How To Drive Cross Functional Collaboration For Frontline Employees
9 minutes, 32 seconds read
The concept of cross functional collaboration has sky-rocketed in popularity. From a management perspective, it can help drive transformative improvements and deliver impressive results. It facilitates the richest and most diverse input into a program or work by encouraging input from a range of people and backgrounds. No matter which industry your business or organization operates in, it can benefit from better functional team collaboration.
This framework also leads to happier and more motivated employees. It removes silo thinking and barriers between business units. This reduces the amount of friction between staff and eliminates frustrations that can otherwise get people down. The cross functional approach saves time, streamlines decision making, and leads to more effective project outputs. Staff also learn new skills, expand their network, and begin to communicate more openly than before.
In this article, we explore what cross functional collaboration is, the business advantages it provides, and how to build teams that are based on it.
What Is Cross Functional Collaboration?
Cross functional collaboration is the process of different teams or departments working together towards a shared objective. These clusters usually represent a diverse group of people and cross-section of an organization, such as operations, HR, and product development. By getting different teams to successfully collaborate on joint activity, you benefit from a variety of perspectives which leads to a better project outcome. It enhances teamwork, improves communication, and contributes to a culture of creativity.
Why Does It Benefit Organizations?
Collaborating is common in most working environments. It’s perfectly normal to co-operate with teammates or co-workers on projects. But this type of collaboration falls down when you try to extend it between departments. This is commonly due to two issues – lack of communication or conflicting priorities. In some cases, people simply forget to ask other teams for input or inform them of plans. In others, they develop a solution to their own need without considering how it impacts the wider organization. This can lead to friction between teams and processes that simply don’t work.
Cross functional collaboration is a solution to these issues. It eliminates communication silos and facilitates problem-solving. When teams work together towards a shared goal, they can streamline the end-to-end process and deliver maximal results. This is why it’s such a powerful tool for boosting the performance of businesses. Here are five key benefits of collaborating cross-functionally.
Varied Perspectives Drive Ideation
Bring people together from different professional backgrounds creates a melting pot of ideas. They all have varied perspectives and experiences which leads to a more diverse range of suggestions. When these people work together, they can often find innovative solutions that would otherwise be hard to develop in isolation. This can have a profound impact on the creative culture of a company.
Change Happens Faster
When you involve everyone in the decision-making process, they all feel bought into an idea or concept. This supportive mentality means that people champion projects and help to secure further support from their functional team members. As a result, changes can be implemented faster and the benefits are realized quicker so that innovation accelerates.
Everyone Contributes Equally
Cross functional teams work on the basis of contribution and expertise. The people around the table should all be sufficiently knowledgeable to express their position and understand how changes will impact their area. But this doesn’t mean that the team members all have to be managers or senior executives in the hierarchy. One of the beauties of this approach is that it levels the playing field as people can contribute meaningfully at any seniority.
Learning Is Maximized
Cooperating with colleagues from different areas also expands the knowledge and skills of everyone involved. Participants gain a window into the operations, challenges, and drivers behind other departments. They develop a more in-depth understanding of how different areas work and what makes them successful. Functional collaboration ensures that learning for all participants is maximized.
Positive Challenge Is Normalized
When you’re close to something, it can be hard to tell the wood from the trees. It’s easy to take things for granted when they’re an established process and have always been that way. But inviting other departments into the discussions brings fresh perspectives. It’s often easier for these people to ask why something happens the way it does. Being open to new ways of doing things is crucial to lean thinking, creativity, and innovation.
How To Build Cross Functional Teams
If you struggle with business silos and inter-departmental communication, then you might think cross functional teams are out of reach. The good news is that they’re surprisingly easy to facilitate and will catch on quickly. Once different areas learn to consider the wider organization, it will become second nature to them. Let’s look at some practical ways to build a cross functional team.
Encourage Diverse Participation
Including a team member from each of your departments is a good start to cross functional activity. But in order to really maximize its impact, you should encourage diverse participation. Ask people with a range of different experiences, skills, ages, and genders to be involved. They will bring new ways of thinking to a project in addition to different work expertise.
