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8 Ways to Improve Cross-Team Collaboration

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Erika Carter

Engineering, design, product, marketing, leadership... Whether a few people are wearing all of these hats, or you’re an organization of 25, 100, or 1,000 hat-wearing people across different departments, there’s a lot of moving parts, and hats, needed to ship great software.

In order to get valuable input from everyone in all headwear, and to ensure seamless work and timely delivery, teams must collaborate with clear and effective communication.

Herein lies the importance of cross-team collaboration. Cross-team collaboration empowers individuals and teams to solve problems and handle challenges in agile, flexible, hat-defying ways.

Especially with the rise of remote work, distributed teams, and asynchronous workflows, cross-team collaboration has become even more important. Remote teams across different time zones need to align tasks and keep everyone updated with the help of collaboration and product management tools.

Even for teams who still walk into offices and disappear into elevators every morning, online collaboration strengthens their dynamics with new communication channels that allow them to work in an agile way.

Cross-team collaboration leads to fresher ideas, better outcomes, and happier stakeholders. But it’s not without challenges. New tools can seem intimidating or even counterproductive to team members and stakeholders who prefer more traditional old-hat ways of working.

This is why it’s important to choose a tool that prioritizes efficiency and ease of use.

So, if you’re in agile software development, you probably have multiple teams, or you’re growing into an organization that has multiple teams. Multiple teams need cross-functional collaboration. Find out how to better facilitate cross-functional collaboration for your multiple teams below.

8 Easy Ways to Improve Cross-Team Collaboration

Perhaps you’re thinking: “Cross-team collaboration. I know what the words mean, but why the #@%^ can’t I get my teams to just #@%^ing collaborate with each other in a way that works?”

If you’re struggling with facilitating efficient collaboration across different teams, make sure you’re doing these 8 things.

1. Make collaboration a core value

The most important thing about improving collaboration is having your team recognize its value.

Rather than just forcing new collaboration tools onto them, and saying “Here”, help them first appreciate the importance of collaboration, teamwork, and agility.

A team that understands how collaboration can make their workload more efficient is a team that can effectively use the tools you give them.

Otherwise, you might encounter problems with team members refusing to use project management tools, resisting efforts to collaborate effectively with others on a team project, and talking outside the tool, which - you guessed it - defeats the purpose of using the tool.

2. Set clear goals

Call them crazy, but some people work better when they know what they’re working toward.

Set goals together as a team, and discuss how you can work together to reach them.

Ensure that everyone on the team is fully aware of the different stages of the project, the goals, the timeline, and how they should proceed if there are bottlenecks at any stage.

This is a very important step in the collaborative process because it allows team members to align on priorities and expectations.

Traditional, old-hat workplaces use a ‘top-down’ approach to goal-setting, where the bosses dictated goals for teams to work toward. But in a twenty-first century collaborative environment, team leaders incorporate team members’ feedback in goal-setting.

In most cases, the best course of action is setting hybrid goals.

This means that company leadership defines main objectives while team members are encouraged to define KPIs concerning these objectives.

Teams can also be more proactive in thinking about innovative ways to reach these goals.

This results in a more involved, more dynamic mix of teams who are well-informed about what exactly the team or company needs to achieve.

3. Set clear communication protocols

To communicate effectively, communicate protocols. Realize that transitioning to online collaboration can be tricky, especially for teams that are coming from more traditional backgrounds or who are changing hats and joining different teams. It’s important to set clear communication protocols to make sure that nobody gets lost trying to reach a team member or communicate an idea.

Team leaders should ensure that everyone on the team knows the communication processes and knows how and where they can reach their team if they need to go over something in the project.

This is especially crucial with remote teams. When working fully remotely, it’s incredibly important to make sure that no one on the team is left out of the communication and feedback loops.

This can be done by creating clear guidelines for communication processes in a collaborative setup.

As mentioned, it might require a bit of an adjustment period. Especially with the introduction of new technology, non-technical team members should be provided with the support they need to be able to master new processes and tools.

Here are some things that might be helpful to define from the start:

  • What should be communicated via chat or email?
  • What should be logged onto a project management tool?
  • How often should meetings be conducted?
  • When should meetings be conducted?

4. Encourage open communication and feedback

Don’t keep things under your hat. Having some feedback practices in place at your organization is the key to making sure your team members can voice their concerns and opinions at each stage.

Encourage open communication and the healthy exchange of constructive, supportive, and structured feedback.

Great communication fosters effective collaboration, and this can only happen when team members feel comfortable about voicing their concerns.

Find ways to encourage and engage your team so that they feel free to share their thoughts and ideas. With effective communication, leaders can also spot potential risks and avoid bottlenecks.

Open communication, for example, can reveal patterns of overwork or unfair sharing of workload among team members.

This can allow leaders to quickly address concerns and come up with better solutions and ways of working. Read more about the value of transparency here.

5. Use an intuitive tool

Make sure your team has the best tools available to do their job. It’s a good idea to choose a tool that combines project management, issue tracking, and team collaboration.

