Collaboration Across Diverse Teams Prepares Teams to Quickly Adapt and Succeed
When change occurs within an organization, teams that can quickly shift focus and pull from each team member’s strengths are likely to discover long-term solutions to enhance the bottom line and the customer experience.
In a study completed by the Harvard Business Review, they found that companies that were highly collaborative during the 2008 economic crisis continued to grow their business and continued an upward trajectory afterward. The study also found that 70 percent of businesses chose to reduce collaboration during the crisis which resulted in less revenue generated that year, but more importantly, they were still recovering five years later.1
Bringing together a group of people from multiple departments and specialties with a variety of skills can create a much more diverse perspective, helping the collective team identify risks and opportunities that one department might not recognize. This allows the company to build solutions quickly that address the quickly changing situations at hand.
By building the right team for each specific project that can collaborate with each other and among their external partners, firms tend to gather more creative ideas and see increased engagement among their employees.
A Culture of Trust Creates a Team that Succeeds
Diverse teams with cross-departmental management and employees with varying skills must have clearly identified goals and priorities, but true success hinges on the fact that the team across and within departments trust each other.
When leaders invest in their employees and a culture that promotes camaraderie, leaders will see much more productive collaboration. This is much easier to accomplish when a team can celebrate a coworker’s birthday with a cake in the break room, or gather for a casual happy hour after work, therefore, leaders must do their best to continue fostering a culture that brings people together despite the challenges we face today.
Once you have Trust, Developing a Collaborative Culture Comes Next
A collaborative culture begins first and foremost with executive buy-in and leaders who promote teamwork while setting manageable expectations.
According to the Harvard Business Review, teams who collaborate across departments with high-level executives or a team of leaders overseeing the work collectively have a 76 percent rate of success. Without that leadership, the same cross-functional teams are much more likely to fail when it comes to certain measures of success such as meeting a planned budget, staying on schedule, adhering to specifications, and maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals. Any one of those alone may result in dysfunction among the team, but together, could severely impact the firm’s ability to meet customer expectations.
Leaders should have shared goals with clearly defined expectations of their departments and communicate those goals by explaining the “why” behind them.
Once each department understands its role, objectives, and how the other teams work to support each other, those expectations need to be communicated clearly and frequently among the team.
To provide adequate open communication, leaders should be easily accessible and visible to their team members. Having group meetings where each employee can share their successes or in-progress projects among their peers can help employees feel connected to each other and opens the opportunity for team members to support one another.
Collaborative communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams can make leaders and executives a part of day-to-day conversations and allow employees to communicate with the corner office quickly. Other cloud-based file-sharing systems and web-based project management platforms like Trello and Asana also create a highly collaborative environment and centralized conversations among teams whether they’re working from home or spread across offices in different time zones. These group conversations also provide leaders with a space to recognize professional and personal milestones.
MIT SMR and Deloitte’s survey of more than 3,500 managers found that “the most digitally advanced companies — those successfully deploying digital technologies and capabilities to improve processes, engage talent across the organization, and drive new value-generating business models — are far more likely to perform cross-functional collaboration.”
Even with these digital platforms that keep teams and projects connected, leaders must also remember to provide support such as continued training and the necessary resources to successfully do their jobs. Both before and post-COVID, leaders who provide feedback, offer opportunities for growth, and most importantly, those who ask for feedback, are much more likely to see increased collaboration among their team and ultimately provide superior service to their client.
1 Harvard Business Review, July 8, 2020, https://hbr.org/2020/07/7-strategies-for-promoting-collaboration-in-a-crisis