Cross-functional collaboration is the process where individuals from different departments in an organization with different areas of expertise come together to achieve a common goal. This collaboration could be organic or project-based. 

An example of organic cross-functional collaboration could be when the sales manager approaches the marketing manager about expected future buying trends of the customers to plan campaign ideas around it.

An example of project-based cross-functional collaboration could be when an organization decides to create a new product line and requires the collaboration of individuals from different expertise.

How to effectively implement Cross-functional Collaboration

An organization comprises individuals with various expertise who may be able to effectively achieve their departmental objectives. But without the interaction and involvement of individuals from different departments, it becomes difficult to achieve the overall organizational goal. Thus, the collaboration of individuals from different departments is critical to the survival of an organization. Here are some ways to effectively implement cross-functional collaboration:

1. Implement collaborative systems.

To collaborate you need the tools to aid collaboration. There are many software platforms in the market that help set up a collaborative system. Depending on the industry and the organizational culture, you must choose a software platform that best suits your business. Most popular platforms today are cloud-based, ensuring they can be accessed across devices, locations, and time zones. Nonetheless, it is vital to adopt a collaborative system that works with minimal error and difficulty. Otherwise, for example, individuals will simply resort to saving files on local devices, which means other individuals are unable to collaborate on the same files.

2. Automate your workflows.

Workflow automation increases the efficiency of collaboration among different individuals. By automating straightforward tasks, you free up time and give each individual clear responsibilities so that they can focus on their tasks without worrying about other things. You have the ability to configure custom workflows, share them with all the individuals involved, which helps them focus on their specific functions. This leads to shorter execution times, as there is less unnecessary back and forth between individuals. 

3. Hire and promote collaborative staff and leaders.

Culture manifests itself as a series of collective human behavioral norms. So to create a collaborative organizational culture requires staff and leaders with a collaborative mindset. Not all people are good at collaborating. Knowing this, recruiters must test and identify candidates strong in this area. Whereas, promoting existing staff with a strong collaborative mindset to leadership positions helps in getting the rest of the staff to collaborate effectively.

4. Build trust and transparency.

If there is no trust between employees working together in an organization, the collaboration will fail. Lack of trust disables individuals from different departments to communicate openly and, therefore, to work successfully towards the same objectives. Efficient collaboration requires honest and transparent communication. If lack of trust is an obstacle to collaboration in your organization, try starting with a few small opportunities for individuals to work together to get quick wins. In addition, consider rewarding individuals involved in cross-functional collaboration. Seeing short-term results and receiving rewards for achievement can help build trust among them.

Benefits of effective cross-functional collaboration

There are major benefits to implementing a robust collaborative system. Besides the obvious that the output of a multifaceted team is greater than the sum of its individual parts, here are some overlooked benefits of cross-functional collaboration that will help your organization grow holistically.

1. Knowledge sharing.

Individuals get to learn more about other expertise. This creates employees with multifaceted skills and perspectives.

2. High-level insight.

Provides insight into how different departments function. This helps employees understand the overall functioning of the organization which helps them gain clarity, and with clarity comes better decision-making.

3. Innovation.

Innovation comes out of new combinations and this is true for cross-functional teams. When employees with different areas of expertise brainstorm together, there are bound to be new and innovative ideas.

4. Team spirit and employee engagement.

Collaboration provides the opportunity for individuals from different departments to interact with each other, that they otherwise may not have. This builds an overall team spirit and creates a positive environment within the organization.

Conclusion

An organization comprises various departments with individuals from different areas of expertise. Managing, organizing, and aligning organizational goals can get difficult if each department functions autonomously. Every organization will have some degree of collaboration. But to truly get the maximum out of your workforce it is vital to set up a robust collaborative system.

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