These days, to accomplish big, important projects, companies need to take an “all hands on deck” approach. This means recruiting the best and brightest professionals from every department and fusing them into one cross functional collaboration team.

In this article, we’ll discuss what cross functional collaboration is and the challenges it presents, a proven cross functional collaboration framework you can use, and four ways to improve cross functional collaboration for your company.

Let’s dive in!

What is Cross Functional Collaboration?

Cross functional collaboration is when people from different departments within an organization come together to achieve a specific .

For example, if a company decided to host a digital conference, its leadership would probably need to consult the financial team to determine their budget for the get-together, a few customer support reps to understand which customer needs to create content around, and the marketing department to strategize ways to effectively promote the event.

If these three teams don’t come together and operate as one unit, the digital conference will probably fail. Unfortunately, cross functional collaboration isn’t always a walk in the park…

3 Challenges Associated With Cross Functional Collaboration

Cross functional collaboration, while important, is often difficult to accomplish. Why? Because the professionals involved will have different priorities, communication preferences, and workflows from the other people they’re suddenly asked to work with.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three challenges:

1. Priorities

Each department within an organization is asked to accomplish certain things. Marketing needs to generate leads. Sales needs to convert leads into customers. Support needs to keep customers happy and satisfied in order to encourage loyalty and repeat business

Because of this, cross functional teams often experience a difference in priorities. Each member is so used to chasing their department’s specific goals that it can be hard to adjust.

Fortunately, the key to overcoming this challenge is simple: clearly state the goal(s) of your cross functional team at the very beginning of your collaboration. When every person understands the overall objective, it will be easier for them to do their part.

2. Communication

Your cross functional team might also run into communication issues.

This usually happens when team members use department-specific jargon while talking to each other. If you work in HR, you might not know what USPs and CTAs are. If a marketing professional keeps using these terms, you’re going to get confused and frustrated.

Again, overcoming this challenge is pretty easy. Just ask your team to avoid jargon when conversing with each other. And encourage them to ask questions if they don’t understand something that another team member has said to them.

3. Workflows

Finally, cross functional teams must deal with workflow issues as well.

There’s a good chance that each member of your team likes to do things a certain way. They might have specific software tools they enjoy using. Or strong opinions about the way internal meetings should be run. The list goes on and on.

But in order for your new cross functional team to be successful, you need to create standard workflows that everyone follows. Once again, clarity is essential. Explain your workflows to your team at the beginning of your collaboration so that everyone is on the same page. 

A Proven Cross Functional Collaboration Framework

Every cross functional team will face the above challenges. The key to overcoming them is to build a proven framework that rests on the following three pillars:

Strategy

You need to have a legitimate plan for your cross functional team. What are you trying to accomplish? How close are you to that goal? And which employees within your organization will help you get there in the quickest, most efficient way possible?

Without a solid strategy in place, you’ll simply waste everyone’s valuable time.

Once you understand your end goals, create checkpoints along the way that will allow you to gauge progress. Just make sure that every checkpoint has a deadline and that you hold your team to them. This will ensure their work is completed in a timely, budget-conscious manner.

Leadership

Every cross functional collaboration effort needs someone to take charge. So do yourself a favor and appoint a leader at the very beginning of your collaboration.

This person should be respected by all and completely trustworthy. They should also be a good communicator and have the ability to inspire and motivate the people around them. In other words, they should have standard leadership traits—no surprise there.

But the leader you appoint to lead your cross functional collaboration should also understand your company’s overarching goals, as well as the specific objectives this new team will be asked to complete. That way they can relay the information to the rest of you.

Software

Lastly, invest in a few software solutions to increase the efficiency of your cross functional collaboration. There are two specific kinds of software that we recommend:

Project Management Software

Project management apps keep teams organized and on track. There are plenty of solutions available to you, though we suggest one of these apps:

  • Trello: Trello is a popular project management software that’s based on the Kanban methodology. It’s easy to create new projects and collaborate with other team members. It’s also highly visual, which many users appreciate. Best of all, many of Trello’s top features can be accessed via the software’s free plan.
  • Asana: Asana is a more traditional project management app than Trello. As such, it offers users a lot of options: multiple timeline views, project milestones, internal communication, workload management, automation, and more. All of this functionality does create a steeper learning curve, though, which must be considered.
  • Airtable: Airtable combines the familiarity of a spreadsheet with the power of a database to create a unique project management solution. It might be the perfect solution for cross functional collaboration because it’s so flexible, and will allow team members to customize the way they work without disrupting standard workflows.

