August 26, 2021

How to Improve Cross-Functional Collaboration Instantly

What is cross-functional collaboration?

We could all use some more cross-functional collaboration.

Have you ever walked to another department at your company and thought, "What do these people do all day?"

Mainstream virtual working has escalated this problem to the max.

People know their immediate team (through Zoom), but they don't know the rest of the team working at the company. Making it hard to create real relationships.

This is a huge tragedy: it causes isolation, lower satisfaction at work, and worse business outcomes over time.

The solution

Get out there and work with some other teams to make some magic happen: cross-functional collaboration! (We already said it, but it's worth mentioning twice.)

Collaborating cross-functionally happens when you join forces with people from other teams within your company to work towards a common goal, project, or responsibility.

Everyone loves the idea, but struggles executing

One of the most common complaints we hear from company leaders is how difficult it is to execute cross-functional collaboration.

They recognize that teams who have varied backgrounds/skills can achieve better results, but they never seem to pull them together.

It's such a challenge to pull off because the typical company is cluttered by departments, which are basically silos of single-minded teams.

No one wants a mono-minded team, but companies somehow keep stumbling onto them.

If we could provide a piece of management advice, it's this: go out of your way to intentionally create cross-functional teams.

Don't assume it'll be easy for different teams to get together. It's not.

If you want progress on this, the weight is on your shoulders.

The good news: training starts now!

Start with executive support

None of this will be possible without support from your company's leaders.

Leverage your sales ability (it's in there somewhere) and convince your leaders that investment into cross-functional situations is the future.

Saying, "We need to invest our resources into cross-functional teams" can sound both idealistic and daunting, though.

The best strategy is to start small.

Here's our genius plan:

Pitch the idea of a single team that you'll create as the pilot program for your company's cross-functional journey.

If it goes well, you can push it to the rest of the company. If it doesn't, no harm no foul.

Choose something that your executives will love, like an initiative with a positive ROI or that increases the company's public image.

This way, your success will be amplified by the nature of the project. That will increase the probability that you'll be allowed to implement on a larger scale.

Find the optimal environment

The ideal 'spawn point' for cross-functional teams is on projects or initiatives that fall outside the normal scope of business.

Many companies without existing sustainability programs will form cross-functional teams to get a broad perspective on ways to tackle sustainability.

Another common starting place is building cross-functional teams to foster diversity and inclusion within an organization.

Varying perspectives from a carefully chosen cross-functional task force can have a great impact on future hiring processes and organizational thinking.

Speaking of carefully chosen - make sure to choose the right group.

Choose the right team

If your company is new to this whole cross-organizational collaboration thing, it's important to start strong.

A few bad actors on your core squad can derail the whole movement.

Forbes says the first trait to look for when building teams is humility. Choose people who aren't selfishly motivated, and you'll have an easier time finding success.

Since this is a pilot program to launch cross-team collaboration company-wide, recruit the best of the best.

Don't just ask people who are interested to sign up. Select well-respected and highly capable individuals.

Okay the team is chosen! Now what?

Spend time explaining your immediate goals for the initiative and the long-term benefit to the company that you're hoping to achieve.

The clearer you are, the more you can expect.

Once the silo mentality is broken down, it's time to engage phase 2:

Mass infiltration.

Have a leader

If you're the team-leader, you need to be focused on your own message to the team. If it's someone else, you should communicate through the leader.

Don't confuse everyone.

Let the leader take the reins to make your cross-functional vision a reality, and make sure they feel empowered to do so.

Be as direct as possible to the leader, aligning with them to achieve your goals. This will mitigate confusion and help the project run smoothly.

Speaking of which:

Align goals

Make your goals identical to their goals.

This applies to the leader, and it also applies to the team.

In case you've forgotten, the initial goal is to reach the group's overall purpose.

This purpose must be one that all can share, see, and strive toward daily.

However, the underlying goal (aka the dream) is to improve your company's appreciation for cross-functional collaboration. This will hopefully increase your company's utilization of it.

Be transparent

We talked about being clear... now let's talk about being transparent.

Change is hard for all of us, and previously siloed workers are no exception.

The leader of a happy cross-functional team will utilize one of the most important ingredients for success in this area: clear communication.

Let everyone know.

"We're working on an important initiative for sustainability across our company. As the first step, we've formed an interdepartmental task force to help us reach our goal of net zero carbon emissions."

Then, to the team, tell them the rest:

"It's rare for us to select people from different departments to collaborate like this.

We think cross-functional collaboration is valuable, but it's historically been hard to make it happen. It's our hope that this task force will serve as a launching point for the future of collaboration at this company.

Despite our different backgrounds, we can accomplish amazing things if we work together."

By being open and honest, you set the stage for success. The team knows where you're all headed, and they're mentally prepared to get there.

Don't fumble the bag

Ok, so you pulled a team together, and it actually worked out - great job!

It's time to turn a good situation into a great situation.

Synergy, baby.

Pulling this off on a company-wide scale necessitates thought and innovation. Collaborating across business functions requires strategic planning and powerful systems.

There's no one size fits all approach to this, but there are things you can do to make it easier.

The first one is to spend time with people at your company, slowly shifting the culture to a more collaborative environment. This happens one conversation at a time.

The second one is to redesign business processes and invest in tools that increase the flow of communication across company divisions.

A cross-functional system

Pickle seeks to solve this exact problem.

So many companies struggle with cross-functional work that we felt obligated to change the game.

We believe that the cornerstone of collaboration should be based on solving a problem for your customers. The only way to understand to their core needs is when they tell you directly.

Pickle gives you access to the voice of your customers. It's like giving them a seat at every internal meeting to provide feedback.

Using conversation intelligence, we record, transcribe, and summarize customer conversations. Equipping disparate teams the ability to come together and align their goals around the voice of the customer. True collaboration.

Sound interesting? Reach out! We'll be here when you're ready to change the world, one conversation at a time.

You'll like these emails 🥒

Pickle writes to their friends every few weeks with spicy tips to make their wall-to-wall meetings suck less.
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