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Cross-Functional Collaboration in a Kaizen Culture

7 minutes, 35 seconds read

cross-functional collaboration between employees of various departments

Encouraging cross-functional collaboration isn’t always an easy task. Getting a diverse group of people from a range of departments to work together can be tough. They often have different personalities, priorities, and KPIs which means they may not be driven by the same things. But improving communication and collaboration between business units can drive powerful results, so how can companies tap into it? In this article, we explore how to improve cross-functional collaboration by applying some tried and tested Kaizen principles.


What Is Cross-Functional Collaboration?

This term refers to the idea of different individuals or departments working together. It’s normal to expect that people within a team collaborate but many businesses find that silos exist between departments. This collaboration concept is about teams that aren’t naturally synergistic finding ways to work together effectively. In many businesses, the sales and marketing teams or research and development departments will work closely. While cross-functional collaboration can include this type of teamwork, it also encompasses departments with different functions working closely. This might be operations and marketing collaborating on a new product launch or sales and finance working together on a profitability project. In practice, it often involves one member from each department being part of a cross-functional team that works towards a common goal.


Why Is It Important?

Effective collaboration can have a powerful impact on business results. Improving team communication and removing departmental silos means that companies work more efficiently and new ideas can be executed more quickly. Here are a few of the key benefits of cross-functional collaboration for businesses.


  • Varied perspectives drive innovation – by sharing different viewpoints it’s often possible to identify effective solutions to long-running problems that meet everyone’s needs.
  • Accelerates implementation – involving all departments in the decision-making process means that buy-in is gained from the start and there are fewer delays in the implementation of collaborative efforts.
  • Opens up new ideas – creating a safe-space for existing ways of working to be challenged opens up new ways of thinking and encourages innovation.
  • Removes hierarchy barriers – although organizational hierarchy is important, it can also be a barrier to new ideas being shared or implemented quickly which cross-functional teams remove.
  • Increases employee knowledge – having team members sharing best practices, ideas, and specialist knowledge means that everyone in the group learns more.


Collaboration is at the heart of Kaizen company culture. This philosophy recognizes the importance of looking at challenges from a holistic approach instead of just one point of view. It drives continuous improvement through the collection of ideas from everyone in an organization. It also encourages ownership of implementation by employees themselves much like a cross-functional team takes responsibility for its project.


How to Improve Collaboration

If you’re interested in gaining the benefits of collaboration then there are some practical steps you can take. Many are rooted in Kaizen principles that encourage a continuous improvement culture and drive innovation. Here are some proven strategies for improving cross-functional collaboration in your organization.


1 – Seek Out Experts

The philosophy of Kaizen teaches us that everyone can add value, no matter whether they are front line employees or sitting on the board of directors. It doesn’t matter what someone’s rank or hierarchical position is – what matters is their expertise. So, who are the people in your company that are subject matter experts? These are the employees who have an in-depth knowledge of a particular process, product, customer, or discipline. Leveraging their knowledge as part of a cross-functional team can help to disperse experience and information to a wider group. The expert can also benefit from listening to new points of view or ideas from subject novices who bring fresh perspectives.


2 – Set Measurable Goals and Objectives

According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, 75% of teams fail to achieve measurable outcomes. They struggle with staying on schedule, exceed the planned budget, or fail to align their objectives with corporate goals. They lack a systemic approach or accountability, which makes the likelihood of any kind of success an uphill battle from the start. However, defining measurable objectives from the outset will ensure that your team avoids this pitfall and sets itself up for a positive project outcome. If you want everyone in a team to work toward a common goal, then it’s vital to articulate it clearly from the start. Specify key performance indicators or an ROI target so that all team members understand what success will look like. Track these on an on-going basis so that the project team stays focused and can take corrective action should things start to veer off course.


3 – Create Truly Diverse Teams

When choosing participants, it can be tempting to simply select people from multiple teams to tick the ‘cross-functional’ box. But you can create even stronger collaboration results if you’re proactive about choosing diverse members. Don’t just pick someone from each department – seek out people with different backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. Mix and match team members of different ages, seniorities, genders, and tenures to ensure you get the widest range of inputs.


4 – Align Targets and Compensation

One of the results of siloed departments is that objectives can end up conflicting. What one team is being measured on may be at odds with what another team is trying to achieve. This can make team working difficult since everyone has different goals and no-one wants to compromise (especially if it risks the loss of a bonus or other incentive). The solution is to review department targets and ensure they maintain alignment. When everyone is pulling in the same direction, cross-functional collaboration is a natural result and change happens much faster.  


5 – Set Meeting Limits

Scheduling cross-team meetings can be a challenge with so many diaries to coordinate. It may take weeks to find a time slot where everyone is available to attend. Meetings can also cause friction because they are an additional time commitment that takes people away from their day-to-day role. So, it’s important to impose limits on the number of meetings and also their duration. Ensure that meetings run efficiently and stay focused so that the time is well-used when people do get together. Set an agenda then stick to it and have a documented process for following up any actions.


6 – Leverage Digital Tools

There are many digital collaboration tools that make the sharing of information and tracking of cross-functional projects easier. Using cloud-based software means that everyone can instantly access project information from anywhere with an internet connection. It streamlines communication by reducing the need for back and forth interactions. It also acts as a repository for all project information and can also be used to track progress against goals. So, instead of relying on written reports, spreadsheets, and emails, use a project management tool to run things smoothly.


7 – Involve Company Influencers

Some employees have a natural ability to sway others. They may be respected due to their experience, tenure, or skills. They may be persuasive in conversation which makes other staff inclined to follow them. Involving these people in your cross-functional efforts is another key way to drive success. They’ll be able to get different teams collaborating and make the project run much more smoothly.  


Your Digital Collaboration 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 performances 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 Rever’s cross-functional collaboration benefits? Then get a demo today with one of our friendly lean management experts.

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