3 Proven Ways To Ease Cross-Functional Team Collaboration

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3 Proven Ways To Ease Cross-Functional Team Collaboration


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Three Proven Ways to East Cross-Functional Team Collaboration
I hear marketers talk about the challenges of cross-functional team collaboration all the time.

So I know #TheStruggleIsReal.

When I was at Content Marketing World a few months ago, I heard marketers say stuff like…

  • “I need to collaborate with our designers. But they’re not in the same office as us.”
  • “I can’t get other teams to prioritize our marketing projects. It’s a nightmare!”
  • Me: “What do you do at {insert company}?” Them: “I’m a professional cat herder.”

^^^ Sound familiar?

Because to me, it sounds like a lot of cross-functional teams aren’t exactly… functional.

Here’s the definition (aka what you’ve been promised): Cross-functional teams collaborate on specific projects to collectively produce results. These teams leverage the skill sets from many individuals (often from multiple different departments and teams within those departments) to work as effectively as possible. Therefore, when executed efficiently, these kinds of projects often present a 10x return.

Here’s the reality: Cross-functional teams sound great in theory, but they’re actually super difficult to manage. You see the benefits… but efficiently coordinating the delegation, collaboration, and communication is pushing you toward insanity. Maybe slightly shoving.

So how can you make cross-functional collaboration easier? How can you actually make that definition the reality?

Start with these three simple tips backed by examples and advice from authors I highly respect.

This advice has definitely helped me manage large-scale, cross-departmental projects more efficiently at CoSchedule (managing demand generation projects in conjunction with public relations, branding, design, product marketing, engineers, and more), so I thought you’d dig these high-level ideas, too.

Check it. ;)

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Problem: Other Team Members Don’t Prioritize Your Projects Into Their Workload

Just because it’s a priority for you doesn’t mean it’s a priority for someone else.

^^^ Especially when that someone else has other goals and a different manager enforcing those goals.

So the best way to make sure you’re getting what you need to manage a successful cross-departmental project is to:

  1. Draft a project creative brief that outlines the project, the audience you’re targeting, your talking points, the objectives and goals, the content you’ll create, and—most importantly—the team members you’ll need to create that content. It helps to create a project timeline to know when you’ll need their help, too.
  2. Chat with each of those team members’ managers to set realistic expectations of the amount of work for the team members from whom you’ll need help. Then get those managers to make your project a priority on those team members’ to-do lists.
  3. Chat with the team members. Oftentimes, a project kickoff meeting will do the trick. Or you could opt for an informal visit to their desks to clue them in. After all, they’re the ones who’ll help you execute. And people like to know about projects well before they begin.

Writing down your goals and the timeline to get there, then committing to making both happen is the most effective way to execute a plan that makes the project a reality.

In his book, The Power Of Habit, author Charles Duhigg discovered research that proves when people write down their goals and their timeline plans to make them a reality, they’re very likely to be successful. One study he analyzed was a case study of patients who had plans to recover after a knee or hip surgery:

The patients who had written plans in their booklets had started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not. They had started getting in and out of their chairs, unassisted, almost three times as fast.

Sure, that was patients recovering.

In recent custom research, the marketing team at CoSchedule also discovered marketers who document their strategy are 538% more likely to report success than those who don’t.

Takeaway: Write down what you want to do. Get permission from the team member’s managers to borrow their resources. Loop the new cross-departmental team members in on your game plan.

Problem: You Only Hit Deadlines When Pigs Fly

Anecdotally, if you don’t define a clear process for each piece of content you’re publishing as part of your project from the very beginning, I can totally see how you’d miss your deadline.

^^^ When you neglect documenting your process, you simply guess at the amount of time your team members need to successfully execute your project.

In his book, High Output Management, former CEO of Intel, Andrew S. Grove, discovered a simple framework he calls task simplification. You can use this to plan workflows that actually help work flow efficiently.

For each piece you’ll create (think blog post, e-book, landing page, etc.), run through these steps (head’s up—I’ve built upon Andrew’s original advice):

  1. Write out every task that needs to be done.
  2. Identify and delete the tasks that are unnecessary.
  3. Combine tasks together that will be completed at the same time.
  4. Delegate only one person to complete one task (e.g. don’t expect two people to complete one task).
  5. Assign a due date for each task as “{#} of days before publish”.

5 Step Framework to Increase Workflow Efficiency

This framework will help you reduce the amount of work you take on by 30-50%. In addition, by setting clear task due dates, you know when to begin each piece to know when to realistically set deadlines.

For example, when you know that blog post will take 22 days to produce, the soonest you can publish it is 23 days from today (if you were to start it today). That’s powerful knowledge that will help you plan realistic deadlines and achieve them.

Plus… marketers who document their marketing processes are 466% more likely to report success than those who don’t.

Takeaway: Plan workflows for each piece you’ll produce as part of your project. Once you understand how long it takes to produce the piece, set the deadline.

Problem: The Work Done Is Just Enough To Say It’s Done… But It’s Garbage

I used to work with developers who would make something work. But the user experience was shit.

And I’ve been quoted:

Great content with poor design becomes poor content.

Has it ever happened to you that your cross-functional team members don’t seem to care about the quality of their output, but rather, just that they simply shipped something?

In his book, The Score Takes Care Of Itself, 4-time Super Bowl-winning coach, Bill Walsh writes about the concept of a standard of performance.

The goal behind this framework is to provide a definition of done for each task… a standard that must be followed before any team member crosses a task off their to-do list.

Walsh describes this concept in his book:

In many ways, it comes down to details. The intense focus on those pertinent details cements the foundation that establishes excellence in performance. The simplest correct execution of procedures represents the commitment of players and staff to the organization and the organization to them.

Then he goes on to suggest these steps are effective ways to establish your standard of performance:

  1. Identify the specific actions and attitudes your team needs to produce.
  2. Clearly communicate your expectations.
  3. Let your team know you’re relying on them to be experts in their areas of responsibility.
  4. Teach them to collaborate together and rely upon one another.
  5. Demand excellence in execution.

At CoSchedule, we’ve followed that advice to write clear definitions of done for each task.

For example, when I assign a task to Ben, our in-house SEO wizard to “Find the keyword” for a blog post, the definition of done looks like this: “The keyword must get 1,000+ monthly searches and have a ranking difficulty score of less than 60”.

^^^ Armed with that definition, Ben knows my expectations fully and cannot check that task as complete if it doesn’t meet our standards.

Takeaway: Define what done looks like. Then hold your cross-functional team members accountable to the standard of performance.

How Will You Organize Your Cross-Functional Team?

I’ve found these three cross-departmental team management tips super helpful for coordinating tons of projects here at CoSchedule.

Let me know if they work for you!

And in the meantime, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I use CoSchedule as my marketing management tool to organize every cross-functional team project.

For me, CoSchedule:

  • Eliminates endless emails entirely (we don’t email any team members ever).
  • Helps us plan workflows with those clear definitions of done that are super helpful for producing quality work without endless approval processes.
  • Gives us the opportunity to see everything every team is working on in one place. That way, we all know what’s happening with every project at a glance.

If you haven’t looked into CoSchedule, you get a 14-day trial to take it for a test drive. Or request a custom demonstration from a CoSchedule expert. It’s the tool designed to help busy marketers get organized. So I think you’ll find it’s well worth a look!

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