You must be intentional to create cross-functional relationships that improve efficiency and quality
By Kyle Green
Have you ever taken a step back at the company picnic, holiday party, or some other form of corporate “mandatory fun” to recognize that the company divisions readily manifest themselves? The “sales guys” are in one corner, “tech guys” in another, and heaven forbid that HR mingle with anyone else. Why bother having a company picnic at all? The common company line is that such mandatory fun creates a more welcoming corporate environment for coworkers to get to know each other better, producing better results for the company—a fine goal, except that the cross-functional collaboration rarely occurs spontaneously. If you want a more cohesive team, you must work to build it. Here are four steps you can take to be more intentional about creating cross-functional relationships.
1. Stop the Gossip
There is no greater divider than that created by disparagement. Gossip creates a trust gap that is nearly impossible to repair. When you overhear office gossip, it is your responsibility to confront it with a level of decency and decorum not shown by those having the conversation. Remind them that if you overheard them, someone else may have as well. And that “someone else” may not be part of the company or may be the subject of the gossip. When your team trusts each other, there are few limits to what they are willing to do to help move the mission forward.
2. Force Cross-functional Engagement
When was the last time you put someone from Finance on a sales call or had them sit in the PMO’s contract-review meeting? Exposing people to different perspectives provides an opportunity to gain new insights and shorten the “explanation” needed for action. By being occasionally involved in cross-functional meetings, an individual may see or hear something that helps them understand why they are constantly asked for data in some “ridiculous” format. That temporarily transplanted individual may also see an opportunity to improve the efficiency of group-to-group interaction based on their experience or expertise.
3. Encourage Questioning
If you force cross-functional engagement, you must encourage questioning. There is little to be gained by or from a transplanted individual who only sits in the back waiting for the meeting to end. Encourage your team to question why a process is followed or how a priority was determined. The more they understand the framework, the better they can tailor their actions. And you must keep a truly listening ear: A question’s formulation or audience can tell you more about the underlying issues or concerns than the question itself. An integrated team that is encouraged to question the status quo will often find an innovative way to solve the unsolvable.
4. Demand Action
Giving your team members their own space to make decisions will help limit protectionism and increase collaboration. The team must know that they are both empowered and required to take independent action. You should clearly communicate to your team the actions that they are authorized to take on their own. Once that line of delegation has been set, enforce it. You delegated authority because you trust your team to make the right call and expect to gain efficiencies to spend time on other issues. Do not undercut your own process by allowing your team to use you as cover for tough decisions that they should make. You have empowered them to make the decision, now require them to do so.
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