An organization accomplishes the most when employees have the chance to put their talents and efforts together and work toward a common mission. It's always essential to keep the working relationships within particular teams and departments productive. However, it can be just as important to reach across functions, trading ideas and getting bigger projects off the ground. Cross team collaboration takes advantage of the full potential of a business to unleash fresh perspectives and drive ambitious plans.

Unfortunately, this kind of cooperation goes wrong far too often. Collaborations across multiple functions often fail to stay within budget or on schedule, fulfill the needs of customers, or align with the company's overall goals. To get past those pitfalls, it takes strong project management, quality tools, and thoughtful strategy.

Here are three ways to make cross-functional team collaboration work for your organization:

1. Establish Clear Goals

Managing a project of any kind requires strong leadership and knowing exactly where the team is headed. A focused vision is especially important when it comes to setting the conditions for successful collaboration in the workplace. Start a project by stating the shared challenges the company needs to face and collecting input from the various teams involved.

Once everyone has agreed on what problems need a solution, the next step is to set collaboration goals and objectives for getting there. Strictly limiting the number of these goals makes the project more manageable and more likely to work out. Based on these objectives, leadership should work out a realistic budget and time frame and set the priorities and desired outcomes down in writing. That is, after all, a key step to effective leadership, as outlined in one of the best marketing books, The New One Minute Manager.

2. Adjust Roles and Processes

In an effective team collaboration, each person involved knows exactly what's expected from him or her. The leader provides the guidance and timeline to get people on track and holds them accountable when they fall behind. At the same time, good project managers realize that conditions can shift and conflict happens. Having the flexibility to alter plans when a better idea comes along leads to more efficient processes in the long run.

3. Use Tools to Facilitate Cross Team Collaboration

Online tools and apps, like the team collaboration software from Wrike, make it easier to assign, monitor, and communicate about the many tasks involved in building a collaborative team. When leaders can see where everyone stands with a glance, they speed up virtual team collaboration. Everyone can instantly share what they've done, and there's no need to waste time with extra meetings.

When the teams do have to talk to each other, it's important to choose the medium of communication carefully. For a project to reach its potential, all the people involved must understand each other and have plenty of opportunities to ask questions or request help.

  • Use email or chat to quickly pass along factual information.
  • Talk over the phone or videoconferencing to get across more complicated ideas.
  • If possible, it's best to begin a cross team collaboration with a face-to-face meeting.

By setting a strategy and taking advantage of the best tools available, an organization gets all the benefits of collaboration in the workplace.

Bonus Video: Watch this TED Talk where Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media, and collective action.


Sources: HBR.org, LinkedIn.com, Chron.com, McKinsey.com, Forbes.com, TED Talks

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