Cross-team collaboration: what’s getting in the way?

Much is made of the virtues of working cross-functionally. Those businesses that can pull it off stand to benefit from improved communication, better problem-solving and greater agility. But getting there is not without its challenges

Thrown into sharp relief by the remote and hybrid ways of working adopted amid Covid-19, how a company collaborates is now recognised as a key factor determining its growth.

Indeed, according to a survey of knowledge workers worldwide by Asana, 55% of those working for more collaborative organisations report moderate or significant revenue growth over the past three years – almost double the proportion of their less collaborative peers.

It’s not just a question of unlocking growth either. Cross-functional collaboration can also help businesses guard against downturns by positioning them to respond more effectively to emerging business challenges. As many as 79% of workers at highly collaborative organisations feel confident that their employer will respond well to future difficulties. Just 20% of those at less collaborative organisations felt the same.

However, achieving this kind of cross-functional collaboration is often easier said than done. And certain industries and functions appear to be better at it than others.

So, what accounts for the variance between industries and functions when it comes to the adoption of cross-functional collaboration? Well, for one thing, legacy processes and familiar ways of working are always hard to leave behind, and they may be embedded more or less firmly in different settings. 

But beyond that, a number of other important challenges around cross-functional collaboration and effective decision-making also seem to be holding companies back.

Lengthy decision-making processes aren’t the only issue either. The modern cross-functional organisation is also vulnerable to several common time sinks, including inefficient meetings and a reliance on too many different pieces of business software, all of which risk reducing productivity and undermining staff motivation. 

This is particularly true of ‘software bloat’, which is frequently highlighted as a major barrier to effective collaboration.

What’s more, in many cases these collaborative inefficiencies seem to be getting worse over time. The hybrid working model that many knowledge workers have adopted since the pandemic is perhaps not always perfectly calibrated, leaving many workers stuck in unnecessary meetings of all kinds.

So, while cross-functional collaboration has its virtues, there are clearly still plenty of issues to iron out before most companies will be able to make it work effectively. 

It’s something that will take on greater importance as businesses face the prospect of an economic downturn and as they try to keep hybrid workers engaged, motivated and productive.