Cross-team collaborations are always full of copious moving parts, require a lot of communication, and can be a scheduling headache. But they’re certainly not impossible, and when they’re done right, they work like a well-oiled machine. Read on to find out why people think cross-team collaboration is so difficult – and how you can make it easier.

What is cross-team collaboration?

Whether you’re communicating within your department, outside your department, or even with another client’s team, cross-team collaboration is a vital part of any business. These teams can be cross-functional, from fields like HR, marketing, sales, or engineering. They can also be a team that works parallel to yours (for instance, if your department is working on a project that needs more hands).

Unfortunately, data on cross-team collaborations is grim. As it turns out, data from Stanford shows that 75 percent of cross-functional partnerships are actually dysfunctional. If you go into your joint project with these myths in mind, you might be destined for failure. But with the proper preparation (and a little myth debunking), you can make your cross-team collaboration a success.

Myth 1: We all have different values

The most prominent myth about cross-team collaboration is that everyone has differing values. As a result, the project won’t have one clear, achievable measure of success. For instance, engineering might think that product improvement is the greatest value. Marketing might value an excellent social media campaign, and HR might simply value the teamwork it takes to get to your milestone.

But that’s just a myth. The beauty of a cross-team project is that all departments can bring their own value to the table and workshop how to mesh them together. This knowledge sharing may shed new light on your team’s value system and provide you with a fresh perspective.

Myth 2: They won’t understand my lingo

Let’s face it – your techie teammate might not know what a RICE scoring model is, and their product manager may not be familiar with cloud computing. But just because your coworkers won’t understand the jargon you use in your role doesn’t mean that they won’t know what you’re doing at all.

By finding ways to avoid telling coworkers about the details of your tasks, you could also be perpetuating a silo mentality. There are plenty of ways to simply explain what you’re doing, the resources it takes to do that job, and why it’s important for others to consider. And by teaching others, you might learn a little yourself.

Myth 3: There’s no industry standard

Perhaps cross-team collaborations aren’t popular or manualized in your company, and consequently, there’s no measurable way to gauge their effectiveness. After all, these teamwork efforts often fail for many complicated reasons. But again, that’s just a myth.

Northwestern Mutual has been using cross-functional team collaboration since the 1950s. Toyota also utilizes them to ensure project flexibility and streamlined manufacturing. Meta also has a specific management role called Product TPM (a Product Technical Program Manager) to manage teams that combine technical achievements and product delivery.

Myth 4: There are too many moving parts

It might seem like when a group has representatives with multiple teams, it’s too cumbersome to keep track of action items. This is especially the case when different teams use different forms of communication, like working with a team that uses Slack, but you’re using Microsoft Teams.

There are few solutions to the issue of communication between a cross-functional team. You might want to make one channel on one particular messaging app. Additionally, there are options to integrate messaging platforms into one software. That way, you’ll have everything in one place.

Myth 5: They don’t know what we’re working on

The other myth that needs debunking is that your cross-team coworkers won’t know the inner workings of your department, which will impact your productivity. This creates a couple of issues. Suppose the teams you’re collaborating with come from different departments or companies. In that case, they won’t inherently know everyone’s general workflow or other urgent items that might usurp that of the collaborative effort.

In this instance, communication is critical. Never hesitate to tell the team you’re working with about your bandwidth, priorities, or needs. This also works the other way – if they’re having issues managing their bandwidth, be accommodating and understanding.

Myth 6: There’s no leader

You might think that if you’re working between two teams, there’s no team lead to guide you. However, the Harvard Business Review research finds that cross-team collaboration will fail without a leader. And contrary to myth, there does need to be a team leader. That being said, it shouldn’t be someone from either team.

The study found that teams did better when one high-level executive provided strong leadership and support. In fact, their success rate was 76 percent – an incredible difference compared to the 75 percent failure rate mentioned earlier.

Myth 7: It’s just about the project

Another myth about cross-team collaboration is that you’ll have one stagnant project with one particular goal. But think of your collaborative efforts less as a milestone-focused achievement and more as a barometer for how relationships operate in your business. Ask yourself: Do we have the kind of company where I can get along with another team? Or does this relationship feel awkward or forced?

Your cross-team collaboration isn’t just about the project at hand. It’s about taking the opportunity to examine and form company culture. If things are awkward, loosen them up. If communication is stagnant, address it and discuss it.

Myth 8: It’ll be too time-consuming

Lastly, when it comes to a cross-team collaboration effort, you might think that cross-team collaboration will take too long. There are too many cooks in the kitchen, too much to communicate about, and hardly enough hours in the day to get it all done. And as long as you have that attitude, your collaboration efforts won’t succeed.

Some cross-team collaboration tips include frequently measuring and re-measuring your time management. Also, consider how you’re passing along updates and rethink how you establish transparency. While your meetings should have a tight agenda, use the time to your advantage, and ensure that you’re getting the most out of every moment.

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