How to improve collaboration in the workplace

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared under the title “How to improve cross-team collaboration.”

No matter your role, one of the best ways to ensure successful project management is by improving cross-team collaboration. Working across teams can be difficult, which is why many departments work within silos. Many teams struggle with transparent communication and getting “in sync” with other departments – especially if they’re part of a large company or work remotely.

There are several steps you can take to overcome these obstacles and achieve successful cross-team collaboration – and they don’t require expensive software or complicated methodologies. 

Six cross-team collaboration tips

1. Create a team charter

Before anything else, it’s critical that all team members are on the same page. Create a document that details your team’s mission, objectives and goals. Make sure to include each team member’s role and responsibilities and include the main point of contact for each department.

Update this charter as you onboard new team members, when current team members receive promotions and whenever objectives, goals and key performance indicators change. 

2. Establish consistent, brief team meetings

Quick daily huddles are a great way for employees to better understand what their teammates are actually doing. Daily huddles don’t need to be long – they can be brief, 15-minute meetings where teammates provide updates on project progress, review critical time-sensitive action items, reveal current obstacles and share successes.

When everyone knows what’s going on, it opens the door for team members to lend a hand when a coworker is struggling with an urgent deadline or has too much on their plate. Or perhaps someone has special expertise or valuable insights to share for an upcoming project. Quick, informal meetings like this can encourage better communication and collaboration.

3. Be mindful of meeting frequency

Meeting regularly is necessary for collaborative work. At the same time, too many meetings can eat away at your employees’ ability to focus on the task at hand. Do what you can to limit the number of meetings team members attend and ensure they are as productive as possible so you don’t hinder the collaborative process.

Before inviting someone to a meeting, ask yourself if it’s necessary for them to attend. If they might find the meeting helpful (but it’s not necessary for them to actively participate), you can mark them as “optional” on the meeting invitation.

You can also create company-wide meeting-free time blocks to help your employees reach peak productivity. For example, you can add placeholders in your company calendar a couple of days a week for a two-hour window of time, so everyone knows not to schedule meetings then. This way, all team members have guaranteed, uninterrupted pockets of time to focus and get important work done.

4. Take advantage of project management tools

You can also cut down on back-and-forth e-mails by using project management (PM) tools to track project progress and provide updates. Some PM tools are complex; employees need training and reference guides to understand how they work. While those complicated resources may work for some companies, all you really need is a simple way to track progress and updates in a consolidated space.

Spreadsheets increase transparency and eliminate silos by making your team’s work as visible as possible, allowing anyone with access to see your goals, estimated deadlines and priorities. You can share tables with teammates – so they can both stay informed and offer insight – and customize access settings to control which users can view or edit a table. Multiple teams can then access and view the table to stay in the loop, but you’ll maintain control over who has editing capabilities.

5. Centralize work requests

Certain departments – like marketing and creative – are bound to receive a lot of project requests for tasks like creating event flyers and updating iconography. It’s easy to miss requests like this under a mountain of e-mails or overlook them in fast-moving team messaging platforms like Slack. Consider creating a process for work requests, like an online ticketing system.

6. Facilitate cross-team collaboration with technology

As you choose the platforms and applications that work best for your team, you may want to check whether those technologies can “speak to” or integrate with one another. Platform automations and integrations can intuitively update your records, cutting down on your need to manually update them and saving everyone on your team valuable time.

Strengthening cross-team collaboration

Cross-team collaboration is no easy feat. Managing one team is difficult on its own, much less working within multiple teams, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. By following these tips, you and your teams can keep each other informed, make the most of everyone’s strengths and help one another when necessary.