Here’s one! A tool like Shortcut balances ease of use with these things, making it easier for teams with varying levels of technical know-how to collaborate.

Using a shared tool instead of multiple tools prevents many data silos from ever forming in the first place. As we all know, data silos tend to result in mismatched data and possible miscommunications, so we want to steer clear of those.

A shared central resource makes it so much easier for everyone across various teams to access the information they need at any given time.

Updates, files, and all other relevant info can be accessed in real-time, eliminating the need for complicated equipment and unnecessary meetings.

A great tool is responsible for a large chunk of a team’s success in project completion, so make sure to choose the right one.

6. Encourage creativity and openness

Inspire collaboration and creativity by having your team members brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other on a regular basis.

Build good team spirit within the team, so everyone is even more motivated to work together.

The danger with remote work is that amid high productivity rates, employees become more isolated and used to working individually due to limited interactions with coworkers.

Encouraging collaboration by inspiring creativity and openness addresses this dilemma.

By facilitating fun, dynamic discussions among team members and cross-functional teams, projects can benefit from more varied inputs and better risk management.

7. Set clear expectations and roles

There’s nothing more frustrating for team members than dealing with unclear expectations and poorly defined roles. “Who am I here?” and “Am I supposed to be doing something?” are never thoughts team members should have.

Remote work can compound this problem when team members are left to deal with tasks that they feel are out of their depth.

While collaboration encourages fluidity, flexibility, and creativity, roles and expectations are among the things that leaders need to define clearly.

Project management tools and collaborative tools can be incredibly helpful in making sure that everyone knows what is expected of them during each stage of the project.

8. Celebrate successes and learn from missteps

Highlight successes achieved as a team and learn from mistakes, together. This will help team members to better appreciate the value of teamwork.

Making sure your team knows they are appreciated for a job well done before moving on to the next project can really boost team morale.

It doesn’t take much to recognize team members for good work, so leaders should make a habit of recognizing hard work and team wins. Everyone likes a “Hats off!”

In addition to simply being a nice thing to hear, this can increase employee satisfaction and keep burnout at bay. It also helps teams feel energized to tackle whatever next project gets thrown their way.

Learning from mistakes as a team while providing stern guidance is also crucial.

No one likes mistakes, and yet we all make them. With the right leadership, mistakes can be turned into great opportunities for learning.

Assure your team members that yours is a safe space to learn and improve, and also just mess up sometimes.

It’s also helpful to ask team members for feedback and insights after each project.

They can have a lot of valuable input and suggestions regarding how processes can be improved and optimized, so conducting a quick feedback session or regroup can be really beneficial.

Let’s review. Why is cross-team collaboration so important?

Done right, collaboration can work wonders for teams and organizations as a whole. It improves workplace efficiency, strengthens relationships between cross-functional teams, and encourages innovation.

Effective collaboration allows teams to:

  • Avoid siloed information between teams: When data and crucial information are centralized and accessible to everyone, the unnecessary back-and-forth is eliminated and everyone can work in an agile manner. 
  • Be efficient: When teams collaborate seamlessly, projects are completed faster and more smoothly, and potential hiccups are discovered and resolved more quickly.
  • Problem solve: Working together seamlessly also leaves more room for ideas and creativity. When teams are communicating with each other even when they don’t have to complete a task, they can bounce ideas off each other and be more creative together.
  • Enhance productivity across teams: Engaged employees positively influence other employees, are more productive and profitable, and are more enthusiastic about their work. 
  • Satisfy stakeholders: Having your teams collaborate seamlessly also makes for happier stakeholders. When your teams are faster, more productive, and happier in general, your stakeholders have nothing to worry about. 
  • Be happy: Traditional ways of collaboration leave a lot to be desired! Think of long meetings, missed calls, and unanswered emails. Modern cross-team collaboration cuts the frustration out of these and leaves teams happier, more satisfied with work output, and more efficient. 
  • Improve workflows: Successful collaboration across cross-functional teams can result in improved workflows and company-wide processes as team members find more efficient modes of communicating and working with each other.

Takeaways

Great collaboration is the key to project success. No matter what type of team you manage, collaboration can be improved and can result in incredible benefits for your organization.

While there are challenges associated with remote work, the shift to using intuitive project management tools has made it much easier for teams to work together.

Teams across different time zones and locations can now stay updated and on track with centralized tools that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.

By maintaining open lines of communication, encouraging healthy feedback, and welcoming fresh ideas, you’ll be very well on your way to nailing those key performance objectives each time.

Shortcut offers a free trial to help you get a feel of how things work. So, hey, if the hat fits… know that it also supports seamless integration with tools like Zendesk, GitHub, Slack, and Google Drive. This ensures peak productivity and easy updating for teams across various disciplines.

Plus, Shortcut supports easy migration from tools like Jira and Trello, should you decide that you need to switch tools mid-project because your team wants to throw their computers out the window or they threaten to quit.

For all the teams, all the hats, and all the cross-team collaboration, Shortcut is the best project management tool for agile software development organizations. See for yourself by starting your free trial.