While that’s not a new idea, it continues to be a Big Idea in my Workforce Playbook.
Without cross-functional collaboration, you work in a vacuum. You are a solo act. You are in it for yourself. You have professional, self-focused tunnel vision.
There’s no business value in that strategy, either: you keep your business small and uncompetitive.
Does your right hand know what your left hand is doing?
Individuals, teams and workforces who collaborate cross-functionally are fully engaged in creating enduring business outcomes for their customers. They are part of smarter teams who are continuously learning and fine-tuning their professional arsenal. Together.
Alternatively, individuals, teams and workforces who operate within status quo business models and competitive and departmental fiefdoms are prime examples of “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” It’s pretty obvious to your customers, as well.
Is collaboration the one business skill you would have chosen as essential to your professional arsenal?
I often poll the folks participating in my workshops and webinars about whether they consider themselves to be collaborative. Of course, everyone says “Yes!” However, when we drill down on whom they prefer to collaborate with, they prefer working members of their own professional discipline. They aren’t as confident working with folks outside of their department.
Are you collaborative? Do you collaborate well with co-workers, even if they are not part of the same professional discipline as yours?
Collaborators aren’t team players. They are team innovators.
Many folks equate collaboration with being a “team player,” “cooperative,” “getting along with others,” and “working together.” That’s not collaboration in my book. That behavior describes a bunch of employees who have homogeneous professional backgrounds. They been hired to perform specific duties for a company. They are expected to play nicely with the other children who are similarly engaged.
That’s herd mentality.
True collaboration on real live teams brings together cross-functional expertise to create solutions for complex issues. These individual experts have different professional backgrounds. They have strong and passionate opinions because they are subject-matter experts.
Their greatest collective expertise is the ability to collaborate cross-functionally. The key to collaboration is that these experts expect team members to push back on their ideas. They anticipate debate. That’s how everyone innovates.
This dynamic is the opposite of herd mentality.
The focus is process, discipline, validation, creation, implementation and continuous improvement. Are you capable of working together like that? Or is that notion beyond your wildest dreams?
Are you innovative?
Breakthrough innovation leverages one business skill: cross-functional collaboration. What’s interesting about this type of innovation is that often small and seemingly insignificant behavioral changes catalyze tremendous workplace change.
- What happens in your workplace when everyone stops sitting around a conference table like bumps on a log, waiting for the boss to tell them what to think and what to do?
- What happens in your workplace if your “meetings” are well-facilitated, instead of well-dominated, and everyone’s perspective is considered?
- What happens in your workplace if your teams admit, and work collaboratively to do something about, what they don’t know about solutions, customers and gaps in expertise?
Cross-functional collaboration is the one business skill that is essential to growing your professional expertise. Cross-functional collaboration is exciting and engaging, especially when your workforce is hired based on their ability to learn cooperatively and innovatively.
That human capital strategy sounds a lot different than “ability to work well with others,” doesn’t it?
Hire and beta test for cross-functional collaboration capabilities.
Take a look across your organization. How many employees, managers, leaders possess the one business skill you cannot live without: cross-functional collaboration? What happens to your organization when your hiring strategy focuses on collaboration as an essential business skill for business growth, expansion and sustainability?
Which department would you choose as a beta test for seguing your corporate culture towards an innovative and collaborative work culture? If you are a micro-business, the answer is that your entire workforce becomes the beta test. So the question becomes: which project or projects would you choose to test out your new collaboration dynamics?
How might your team benefit from workshops and training programs customized to make that pivot into a cross-functional, collaborative team?
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, professional development coach, analyst and content creator. Babette has one of the most distinctive voices in today’s workforce, professional development and customer success communities. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing technical and non-technical employees focused on customer success. She catalyzes compelling strategies and processes for cross functional communication and collaboration. Do YOU Mean Business? her playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks to drive revenue through your organization is available on Amazon.com.
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