Relationship Era

A Beginner’s Guide to Improving Cross-team Collaboration

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Grace Lau

Collaboration. It’s difficult within teams, between teams, and across time-zones. Mostly, it’s because of the processes and tools that we’re accustomed to. “It’s just always been that way.”

But “that way” isn’t a great way of doing things. In fact, it’s pretty inefficient.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) reported that in a detailed study of 95 teams across 25 leading corporations that were chosen by an independent panel of academics and experts, almost 75% of the teams were dysfunctional. They failed on at least three of these five criteria:

  1. Meeting a planned budget
  2. Staying on schedule
  3. Adhering to specifications
  4. Meeting customer expectations
  5. Maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals

While only the last one is explicitly about different groups staying aligned, all of them are impacted by good (or bad) collaboration across teams. Working in a company is, after all, a team sport.

But as you can guess, it can be hard to find team players. HBR did further research across over 300 organizations and found that in most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees. Do people just not want to play nice together?

Debatable.

A Stanford study found that just the perception of working together on something can boost performance. Research participants who were primed to act collaboratively persisted at their task for 64% longer than people who were primed to work alone—and also reported being more engaged, less tired, and more successful. This impact lasted for several weeks.

It’s probably safe to say that people not only enjoy working together, but also recognize that it’s beneficial too.

Maybe they just need a little help getting on the collaboration train.

There are four essential elements of improving collaboration across teams like Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
  1. Structure

Make sure that everyone has clear roles and responsibilities. No one wants that kid who doesn’t do any work in the group project on their team. Not in school, not now in the office. Having clear roles and responsibilities makes it possible for everyone to see how they can work together effectively, and just as importantly, to keep each other accountable. If that sounds scary to you, you just might be that kid that everyone avoided during group project time.

  1. But… not too much structure

Structure is good, but when it’s overly rigid, it can make your team feel stuck. You need to find the balance. According to Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell, “collaboration has increased in response to a need for greater flexibility by businesses. The alternative to collaboration is rules and processes, and ‘the problem is those rules don’t allow you to change what you are doing. They’re very rigid.’” There are no rules and no guidebooks for inspiration. We’re still human. We still need to make split-second, sometimes unexpected decisions that can result in something awesome. Make sure that’s room for that.

  1. A common vocabulary (and platform)

Empower your teammates by getting everyone on the same page. In the HBR research piece above, the researchers actually recommended using a CRM to improve team collaboration: “CRM programs can provide valuable data on the volume, type, origin, and destination of requests, as can more in-depth network analyses and tools."

Forbes agrees. In their 12 habits of highly collaborative organizations, one of the recommended habits is to integrate collaboration right into the team’s flow of work: “instead of having employees use multiple usernames, passwords, and log-in sites; create a “front-door” to the enterprise accessed through your collaboration platform.” This collaborative platform sounds pretty familiar—like a CRM, almost...

In an email survey sent to our customers, those who were using another CRM before switching to Copper estimated that they increased team collaboration while closing deals by 42%, while customers who weren’t using a CRM at all before using Copper improved collaboration by 45%.

Just in case you were wondering where to start looking if you’re on the hunt for a new CRM.

  1. Credit where it’s due

This is something that’s often overlooked because we just assume that teams know who was responsible for what—which is often not the case. Whenever you can, reward positive behaviors. Sure, a team celebration or actual gifts will make teammates feel good, but these perks also encourage everyone to look for opportunities to collaborate. Even if you’re not a manager, you can still give shoutouts and share the spotlight after a well-executed project. You made it this far as part of a team—don’t go solo now.

There are a whole range of ways to get your team to work together more. They already know the benefits, and whether you’re on a sports team or in the office, collaboration just feels good. Whether you’re in Sales, Marketing, or Customer Success, it’s valuable to look for ways to work with people outside of your own team.

To learn more on the impact of CRM in the Relationship Era, download the infographic.