How to Embrace Cross-team Collaboration at Your Organization


“People are your most important product,” says Chuck Intrieri, management consultant. “Use them to continuously improve your organization.” 

That’s precisely what cross-team, or cross-functional, collaboration does. It drives continuous improvement within the organization. It also reduces costs and redundancies while also enabling agility, learning opportunities and creative problem solving. Perhaps most importantly, it keeps everyone aligned with big-picture company goals.


But cross-team collaboration doesn’t happen by accident – it takes time and effort. To see the benefits of cross-team collaboration, use these 15 tips to get you started and keep you going.

  1. Identify existing problems. Make a list of the problems that happen when cross-team collaboration doesn’t happen. For instance, customer expectations and corporate goals might not be met because of a lack of communication between teams.
  2. Get agreement on the problems before establishing a solution. The solution, of course, is collaboration, but you don’t need to spell it out at the moment. Focus on getting consensus on the problems. You might be surprised by how people start to embrace cross-team collaboration simply because they have a more complete understanding of the problems.
  3. Set objectives. Objectives should tie directly to the problems and big-picture company goals. Set two to three objectives per problem; it’ll make the work achievable rather than overwhelming.
  4. Define roles and responsibilities. Objectives help define roles and responsibilities. It’s kind of like building a house: The objective is the house you want to build. The roles and responsibilities are the materials needed to turn the house from blueprint to reality.
  5. Select the right team members. Skills are important, but so are personalities. Teams work when the right people are working together. Also consider diversity to maximize the effectiveness of the teams.
  6. Establish leaders. Every team needs a collaboration leader who ensures accountability and offers feedback to each of the team members. The leader can also act as a liaison between teams and management.Office_Space.gif
  7. Set the example. Cross-team collaboration works best when there’s higher-level support and governance. Higher-level cross-functional teams are also helpful because they establish the right attitude and culture.
  8. Establish a culture of collaboration. For collaboration to work, people have to know it’s okay to ask questions. They don’t have to have all the answers; they just need to be able to ask the right questions to the right people.
  9. Set expectations. Many times, teamwork fails because of a phenomenon known as “social loafing.” The group exists, but only one person is doing the work. Avoid the problem altogether by making expectations, rewards and consequences clear from the beginning.Teamwork Breakdown
  10. Remember that teams go through stages. Conflict is going to happen – it’s a given. But when is that conflict happening? If you can identify what stage your team is in – known as the forming, storming, norming and performing stages – you’ll be better able to resolve the issues and move forward faster and stronger than ever before.
  11. Have regular check-ins. But don’t overschedule meetings or send a million emails. Use technology like a social intranet to manage team members, share feedback and monitor efforts.
  12. Consolidate technology. You might find that team members are using a variety of tools to get their work done, which can be time-consuming and impede real collaboration. By consolidating the tools and getting everybody using the same one, you will not only improve communication, but also logistics and resources.
  13. Constantly evaluate teams and projects. Cross-team collaboration needs to be put to work on projects with bottom-line value. The right effort on the wrong project is still wasted effort. Kill projects when necessary and make sure teams have the ability to shift from one project to another.
  14. Encourage team members to socialize. If you want collaboration to happen inside the workplace, encourage socialization outside the workplace. Teams gel because of who people are, not their skill sets.
  15. Reward collaboration. People respond to positive reinforcement so reward the behaviors you want to see more of. Even if a project failed, what did the team do right? Learn from mistakes and gains, and use those lessons to build stronger teams and higher project close rates.

We Can Do It by Working Together

Cross-team collaboration takes time and effort, but it’s full of rewards. Reap them with the 15 tips outlined above and you’ll see better communication across the organization. People will come up with more creative solutions to complex – and often vexing – problems. They’ll learn new skills and ways of thinking about their day-to-day responsibilities. All of that will lead to an organization that is continuously improving and ready for whatever challenge comes next.

Ready to get started collaborating? Check out how NATO bolstered international teamwork with Incentive. Download the case study today.