5 Ways to improve cross team collaboration

The choice to leverage cross team collaboration at your company is a no-brainer. After all, uniting experts from a variety of teams and departments in your organization is sure to lead to deeper insights, fresher perspectives and faster innovation, right? Yes, it absolutely can and should. But first, it’s important to remember that teams are made up of people and people need to connect and communicate with one another clearly before they can collaborate successfully. To ensure your cross team collaboration is set up for success, we’ve gathered a few tips that will help you prepare your team for corporate collaboration domination.

Step #1: Get executive buy-in and support

According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, “75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional and fail on at least three of five criteria: 1) meeting a planned budget; 2.) staying on schedule; 3.) adhering to specifications; 4.) meeting customer expectations; and/or 5.) maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals.” While a 75 percent fail rate may be intimidating, the same research found that cross team projects championed by a high-level executive, or overseen by a team of leaders from different departments enjoyed a 76% success rate. That’s quite a turn-around.

Since good leadership is essential to a cross team’s ability to meet goals, make sure the leaders of your cross team are both visible and accessible to team members. For example, leaders may not have the schedule flexibility to be present at all meetings, but they should definitely be present for weekly/monthly project status reports and other high-level progress meetings. Leaders should also offer team members several ways to communicate with them about cross team projects, from texting and email, to video chats and office hours.

Step #2: Help team members connect

In order for a team to perform well, the people on that team need to be able to trust one another, and forming trusting relationships requires people to spend time getting to know one another. To alleviate some of the awkwardness of people who don’t know each other well, coming together to work as a team, we recommend the following:

– Use HD video conferencing to ensure remote team members are able to see everyone face-to-face, and communicate with them as if they were in the same room.
– Begin meetings with an ice-breaker question, such as “What is your favorite vacation spot?” or “What’s your hidden talent?” Then, go around the room and have everyone share their answer.
– Create a mini-book of team bios and pass it out at the first meeting. Bio booklets should include a picture of each person, their title, area of expertise, preferred method of contact, and a few personal stats that make them relatable, such as favorite movie, current hobbies, pets, etc.
– Host a social event for team members and play games that encourage them to bond with people outside of their department. If your team has remote employees, use video conferencing to include them in the fun and play games such as office trivia, charades or catchphrase.

Step #3: Create a team charter

Once your cross team collaborators have had an opportunity to get to know one another, you will want to establish a team charter that outlines what the purpose of the team is, what the overall goals are, and what roles members are expected to play in order to achieve business objectives. The creation of the team charter should be the team’s first task to accomplish together, since doing so helps to ensure buy-in from everyone on how to best work together. A good team charter should include seven items:

1. Purpose – Define the purpose of the team or problem to be solved
2. Mission & Objectives – Establish the main goal and a prioritized list of smaller measurable goals
3. Team Roles – List team members, their roles on the team, and their contact information
4. Expectations – Clearly state team priorities and paths for conflict resolution
5. Budget & Resources – Compile a list of resources available and items covered by the budget
6. Schedule — Outline a meeting schedule for status reports and projected goal dates
7. Agreement — Once the charter is finished, all members need to sign it in agreement

Step #4: Centralize communications

A good way to ensure everyone remains focused on cross team goals and is up to date with regards to what others are doing and how things are progressing between meetings is to enlist the help of a project management app, like Asana, Trello or Clarizen. Project management apps enable everyone on the team to post messages, ask questions and share updates. All of the aforementioned online collaboration tools are secure and customizable, so project leaders can control levels of access to sensitive information and brand the project site with team colors, logos and more.

Another way to foster an environment where team members can hold impromptu meetings and communicate with each other in a central location, is to take a dedicated space, such as a huddle room, and equip it with an “always on” video portal. Creating an atmosphere like this fosters camaraderie by allowing remote employees to remain connected to team members. It also supports spontaneous collaboration which is critical to increasing the speed of innovation.

Step #5: Recognize and reward project milestones

There’s always excitement when a new project launches, but maintaining cross team momentum, once the daily struggles of facing various challenges sets in, can be an uphill battle. To keep your team inspired and looking forward to achieving the next milestone, leaders should make a point of recognizing and rewarding cross-collaborative breakthroughs and team achievements.

While team members are sure to feel honored when leaders recognize their hard work and collaborative efforts, smart leaders will also invite team members to recognize the teammates they appreciate. In the latter scenario, peer recognition helps build even stronger bonds and feelings of goodwill between team members.   

With regards to rewards, you may want to collect suggestions from team members during the establishment of the team charter for ideas on what will truly motivate individual members of the team.  Of course, tried and true rewards such as group lunches and dinners, and outings to sporting events are always appreciated, and have the added bonus of allowing teammates to develop stronger connections through socializing.  

Make cross team collaborating easy

Perhaps the best thing leaders can do when it comes to nurturing cross team collaborations is to make the process of collaborating a great experience in and of itself. Enter Highfive, a powerful all-in-one video conferencing solution with HD video and audio that allows teams to connect for an unparalleled face-to-face communication experience. Plus, Highfives are so user friendly, anyone can use them right out of the box to share screens, brainstorm solutions, collaborate with cross team members, and more. To equip your cross team with everything they need to be successful, start by giving them a Highfive.

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By Sara Moseley