3 Ways Improving Cross-Functional Collaboration in the Workplace

Has your company ever tried to undertake a project that requires input and deliverables from multiple teams? If you’re like most organizations, you have—and participants probably encountered a few bumps in the road as they tried to figure out how to communicate and work together effectively.

The fact of the matter is it’s not always the simplest task for employees to bridge the gap and work with colleagues from other teams, especially when these participants are accustomed to working separately on day-to-day tasks.

But improving cross-functional collaboration in the workplace is a must for modern companies, as some of the best business outcomes occur when teams work together for a common goal.

Here are some ideas for maximizing success when employees from different teams collaborate.


#1 Get Everyone on the Same Page

First, consider how each team within your company sees its goals and its scope of duties. If teams are on different pages from the beginning, chances are conflict and confusion will crop up somewhere down the line.

One Forbes contributor warns against these “competing mental models” that can hinder collaboration by causing teams to work differently toward different goals.

The best way to prime teams’ mental models for cross-functional collaboration is for leadership to set clear expectations for each team and for cooperation as a whole.

Make sure everyone understands the division of responsibilities, timelines, touchpoints for communication and goals.

Explicitly outlining expectations and processes will help teams avoid both redundant actions and, perhaps worse, nobody “calling the ball” during game-time.


#2 Tear Down Organizational Siloes

Silos stand in the way of seamless cross-functional collaboration. Why? Because they keep various teams from sharing information, processes, insights, etc. This is why it’s increasingly important to break down organizational siloes throughout your workplace for the sake of boosting collaboration.

Consider the example of business intelligence (BI). Company data has traditionally been siloed by legacy BI tech, requiring data specialists to pull insights and create reports.

Even though employees were the ones who needed these data-driven insights to make decisions and monitor performance, they were essentially shut out from data sources.

Even worse, heavily siloed information meant that different teams may have been working from disparate data because there was not necessarily a uniform source of truth.

The good news for the sake of cross-functional collaboration is that modern data analytics platforms like ThoughtSpot eliminate these siloes, giving employees direct access to data insights from a single source of truth.

This is true whether the business user in question is an executive or a marketing manager; a sales team lead or an analyst. Everyone—with permission from centralized governance, of course—can query stored company data directly to get the answers they need in seconds.

Furthermore, advanced data analytics are embeddable into shared workflows and business apps, simplifying the process of sharing insights between teams, departments and locations.

It’s safe to assume any organizational siloes standing between various teams within your company will hinder collaboration. Address silos systematically to ensure everyone has access to compatible data and tools.


#3 Set Parameters for Communication

Employees become used to working with direct teammates pretty quickly, but it’s a bit more challenging to work with people they may not know as well. Setting communication parameters up front will help: How often should participants touch base? And how?

How often will collaborative meetings occur and what should each participant be ready to discuss? The best way to encourage people to follow communications protocols is to set them.

Improving cross-functional collaboration in the workplace by removing silos and setting clear expectations can ultimately boost business outcomes.

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