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Cross Functional Collaboration Is Hard, But It Doesn't Have To Be

Posted by Maggie Millard

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May 21, 2014 12:00:00 PM

How To Make Cross Functional Collaboration Work For You

4006230793_01f3abe22b_mCross functional collaboration involves teams comprised of members from various departments within an organization. Together they’re tasked with working on a single project or finding a solution to a specific problem. In theory, it sounds ideal. Different skill sets are brought in to approach the project from several angles. Seems like a thorough, efficient method, right?

In practice, though, companies often find that cross functional collaboration sounds much better than it actually works. Team dynamics tend to unleash some negative tendencies that can hamper a project's progress or derail it altogether. 

Here are some of the more common reasons why this style of problem-solving doesn’t work:

  1. Different departments within a company often work in silos. They’re proprietary about their information and efforts, rarely crossing boundaries to share data. Putting them together to collaborate frequently generates turf wars. Individuals become so preoccupied fighting about who will do what work and which department will get the credit that the original project gets lost in the shuffle.
  2. Ironically, cross functional collaboration results in a reduction of effort. Remember in high school when your history teacher put you in teams for a research project? One person, probably you, got stuck doing all the work. Even with adults, that tendency is alive and well. The anonymity of team members, or more pointedly lack of individual accountability, causes what psychologists refer to as “social loafing.”
  3. Effort isn’t the only factor that suffers in cross functional collaboration. Creativity levels are often lower as well. Sometimes a more outspoken team member ends up dominating meetings and discussions, knowingly or unknowingly keeping others from contributing. Also, many people are just generally reluctant to speak up in group situations so they keep their thoughts to themselves.
  4. Communication is often a major issue with cross functional collaboration. Different departments have their own “language,” with specialized terminology and lingo. Finance doesn’t speak like Supply Chain does, which doesn’t speak like Sales does. It’s hard to reach a consensus if a team can’t even agree on what the topic is.
  5. Along with different languages go different priorities. All departments filter business activities through the lens of their particular area of interest. When you put people together in cross functional collaboration, members will often try to advance their own agenda, either openly or behind the scenes.

None of this means that you ought to give up on the idea of cross functional collaboration.

Implementing continuous improvement software eliminates these drawbacks and creates an atmosphere of harmonious collaboration between departments.

Use of continuous improvement software provides the following benefits:

  • Allows input from individual employees, giving them a sense of empowerment
  • Affects a balanced, equitable division of labor
  • Handles communication in an organized manner, providing a daily digest of relevant information
  • Quantifies the effect of change on various measures such as cost savings and time savings, making it easy for each department to see how it impacts them
  • Provides detailed metrics so that everyone is on the same page regarding measurements and results

Help your cross functional groups work they way they were intended to. With continuous improvement software, everyone is a valuable member of the team.

Do you have a successful way of ensuring your cross functional collaboration is effective? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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