Speaking of expertise, be sure to involve those employees who are experts in the field. They may know a particular product inside out or have specialist knowledge of a manufacturing process. These people can provide invaluable insights into an initiative and ensure that key considerations are built into the planning and development phases.
Get Buy-In from Seniors
Cross functional collaboration efforts start from the top. If there are frictions in the boardroom then these will trickle down into the hierarchy below. Getting buy-in from senior management is fundamental to the success of this approach. Strong support from seniors will also motivate team members as it shows there is a genuine interest in what teams are doing.
Streamline Your Communication
Whether your organization uses Asana, Trello, or good old-fashioned email, make sure your communication processes are streamlined. This removes barriers that can slow things down and lead to unnecessary delays in project delivery. Ensure that there’s a clear system for open dialog capturing the varied feedback from functional teams and sharing it with the wider group. You might want to create a content center or resource repository where all the interactions and ideas are stored. Making these accessible ensures that every department can input and there’s no back and forth over which project management spreadsheet is the most up to date. It also avoids one of the key challenges of cross functional efforts – trying to overschedule meetings which inadvertently causes frustration for teams involved.
Traditional incentivization models reward employees based on the results of their department. If sales hit their revenue number, then they’re paid a commission. If marketing achieves their lead generation goals, then they’re awarded a bonus. But this type of siloed approach can backfire. It can lead to a sense that every department is out for themselves and discourage them from spending time on anything seemingly unrelated. The key to better cross functional collaboration is encouraging staff to see the bigger picture and incentivizing them accordingly. When employees’ activity is aligned with the overarching company goals and objectives, everyone in the business benefits.
Tracking results is an important element of embedding team collaboration into the organizational culture. Not only does it ensure that the outcome is being measured but it provides motivation for further cross functional activities. Measuring the impact means that everyone involved will know what their hard work and collaborative approach produced. They can share credit for successes and identify areas for improvement. Generating a positive return on investment will provide encouragement for future collaboration and help it to become the norm in your organization.
Implementing a Cross Functional Approach
Encouraging cross functional collaboration isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are relatively simple steps you can take to facilitate better communication and cooperation between teams. At the core of this approach is how you share and manage information. This is why utilizing the right platform can make or break your collaborative efforts.
An easy-to-use, digital solution will make everything significantly easier. It will streamline communication and make sharing updates a breeze. Instead of working as individual islands in the organizational sea, departments will be united in their efforts. Responsibilities for tasks will be clearly demarcated and upcoming actions can be flagged so people can plan ahead. Information gaps will be reduced since everything is stored in a central area, accessible via mobile app, tablet, or desktop computer. It will eliminate many of the silo headaches that large enterprises typically encounter.
Digital platforms make it quick and easy to implement cross functional team collaboration. Modern technology allows you to capture ideas for transformational projects, filter out the best ones, communicate how to implement them, and measure their results. They provide a repository for project information, aid management, and streamline cross functional activity. Using software also allows companies to capture, record, and share best practices throughout the organization, leading to widespread change. These types of tools support on-going learning and improvement that are at the core of creativity and innovation. Because of their comprehensive set of features and ease of use, they soon become the preferred project management method for users. By spurring innovative ideas, building trust, and improving communication, teams can effectively collaborate across an organization.
Your Digital Continuous Improvement Tool
Rever is all about sharing and reusing, doing and tracking. Continuous improvement becomes a hundred times easier with our innovative digital platform. Using Rever’s dashboard, you can monitor the performance of your teams, the summary of their impact, and easily identify the people making the biggest difference at your company.
Rever Cycle is our version of the PDCA methodology and guides your teams on the exact steps to follow to execute their own ideas. It allows them to capture the entire process, from identifying a problem to experimenting and implementing a solution. They can use it to capture the before and after with pictures, notes and drawings, making their ideas a reality in no time. The time of your team is too valuable to be wasted in handmade drawings and complex explanations.
At Rever, we believe that anybody can be a knowledge worker and thrive. What makes us human is the capacity to grow our intellect and will, and to use them for good. We observe, especially at work, that most people are asked to stop thinking and do as they are told. We want to change that. We enable people to achieve their full creative potential.
Are you interested in learning more about cross functional collaboration or discussing continuous improvement? Then get a demo today with one of our friendly experts.
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