Teamwork activities and practices have become extremely popular in recent years. Professionals have come to realize that their efficiency depends on various people working well together no matter the circumstances.
And once you group the employees according to their skills and you like the way each team operates, you’ll have to figure out how to help those teams execute a task collectively.
Especially when your business is run remote-first and your people interact either remotely or in a hybrid work model.
What is cross-team collaboration?
Cross-team collaboration is the process of communicating, synchronizing, and working together with team members from teams other than yours.
People work in teams. And companies have various teams (sometimes departments) – Marketing, Design, Sales, IT, HR, Finance, etc.
Let’s speak figuratively for a second. A business structure is similar to a bike’s composition. Different parts are working simultaneously so that the bike is up and running, right?
Each part of the bike has its own purpose; some are essential, others are complementary but they create the perfect conditions when they’re all combined. And if the breaks are damaged, the chains aren’t oiled, or the handlebars are misaligned, then your bike won’t function at its full potential.
The same applies to your company. Even if your tires are great (e.g. Marketing team), if you don’t have breaks (usually Finance team) that can be disastrous for your bike ride. In other words, if your teams don’t communicate with each other, if there is poor time management, and misunderstandings occur regularly, your business probably won’t prosper.
The idea of cross-team collaboration is to gather professionals from different teams to work collectively towards the completion of one common project. As Teamwork put it, you’ll be bringing the skills and talents of each department together to build a better result.
The benefits of collaborative practices are endless; employees learn from each other, multiple ideas are being shared, projects are completed faster and with attention to every detail.
So, what steps should you go through to achieve seamless cross-team collaboration?
Use of software tools that improve team collaboration
The most important advice we could give you is to find the platforms and apps that facilitate most of your day-to-day workflow and also allow for others to join you at any time.
Chat and general communication
Sending numerous emails to colleagues from other departments just to keep them updated is time-consuming and annoying. In fact, that’s an already solved problem and thousands of teams are using software like Slack for sending messages with their colleagues.
Task tracking and project management
Next, if you’ve got more than 2 people on your team, you must consider project managing software. That will make the collaboration between co-workers a lot easier. Trello, Jira, ClickUp, Monday are just some of them.
You’ll be aware of what others are working on at the moment, what progress they are making, and whether they need your help or not.
Keeping up with the deadlines is also important. When it comes to cross-team collaboration in online businesses, in particular, it can be messy trying to arrange meetings, reports, time limits on projects, and so on. Moreover, processes in one department often block others.
When it comes to getting on calls in your organization several issues come to mind.
First, stay on top of your teams’ availability. It could as simple as syncing the calendar of everyone on your team. Or it can refer to allowing work across different time zones and the ability to combine all your calendars so that you can see all of your upcoming events in one place. It can also be about the possibility of team members and external partners booking themselves in your calendar.
Second, there should be reminders in place and there is nothing better than automated email reminders. Even if you forget to check your calendar, receiving a simple email reminder can do wonders for your meetings.
Finally, make sure that you can integrate whatever video-calling software you use with your already existing tools.
Encourage open communication
We cannot stress enough how important good communication is for every type of business.
No matter whether you’re a self-made online entrepreneur or chief executive officer of a multi-billion-dollar enterprise you should be aiming for transparency.
For instance, in Stripe, almost all emails are available to be read by all employees. While private emails are not forbidden, they are an exception.
However, such a system is one bit too drastic. Should look for ways to improve cross-team collaboration, make sure to create at least some transparency.
If you are using Slack for communications for instance, (Slack is one of the major apps for work-related communication because it allows you to interact with colleagues one-on-one), you must create separate channels for each department, or put different teams in one shared space.
What Slack also solves (without even trying) is this transparency issue. You know the phrase “There are no dumb questions” or “Ask your question out loud, because if you have it, probably half the audience also has the same question”.
Well, abide by this rule and encourage your virtual co-workers to ask questions in group chats. Especially when a question is work or project-related. This can lift some weight from the (project) manager by allowing other team members to help.
Once answered publicly, the question is answered to everybody on the team. This also makes sure that everyone in the organization is included.
Go beyond asynchronous communication
The phrase of 2020 was “You are on mute”.
The “thought” of 2021 was maybe “Why am I on this call”.
This sparked a great discussion about the need for everyone to be on a call. Frankly, people who don’t want to attend so many calls have a point. But not if you are the manager.
A manager’s job is to be on calls. To make sure everyone is up to speed with everything.
As a remote employee manager, one must rely on good video conferencing software that will give you the opportunity to keep in touch with team members that work remotely or are on a work trip.
Async communication such as texting and emailing is becoming a challenge to teams. In the strive to “not be on that call”, many teams are becoming less effective and more confused.
To get away from the async communication trap, there are a couple of types of calls that can help.
Doing daily catch-up sessions is a must because once the project has begun, you’ve distributed the workload, and everyone has a task to attend to. However, you should still keep in touch to assure everything is going smoothly and that everyone has understood their part in the bigger picture.
Bottlenecks, technical issues, and unmet targets are normal occurrences, however, to solve them you’ll have to be vocal about them. That’s why the daily catch-ups give the perfect opportunity to share your struggles, ask for someone’s expertise, or simply inform others that there’s an ongoing problem that might slow things down.
Cross-team collaboration is also about giving credit where credit is due. During the daily sessions, you can pat someone on the back for a job well-done or express your gratitude for their help.
Weekly cross-team collaboration
As a manager, you’ll have to communicate with the other team leaders to inform each other on how your team’s doing and address any issues that you might be having.
If you are not having weekly cross-team meetings, you should start.
The purpose of the weekly meetings is similar to the daily catch-ups; the only difference is that the topics are on a higher level. Their goal is to update many people in the organization about the progress in different teams or on different projects.
Also, that is the time to recognize bottlenecks and ask for help from other teams.
Quarterly executive meetings
It is a good idea to have a quarterly meeting between executives, in this context – managers of other teams. This is the high-level version of cross-team collaboration.
Simply, get together, discuss the high-level goals of the organization and find a way to achieve them. That’s the place where different teams get to understand the final goal of their cross-team collaboration.
Usually, good communication is about listening carefully to others but also being heard by them. It’s a form of teamwork.
And it goes hand in hand with the realization that you can’t possibly do everything on your own.
As Michael Jordan has put it, ‘Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.’
Consider your business projects as championships and focus not only on team collaboration but also cross-team collaboration to blow your competition away.