How to Encourage Collaboration in Multidisciplinary Teams

Encouraging teamwork can be tricky at the best of times, but asking people from different departments, with different skills, to come together to complete a project can be even more difficult.

Here’s a few tips to help you build truly collaborative multidisciplinary teams…

Don’t assume your teams have shared goals

While its nice to think that your team are working towards common goals, don’t forget that success means different things to different people says leadership consultant, Charley Morrow

“Members of cross-department and management teams often have different goals that they are pursuing–marketing has a different worldview and set of metrics than does operations, for example. As a result, they have slight misalignment around goals. And, organizations these days are drowning in metrics and measures. Some teams have whole dashboards of measures. It’s little wonder that many teams are confused about their primary goals and measures.”

To bring together team members from various departments, with different skills, you need to be clear about what exactly success looks like, and how each person’s role, while different, will contribute to that success.

Charley recommends picking 1-4 key metrics, helping your team understand them and keeping them up to date with progress, even if it doesn’t relate directly to their role.

Understand various roles

Managing a multidisciplinary team means you need to have a good understanding of each person’s role says Pabini Gabriel-Petit, Publisher and Editor in Chief of UXmatters

“If you want to be able to work effectively with people in other disciplines and help ensure your product team’s success, you should make a concerted effort to gain sufficient understanding of your team members’ various roles and responsibilities, so you can communicate with them in their own language and respond to their needs.”

By understanding everyone’s roles, you can ease tension between team members by helping them to better understand each other.

Use the right tools

There are so many great collaboration tools available online that can help bring your teams together. By providing the right technology, you can help teams communicate and stay on task, regardless of their varied skills.

However, in order to truly get the most from these tools, you need to champion them and put time and effort into their adoption says Denis Duvauchelle, CEO and co-founder of Twoodo...

“In order for it to be successful, managers and evangelists of the chosen tool must encourage this new culture of openness and exchange. It’s the IT guy’s job to just install, present it, and walk out of the room. Like any new installation (from the new coffee machine to the new email client) an example needs to be set.”

Try tools like Contactzilla to keep your team in sync, Basecamp to manage projects or Trello to organize tasks.

Build a community and establish relationships

Authors and researchers Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson believe that forming communities in the workplace will aid collaboration significantly…

“Our research shows that new teams, particularly those with a high proportion of members who were strangers at the time of formation, find it more difficult to collaborate than those with established relationships.”

Create opportunities for your teams to bond, not just within their own departments, but across the whole company. This might involve creating a communal games area, regular staff days/nights out or weekly or monthly meetings with the whole company.

What about you? How do you encourage different departments to collaborate?

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