The best ideas are born when multiple people come together to contribute. Companies that separate their departments too strictly lose opportunities for bright minds to collaborate and devise innovative solutions to hard-pressing problems. Sure, everyone within each department knows what they’re doing, but by having different teams work together to achieve a common goal, companies can tap into a broader range of experience and expertise.
Uniting teams like this is known as “cross-functional collaboration.” Between sales, marketing, development, finance, legal, and other departments, everyone has something unique to share, and the combination of everyone’s perspectives creates something better than any team could alone. Plus, inter-organizational communication — including when remote — gives your organization a competitive advantage. Here are a few essential tips to follow to make cross-functional collaboration as successful as possible:
Communication is everything, which means you need the right tools. Cross-team collaboration is impossible if no one is on the same page or if messages are scattered between email, Slack, project management platforms, conference calls, shared documents, and more. Instead, pick a place to centralize all communication, so everyone is always in the loop, even if they don’t participate in specific conversations.
Online workspaces like Slack are excellent places to post updates and link to project materials for everyone to see. When it comes to conference calls, you can use an app like Spot that records your meetings, transcribes notes that all participants can access later, and doesn’t require you to be on camera. Your communication tools should complement each other, not complicate the process.
On a related note, encourage as much transparency as possible — even when someone makes a mistake. Transparency is particularly important for remote collaboration, where it’s easier for messages to be lost in the operational shuffle. If someone fails to communicate or tries to hide something, the resulting confusion can create rifts that impact the project’s overall success. The more information people have, the more they have to work with.
One of cross-functional collaboration’s most significant advantages is that it brings people together from a wide variety of perspectives who might not interact otherwise. Someone from the product development team might have an excellent idea but is missing an important detail that no one else on their team can accommodate for. Someone else in marketing, however, might be able to imagine the finishing touch. When you give them opportunities to put their minds together, people have more space to bounce ideas off each other, brainstorm, and problem-solve.
If you want as broad a range of experience as possible, though, diversity is essential. Someone from one background might have a wealth of different perspectives than someone from another, which means it’s critical to have many people with varying experiences in the room — not in their careers, but in life. This way, you’ll have people on your team who understand your customers better, and everyone has valuable things to learn from each other.
Another benefit of diversity is that your team can problem-solve quicker. Like-minded individuals might take extra time to deliberate a solution because their trains of thought go in the same direction, whereas diverse perspectives approach issues from different angles. Racial, gender, LGBTQ+, ability, size, belief, and other kinds of diversity all work in your favor.
For cross-functional collaboration to work, you need to define concrete and measurable goals. What are your organization’s various teams working toward? If it’s a single project, like revamping your website, then you can brainstorm together what it needs to have to convert more customers, be more user-friendly, and represent your brand. If you want to improve cross-team or remote collaboration in general, list the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) critical to monitor. The more measurable your goals are, the better your teams will be able to stay on track and work toward their common goal without deviating or falling behind.
Measuring KPIs also entails upholding accountability. Document progress, project milestones, team contributions, and more. Holding your departments accountable ensures no one takes on more than their fair share of the work. This is not to say you should call individual people out or embarrass anyone when they fall behind — life inevitably throws curveballs — but give gentle nudges to those who need one. It’s also a good idea to meet regularly to discuss progress, which motivates everyone to have something to say.
To optimize cross-functional collaboration’s success, one of the most important things you can do is focus on team building. People who know each other work better together than those who don’t. It’s healthy for colleagues to talk about life outside of work, so facilitate activities that allow your coworkers and employees to share details about themselves. Encourage laughter, games, and stories. A positive environment creates a healthy company culture, which does wonders for employees’ mental health and retention. Plus, when everyone knows each other as people, not just “Person from Work,” they’ll be able to work with each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and attitudes in mind.
No, you can’t forcibly boost anyone’s creativity, but you can create a work culture that stimulates it. How so? By encouraging physical exercise throughout the day. Give your employees a gym membership as part of their benefits package and embrace the popularity of walking meetings, which work for both in-person and remote companies. Walking gives you and your team members time to enjoy the outdoors, get fresh air, and get your blood flowing, supporting your overall health and catalyzing creative ideas.
Cross-functional collaboration benefits any organization, but you need the right tools and culture to make it happen. To practice several of the tips listed above at once, give Spot a try, built to enable remote collaboration and make communication more convenient — and enjoyable. Your various teams will thank you for it.
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