Cross-Team Collaboration: An Essential Key to Innovation

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Hit Refresh" by Satya Nadella. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How often do people from different teams in your company work together? Do they communicate effectively?

When Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he discovered why the company had fallen behind the pack in terms of innovation. One of the barriers he identified was the lack of collaboration and communication among the various teams in the company.

Continue reading to find out how Nadella cultivated cross-team collaboration at Microsoft and to learn seven tips for better cross-team communication.

Working Together 

When Nadella became Microsoft CEO, he wanted to address the bureaucracy and isolation among various teams that had built up over the years. He saw it as a barrier to innovation. In his book, he asserts that such segregation only holds a company back; the key to moving forward is cross-team collaboration and being open to other people’s ideas instead of remaining in your own bubble.

To break down departmental silos and generate fresh ideas, the executive team introduced an annual week-long hackathon, where groups across different departments—engineering, research, marketing, and so on—work together to solve problems creatively. For example, in the first year of the hackathon, one team found ways to improve learning outcomes for kids with dyslexia; this project ended up being built into some of Microsoft’s key products.

Forging Better Cross-Team Communication 

Effective cross-team communication is crucial for ensuring the smooth running of any company. Here are seven ways you can build effective cross-team communication:

1) Communicate more. Solicit feedback and ideas from each department and staff level to consolidate the brain power at your disposal, and seek new ways of opening up the channels of communication.

2) Make your meetings more effective. Have a clear agenda for each meeting, and try to cover as much as you can per meeting to avoid having meetings too frequently.

3) Use small talk to your advantage. Encouraging informal communication and team-building exercises can help people from different departments build strong bonds with one another.

4) Employ technology designed for collaboration. Tools such as Microsoft Teams and Google’s G-Suite can help foster employee collaboration and coordinate departments more effectively when working on tasks. 

5) Vary your communication methods. Toggling between different communications methods helps keep things fresh and ensures that there are multiple ways for departments to reach out to one another. Use email, phone calls, video calls, and internal messaging services.

6) Bring leadership levels together. Have regular meetings involving the leaders at each level of the organization and from different departments, so that everyone is on board with what’s happening in the company overall.

7) Choose your managers wisely. Make sure that every manager you hire is a good interpersonal fit with the other leaders, and that they come into the company with a strong sense of the importance of collaboration and open communication.
Cross-Team Collaboration: An Essential Key to Innovation

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  • How Satya Nadella brought Microsoft back from its decline
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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