Effective cross-team collaboration not only leads to increased innovation thanks to knowledge exchange but also drives learning and employee engagement. However, since businesses moved to remote working, cross-collaboration has become more difficult due to limited people interactions.
In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at the best practices that Spotify, GitLab, Google and Facebook use to cross-collaborate effectively. Let’s start off with a question…
Cross-team collaboration is the type of teamwork, which happens when people from various different functions within the business are working together on a project.
To give you a good example, let’s see how tech teams work together in Google on Google Ads projects. We’re looking at three teams – Product Managers, User Experience Designers, and Engineers. They come with their own set of priorities and questions.
Product Management – What is profitable?
User Experience Designers – What is desired by users?
Engineers – What is feasible?
These three different perspectives help build solutions that advocate for all of these perspectives.
A similar cross-team collaboration pattern can be seen at Spotify, where members of different teams (UX, Data Science, Software Developers, etc.) work jointly on the product. We will mention the company’s practices further in this article.
Cross-functional collaboration in itself is challenging. According to Harvard Business Review, 75% of multidisciplinary teams are dysfunctional. If we add to it the remote work factor, then it becomes even more troublesome. Research by Nature Human Behaviour indicates that employees who work remotely not only spend less time in meetings but also communicate primarily through email. Both of which lead to siloes and less stable communication. Less cross-group interactions have a negative impact on building strong ties between coworkers which results in collaboration networks becoming more siloed – formally and informally.
Since the more connected the people are, the more easily they can exchange information, limited interactions between employees have a detrimental effect on knowledge exchange. It’s also common to see people facing difficulties dealing with complex, interdisciplinary tasks as they collaborate less frequently while working remotely.
Let’s now look at how cross-team collaboration works at some of the top tech companies.
Spotify is known for being one of the first companies to implement cross-team collab practices on a large scale. They incorporated them into their Agile workflow.
The company created a hierarchy known as squad, tribes, chapters, and guilds. Squads are the smallest cross-team unit, which functions like Scrum teams. They have access to all necessary project data and sit together to plan out and execute the project.
Tribes, respectively, are a collection of squads that work on larger disciplines – for instance, an entire module in the app or area like backend development.
Chapters and guilds, make sure that the autonomy of separate tribes doesn’t get in the way of organizational goals. While chapters are responsible for the development of discipline-specific knowledge, guilds are more interdisciplinary (as shown below):
Let’s take a look at what Google does to make cross-collaboration easier:
Following this approach helps Google to:
At GitLab, cross-team collaboration circles around:
A great example of how cross-team collaboration works at GitLab comes from the DevSecOps (i.e., DevOps + security) area. Members of several tech teams oversee this discipline together by creating cross-functional team goals, educating one another on the principles of DevOps and security regulations, and centralizing knowledge sharing. Everyone on the team has access to data and is kept up-to-date, minimizing context-switching and the chances of miscommunication.
At Facebook all employees, irrespective of their position, are encouraged to share their opinions and ideas regarding the product vision. Such an approach helps them maintain a start-up-like culture despite being a large company.
However, as the teams are distributed globally sometimes it’s hard to keep the collaborative spirit going, and that’s where Product Technical Program Managers (TPMs) come in. They’re responsible for ensuring that people know how to work effectively in cross-team projects. TPMs role is to inspire organizational scale, maintain efficiency and to create deep connections between product teams.
As aptly put by Facebook “for a product team to achieve success, all functional partners must closely collaborate to realize the vision together”.
While it’s important to implement the right cross-department collaboration practices, it’s equally important to keep track of how well your multidisciplinary teams perform. This can be achieved by using a platform like Network Perspective, which helps you understand which cross-functional teams are doing a great job to maximize business outcomes, and where the processes call for refinements.
Sounds interesting? Take a look at what Network Perspective brings to the table!