you will set the expectations everyone else will follow.
Do not take this task lightly. The team expectations will be the guiding force behind much of what you will accomplish.
One of the best practices for this is to take time and reflect. Reflect on how you want your team to behave. Think through the project goals, individual roles, tasks, budgets, resources, and the schedule.
Then, determine the desired level of work, task completion, and behavioral expectations the team will need. Write them all down.
Do not forget to communicate them clearly and regularly to the team.
3. Define Team Roles and Responsibilities
Confusion is one of the quickest and unhealthiest ways to ruin a cross-team collaboration. Success thrives on clarity.
When we are not clear, we subconsciously create mistrust within the team. Where there is mistrust, there is always a lack of success because there is a lack of growth.
If we are going to create trusting relationships with our cross-team collaborators, it starts with defining who does what and who answers to who.
There is a simplistic power when helping people know what they are there to do and who their direct supervisor is.
When you take the time to define these things, you are showing people that they can trust you. When they trust you, they will help the team become efficient and successful.
It may sound basic, but when we master the basics, we can win on all levels. So, do not hate small beginnings or small things, for that is the very thing that will carry you and your cross-team collaboration across the finish line.
Do the hard work of creating tools on the front end, so you don’t have to do damage control on the back end.
Create flow charts and write job descriptions. People do what they see and not what you say.
Also, it is essential to note that people rarely remember things when they need them. Keeping a visual of both the team flow chart and job descriptions where people can access them quickly and often will boost the success of your cross-team collaboration.
4. Create Systems
I heard it once said that a system saves you time, energy, and money.
If you think about it, the systems (processes) you create are the foundation for your team will grow. Everything in existence has a system within which it operates.
Take the human body, for example. It is a system that runs systems. The human body is a complex system that houses the nervous system, the endocrine system, and a slew of others. When these systems operate at their optimized levels, the human body is strong and healthy.
Why should your cross-team collaboration be seen any differently? The team will reach peak performance with a series of optimized systems.
To effectively boost cross-team collaboration, the leader must develop and implement systems within the team. You will need a system for everything you do.
For example, you will need a communication system, budgeting and spending system, a system for marketing, a system for follow-up, etc. The more systems you put into place, the better run the cross-team collaboration will be.
After you have taken the time to create each system, create a sharable document that houses all the systems. This will be a living document as systems can and often do change.
Allow the rest of the team the right to comment on how the system could be better. The greater the input from the team, the more buy-in they have, and the better the systems will become.
One thing to mention is that you do not make every change suggested. Instead, talk with the team members about the change and see how they believe it will improve the system.
If the proposed change makes the system better, then change it. However, if the suggested change does not improve the current system, leave it alone.
5. Be Transparent and Remove Informational Roadblocks
Trust is the rocket fuel that propels every cross-team collaboration. The lower the level of trust a person has in you, the lower the output you will get from them.
Some of the biggest things that degrade trust within a team are inauthenticity and ambiguity. When you see these two things present within the team’s leadership, the team begins to think that the leaders are wishy-washy and have something to hide.
That is not what you want your team to be feeling or thinking. Instead, you want your team to know that they can trust that you are who you say you are. You want the team to understand that the leadership has nothing to hide. It all ties back into clear communication.
If the cross-team collaboration leadership dared to be transparent and remove roadblocks to communication, you would see one of the healthiest and most effective teams.
Often, the refusal to be transparent kills team morale and limits the team from reaching its true potential. I cannot stress the importance of this tip.
Over the last 20 years, I have watched team after team fall apart because the leadership clinched to their need for secrecy. Instead of being transparent, they were living in secrecy. Instead of being communicative and brave, they were quiet and scared.
An insecure leader is the eventual death of any team. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need to hide things.
Be transparent and bold. Own who you are. Show the team where the wins and failures are. Be the leader the team needs and one that others model.
Use your weekly check-in meetings to talk about the challenges you face with the team.
Be honest and transparent with where the team is in meeting their goals. Share the perceived challenges and weaknesses of the team. Apologize for any way you may have mistreated or disrespected any team member.
When apologizing, make sure you have thought through when and where this is needed. You shouldn’t be apologizing to them weakly. Yet, when you know you made a mistake, then own it.
Above all else, continually strive to be as transparent as possible with the team you have been given.
Cross-team collaborations can cause some level of anxiety. Working within one group is challenging, but working within one group that is working with several other groups can be overwhelming. If you implement these five tips on boosting cross-team collaboration, you will begin to see the success you are longing for.
It will take time, effort, and work, but you can do it. Work on the steps every day, and you will be on your way toward a successful cross-team collaboration.
Featured photo credit: Smartworks Coworking via unsplash.com