The Power of Cross-Functional Collaboration for Strategic Success

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We cannot underestimate the power of collaboration and cross-functional alignment when implementing strategy. Nobody succeeds alone.  The world has become far too interrelated and complex for individuals to succeed without collaborative skills.  The ability of different departments and teams to collaborate and align their efforts towards a common goal is key to strategic success. 

Never underestimate the power of a small, dedicated group of people to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has

Margaret Mead

Effective collaboration can be a game-changer when done correctly.  Individuals gain access to a wealth of knowledge and a wide range of perspectives.  Teams develop a sense of shared ownership which fosters greater commitment to the objectives.  It removes departmental silos, pools resources, and eliminates wasteful practices.  Effective collaboration results in faster internal decision-making, and increased innovation.  Strong collaborative skills also increase natural enthusiasm which, in turn, increases capability and productivity

Effective Team Leadership and Collaboration

Getting it right is not easy.  It starts with securing the team.  It involves helping people who don’t need to work together to do so. It is about showing people who don’t necessarily get on with one another, that they should.  Excellent leadership skills are needed.  Collectively agree on the need for change.  Inspire people with a vision of change.  Allow diverse contributions to demonstrate that everyone’s effort counts.  Ensure that everyone can see the range of benefits that emerge.

Whilst a strong plan increases the probability of a quick and successful delivery, that is not enough.  We perform our best when we feel united, empowered, and mutually committed to accomplishing something worthwhile.  We perform our best in a team environment.  With a shared sense of identity, purpose, and standards, open communication is easier.  Success, therefore, depends on getting a capable and motivated team – the right people on the bus, in the right seats.  But without collaboration, a team is just a group of individuals who each follow their own agenda.

Strategies for Increasing Cross-Functional Collaboration

You cannot improve collaboration until you address the issue of conflict.  To increase collaboration, management teams often restructure their organisations and reengineer business processes.  Few are happy with the results.  They often fail due to focusing on the symptoms, rather than the root cause of the failure in cooperation – conflict. 

There is a plethora of strategies to resolve conflict that focus on understanding different perspectives.  Incorporate these into day-to-day decision-making processes to remove barriers to cross-functional collaboration.

Cross-functional teams (CFTs) help to break down departmental silos and build a culture of teamwork.  They create a much wider brain trust of collective wisdom by bringing together diverse skill sets, knowledge, and perspectives from across the organisation to solve complex problems.  Diversity enables problems to be approached from various angles as well as the provision of fresh, creative insights.  CFTs produce and spread new knowledge by feeding back information to their own teams, functions or departments.

Optimising Cross-Functional Teams for Success

They are, however, not without their challenges.  Team members may not share their perspectives with the project team.  They may also not check back regularly with their own team.  Define team objectives, roles, and responsibilities to ensure tasks do not fall through the cracks.  Outline tasks, deliverables and set key performance indicators (KPIs) to establish accountability and strategic alignment.  Allow open communication, active listening, and open dialogue to create a culture of collaboration and respect whilst avoiding misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  Assign a capable leader to guide the team, facilitate decision-making, and provide necessary resources.  If needed, offer training to enhance collaboration skills. 

How Collaboration transforms Organisational Dynamics

Organisations should harness the power of collaboration and cross-functional alignment as they are essential components of successful strategy implementation.  Collaboration allows for quicker decision-making and more diverse perspectives.  It increases communication channels and empowers individuals to contribute.  Enabled cross-functional teams lead to greater creativity, faster decision-making, and improved productivity.  They are a fundamental shift in how we approach work, collaboration, and achieving collective goals.

Rich Downey, Consultant, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2023.