Communication Software

Clear communication is essential to the success of your cross functional collaboration. Luckily, there are plenty of software tools out there to help you:

 

  • Email: Everybody uses good old fashioned email, which makes it a valuable cross functional collaboration tool. It’s not high-tech or anything, but you won’t have to train your team to use it. Email also stores previous conversations so that you can refer back to them if/when needed. Don’t discount email!

  • Slack: Slack is an incredibly popular business messaging tool. While it hasn’t killed traditional email like it claimed it would (see above), it’s an incredibly useful piece of software and makes communication quick and easy. It also enables quick recall of past conversations and allows users to quickly send and receive large documents.

  • ClickMeeting: When it comes to visual communication, you can’t go wrong with ClickMeeting. Our platform is used by thousands upon thousands of customers in 125 different countries around the world to host online meetings, webinars, and even full fledged virtual conferences. Some of its top features for cross functional teams include screen sharing, digital whiteboards, breakout rooms, and meeting recording features. The best part is, you can start using ClickMeeting for free right now! Sign up for your free 30-day trial (no credit card required) to experience our platform for yourself.

How to Improve Cross Functional Collaboration

There’s no way around it, successful cross functional team collaboration takes practice. But there are a few things you can do to aid the process. When working with professionals from other departments, keep these four things in mind at all times:

1. Encourage Diversity

Workplace diversity is powerful. Different life experiences, competing viewpoints, and an array of skill sets will only make your cross functional team stronger—as long as they’re properly managed, of course. That’s why you should encourage diversity.

So, when building your team, search your entire company for the right people, AKA people who bring something fresh to the table. Just make sure the team you choose compliments one another. The last thing you want is hostility amongst the ranks.

Generally speaking, the teams that see problems from every angle achieve the most success because they’re prepared for each and every scenario. Build one of these teams!

2. Trust Your Team

It’s hard to fully trust someone you’ve never worked with before. And when you collaborate with cross functional teams, you’ll be surrounded by fresh faces—some of which you might be completely unfamiliar with. That’s kind of the point, right? But it doesn’t make things easy…

This is why you need to build trust with your team. Start with a few small assignments to get everyone familiar with one another. And always celebrate your wins. Celebration builds camaraderie, which will quickly grow into trusting relationships.

If you happen to be the leader of your team, you also need to refrain from micromanaging your employees. Doing so is basically telling them that you don’t think they’re competent enough to complete tasks on their own. Instead, trust them to do their jobs.

3. Offer Incentives

You can also offer incentives to your cross functional team to improve their productivity and effectiveness. Most people work harder when they have a personal reason for doing so, i.e. a reason beyond generating more success for the company they work for.

Now, the incentives you offer don’t have to be standard prizes—though, if gift cards help motivate your team, feel free to use them! But everyone should know how they benefit.

For example, will working on your cross functional team collaboration help team members boost their reputations around the office and achieve the promotions they’ve been angling for? Will it present a fun challenge to overcome and help them avoid monotonous busy work?

Always look for ways to incentivize your team and help them reach their full potential.

4. Create Playbooks

Last, but certainly not least, we suggest making a playbook that contains useful information about your project: workflows, procedures, deadlines, software tools, etc.

Bonus points if you can make your playbook open-source, which will allow team members to update and add to it as they see fit. When your team can easily share thoughts and ideas in this way, they’ll become more engaged and knowledge will spread.

Wrapping Up

Cross functional collaboration will allow your company to accomplish new and wonderful things—just as long as you do it right. There are plenty of challenges to this kind of working arrangement. But if you adopt a proven framework, invest in the right software solutions, and follow the tips we mentioned in this article, you should do just fine.

Speaking of software solutions, don’t forget aboutClickMeeting. Our app will help keep your cross functional team organized and productive by providing you with a reliable way to communicate with each other. Start your free 30-day trial today!

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Posted by Jacob Thomas

Content writer @ ClickMeeting

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