Today, the whole world has moved to remote working or hybrid working. Most managers and leaders face the biggest issue centered around cross-functional or cross-divisional collaborations. The boundaries have become even harder to manage.
Often, top-down management expresses the goal in their own language or terms that do not always translate to how the goals are read or understood by downstream functional groups. Thus, the biggest challenge to driving effective cross-functional collaborations is establishing a shared goal that can be understood vividly by each group. When the purpose does not show each functional group how their expertise is valued to accomplish a task and how the said project will allow them to showcase it to the rest of the groups, they won’t take pride in collaborating with others while doing the assigned task. This also implies that each group likes to retain clear ownership boundaries to showcase their contributions, value, and expertise within their space. Without clear boundaries and the nature of ownership, it generates more conflicts than collaboration. Thus a good cross-functional collaboration should be based on clearly understood shared goals, recognition of functional expertise, and clearly set ownerships.
HOW TO IMPROVE REMOTE CROSS-FUNCTIONAL COLLABORATION
A good tip to strike good cross-functional collaboration is to avoid imposing the tasks top-down. Instead, seek their inputs and views on a purpose that is stated in their respective functional group language. Let them decide and offer their wisdom. List out all the tasks that must be performed for a given project or function to achieve the defined goal.
Invite the teams from various functional groups that you think should work together. Do a round table and ask them to specify the most appropriate functional group (or groups) that can handle that task more efficiently than others. The groups will take pride in identifying themselves as competent folks to handle certain tasks.
Ask them to assign the ownerships in their expertise area. Create the RACI matrix for all the tasks.
Identify the owners by tiers – who is responsible (R) for the task, who is accountable (A), who is consulted (C), and who is kept informed (I) about the task.
Once you drive that clarity, cross-functional collaboration improves significantly because each group takes pride in producing results toward a shared goal and feels recognized for their relative expertise.
One of the top skills a remote leader needs to drive better collaboration is to become more empathetic. During the pandemic, leaders who showed empathy to their employees those teams not only showed outstanding collaboration even at distances, but they outperformed the norms by working seamlessly with peers and customers. This all happened despite restrictions on travel, lack of training, overload of projects, etc. Empathy is how managers and leaders express a sense of connection and understanding to their employees’ work, challenges, goals, and expertise at the human level. A simple statement of “we understand what you need to deliver, and we are here to help you” goes a long way. While empathy is a ‘good to have leadership trait in any setting, it becomes a ‘must-have’ leadership skill when there is a need to foster a deeper level of cross-functional interactions and collaborations.