As I have found over and over again, the power of cross-functional collaboration, of a cross-functional team is far stronger than the individual working alone. By combining a team’s strength and knowledge, they have the potential to do anything.
We know that creativity and finding solutions increase because the cross-functional collaboration gives the team a diverse set of experience and expertise.
“The cross pollination of facts, knowledge, questions and ideas can help broaden perspectives, create synergy and alignment.”
I’ve led strategy and innovation workshops across the EU and Asia Pacific and I’ve seen the power of engaging people within an organisation. However there a few key steps to take as people generally like to keep to the status quo and stick to what they know best; their daily job. Taking time out of their day and giving them a voice is not always an easy task.
Key Steps to a Solid Cross-Functional Collaboration
1. Designate a leader
Every team needs a leader, someone that is both strategic and hands on. Who keeps everything on track, gives the team the space and time to contribute. Who will encourage people to consider new or different ideas; but will also do what is needed to keep the team accountable.
2. Use a structured and clear framework
A clear framework and process is vital as it provides a map to the road ahead and ensures that the team can focus on the task at hand not just the logistics. An actionable framework and the right tools can help stimulate creative thinking, gives direction and build consensus.
3. Encourage comfort and familiarity
It’s common for cross-functional teams to not know each other, while they may say hello in the café they don’t really know what makes each other tick. Taking the time for small talk and to have a few laughs helps people get to know each other. Collaboration won’t happen if people aren’t comfortable to speak up or share their knowledge and ideas. Take the time during each meeting to find innovative, fun ways to stimulate familiarity and passionate debate.
4. Establish a shared charter and objectives
To create an aligned and committed team you need to involve them from the very beginning. Understanding their different motivations and asking the team to create or fine-tune the task, purpose, goals and objectives is the key to establishing trust and an essential foundation for engagement. If the team does not own the task they will not take responsibility or be accountable. It’s important that they have shared goals, when everyone is aligned they make better decisions and progress will be a given.
5. Communication Protocols
Establish up front who’s in the team and determine in advance who speaks to whom, at what stage and how often. Get the team to buy into and clarify the rules. I find using the RASCI Responsibility Matrix helpful in setting up communication guidelines and it enables people to clearly understand their role.