Cross-functional collaboration was once a buzzword in the management domain. It is now a core necessity in every aspect of business in the globalized world. The projects are increasingly multidisciplinary, requiring skillsets from various domains. A manager’s success now depends upon how well they can enable cross-functional collaborations. However, managers can’t use their authority to secure such collaborations.
Successful cross-functional collaborations are not only in face-to-face settings but also in globally distributed remote teams. Geographically distributed remote teams working in different time zones require these collaborations to be self-initiated by the team members and be able to sustain them for a longer time.
There are three aspects to genuine, long-lasting, self-driven cross-functional collaborations – shared goal, freedom of wisdom sharing, and clear ownership and boundaries.
The collaboration does not exist for the sake of looking good. Collaboration exists for shared goals. So, the first technique is to establish a clear purpose that any group can vividly imagine, irrespective of the functional background.
The first aspect is that there must be a shared goal. Any group should be able to imagine the shared goal clearly, irrespective of their functional background.
Once such a goal is understood in terms of its own functions, it opens up the doors for building better collaboration and bonds.
Freedom of wisdom sharing
Employees often prioritize their self-interests and resist collaborative tasks, especially when others impose these tasks without seeking their input. However, genuine collaboration emerges when individuals voluntarily contribute their expertise. They take pride in showcasing their skills in their respective areas. When employees apply their expertise towards a common goal, they feel valued. Consequently, they are more likely to engage in effective collaborations.
The second key to successful cross-functional collaboration is allowing employees to decide and share their wisdom. This approach fosters a sense of ownership and enthusiasm.
Start by listing all tasks necessary for a project or function to meet its goal. Then, invite teams from various functional groups that you believe should collaborate. This inclusive approach encourages teamwork and shared responsibility.
Do a round table and ask them to specify the most appropriate functional group (or groups) that can handle that task more efficiently than others. The groups will take pride in identifying their groups as a group competent to handle certain tasks.
Clear ownership and boundaries
Excellent bonding, relationship and collaboration come when the ownership boundaries are clear. Thus, the third aspect of collaboration is to lay out agreed ownership.
Create the RACI matrix for all the tasks. Identify the owners by tiers. Who is responsible for the task, who is accountable, who is consulted, and who is kept informed about the task?
It is advisable to assign primary and secondary owners to recognize cross-functional expertise but use your judgment to ascertain the best fit for a primary owner.
Leaders drive that clarity. When they do cross-functional collaboration goes smoothly. Each group takes pride in producing results towards a common goal. Therefore each group feels recognized for its relative expertise.
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Dr Raman K Attri is a multifaceted personality as a scientist, author, speaker, L&D leader, and artist. Awarded as one of the Brainz Global 500 leaders, Transformational Business Leader of the Year, and one of the most Admired Global Indians of the Year, he is featured in over 200 media features. An award-winning learning scientist, he specializes in the science of speed in personal and professional performance. A prolific author of 50 multi-genre books, he writes on leadership, learning, performance, and workplace learning. He is an authentic accelerated learning guru who walks the talk by earning two doctorates and over 100 international educational credentials. Permanently disabled since childhood, Dr Raman K Attri is a hallmark of positivity and inspiration. He has transformed his inability to walk into a unique expertise to teach others techniques to ‘walk faster’ in what they do. His remarkable achievements inspire others to strive for excellence in their personal and professional lives.