Cross-team collaboration allows projects to benefit from the strengths of multiple individuals and teams. However, promoting this kind of collaboration among employees and contractors is not easy. Harvard Business Review research on the topic found that “as the size of a team increases beyond 20 members, the tendency to collaborate naturally decreases.” Additionally, “the higher the proportion of strangers on the team and the greater the diversity of background and experience, the less likely the team members are to share knowledge.”
In order to take full advantage of its workforce’s strengths, an organization must increase collaboration between teams. These three cross-team collaboration best practices can encourage teamwork and help your company thrive.
It may seem rather obvious that collaboration requires communication. For cross-team collaboration to succeed, clearly communicating these three pieces of information is essential:
- Goals: Everyone involved needs to understand the goal they’re working toward together, as well as its significance for the company.
- Expectations: Each team should know what they’re expected to contribute to the end goal. From the beginning, they must also be receptive to taking direction based on other teams’ needs. Overall expectations and milestones should be communicated early and often as well.
- Support: Knowing they have genuine buy-in and support from executives makes it easier for your employees to commit to collaboration. Support also comes in the form of mentoring and training opportunities from project, team, and company leaders.
Not only must communication happen vertically (from leadership to team members), but horizontal connections (between employees) are also essential to increasing collaboration between teams. This starts with department leadership modeling beneficial cross-team communication. From there, try these best practices:
- Put all written communication about a project in one place. Notes from in-person collaboration should be added as well.
- Share knowledge and resources between teams, using regular check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page—before it’s too late.
- Establish a vocabulary for communicating among employees from different teams, eliminating as much technical language and jargon as possible.
- Ensure each team and its individual members feel included and significant within the project as a whole.
- Encourage people working on a cross-functional project to socialize and connect on a deeper level, whether it’s on a company sports team or in a community space at the office.
No best practice works for every company or project. Organizations that successfully use cross-team collaboration do so in a way that works for them. Innovation should be a part of every collaborative effort. Democratizing ideation allows good ideas to come from employees of multiple backgrounds and experience levels. Building time for experimentation, and even failure, into a project timeline encourages inventive thinking. After a cross-functional project is completed, encourage feedback from everyone involved to further improve the cross-team collaboration framework at your organization.