Cross team collaboration is an ongoing challenge for leaders. Not only do you need to work effectively within your team, you also need to work well with other teams around you.
This challenge only grows as organisations expand, and communication barriers arise that stop cross team collaboration. These communication barriers can be hard to break down if they aren’t handled correctly. Let’s look at some simple ways to improve cross team collaboration.
1. Stop Relying On Emails
In many jobs these days, email communication is common and takes up a lot of time. While email is useful, it can stifle cross team collaboration.
Relying too much on email is a common trap which can stop teams communicating effectively. People can easily misinterpret the tone of an email or overlook important details because emails are too large, or poorly structured.
I’ve seen many cases where an email chain grows and grows, with everybody adding their two cents until it’s no longer clear whether anyone is on the same page!
How to Reduce Reliance on Email Communication
The solution to this is fairly simple. You don’t want to remove email altogether, but you should start by watching for the following warning signs:
- Email chains with too much back and forth between many people
- Situations where readers have misinterpreted the tone or the contents of an email
- Email chains where multiple separate issues are being discussed.
When you notice these signs, get the right people in a room, or at least on a phone call. Make the communication more personal.
When you can actually see the person you’re talking to, there is usually a greater willingness to work together to solve a problem.
2. Increase Leadership Support
Often when I see issues with cross team collaboration, it’s because team members are fighting it out individually without getting their manager’s support. They may not want to burden their leader with the problem. Or perhaps, they simply feel like they should be able to solve it themselves.
Unfortunately, this often doesn’t work, because the team members in the fight don’t have the authority to make changes.
Leaders need to be involved so they can collaborate to solve disputes and improve the way their teams work together.
How to Increase Leadership Support
Issues arise for leaders when they are unaware of problems happening between teams. To improve leadership support, you need to:
- Make yourself available and be involved with your team, so you know when issues are occurring
- Set guidelines for your team for when they should escalate a problem to you
- Regularly check in with other team leaders to make sure your teams are working well together. Don’t rely on “no news is good news”… it is often not the case!
Read this post for more tips on supporting your team effectively: 6 Great Ways to Support Your Team.
3. Communicate Team Challenges Openly
Another way to improve cross team collaboration is by openly communicating challenges that your team is experiencing. In many workplaces, I’ve seen team members complain about other teams without actually trying to work with them to solve the problems.
Often if two teams aren’t collaborating effectively, each of them tends to believe that the other team are full of idiots. This is because they don’t make the effort to understand how their own behaviour contributes to the situation.
For more about adversarial teams, read this post: Everyone is stupid, except for my team!
This is another instance where communicating the “Why” is important. Let other teams know why your team might be frustrated, or struggling to fulfil their obligations. Then you start to build a foundation to solve collaboration issues.
How to Communicate Team Challenges Openly:
- Work with your team to understand and document the specific challenges that they are facing, when dealing with other teams.
- For each of the challenges, come up with some potential solutions.
- Meet with the other team’s manager and communicate your issues and potential solutions.
- Bring both teams together to workshop the issues. Then discuss the potential solutions and come to an agreement.
- Lastly, schedule ongoing check-ins to make sure that what you agreed is actually working.
- If you can, organise a simple, informal social event for both teams. It might be a simple coffee catchup or lunch. You’d be amazed at how this can break down barriers between teams, and suddenly those people in the “other” team start to seem like allies, not enemies.
When teams start to work together to understand each others’ challenges, they start to recognise their part in the problem. This is the starting point for improving cross team collaboration.
How have you improved cross team collaboration at work? What challenges did you face? Let me know in the comments below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.
Thanks Ben. Always enjoy your input.
Thanks Stu – hope you’re well!
These are great tips, thanks. What helped my team to collaborate better was providing them with a collaboration tool. In our case, it was https://kanbantool.com. Thanks to it, we don’t overlap our tasks anymore and the work has become more transparent: everyone can check what the other people are doing at any moment. It’s a good app that can definitely support better communication within the team.
Thanks Daisy – I agree, tools can really help improve collaboration. However, between teams (rather than within a team) I often find that it’s the people challenges that play the biggest part. Once you improve the people side of things, even without a sophisticated tool you can see some real improvement.