February 24, 2024

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The 5As of Cross-Functional Collaboration In Problem Solving

Firstly, leading a team within one’s own function could already be a challenge in itself (of course we called it opportunity!) as there will be a mixture of genders, age, ethnic background and location.

That is just the physical aspect of things.

There are still the emotional side of things, agendas – personal and departmental, views and perspectives, relationship between members, and the list goes sensitively on.

What more leading a cross-functional team where KPIs, agendas, and even objectives can be different – yes, in the same company.

Throughout my experience leading cross-functional teams – Management, Marketing, Sales, Operations, Human Resources, Engineering, Support, Services, Public Relations etc – in Asia Pacific and across the globe, I have quantified it down to the following 5 As.

  • Awareness
  • Assessment
  • Alignment
  • Agreement
  • Advancement

It starts with AWARENESS of the challenge we have on hand. It is easy to say but some companies may not be aware of the challenges they have or choose to ignore them like an ostrich with its head in the sand and hope that it will go away.

Many said leaders are there to find answers to problems. So leading a charge not just to understand the challenges of the business but also finding the best solution to solve and advance it Blue Ocean style is the true mark of a formidable leader, more so in a cross-functional environment.

AWARENESS is also about communicating the challenges in a unified language that everyone understands.

We all have heard stories – some funny, many not – that misunderstandings occurred when this is not done. In the tech word, TLAs – two or three letter acronyms – are often the language of communication. Unfortunately, functions within even the same company may use the same acronym to mean different things. Case in point I experienced was using the acronym HPC where the Sales function saw it as Hundred Percent Club for awesome achievers and Marketing thought it was High Performance Computing! The meeting started and thanks to the sportiness of the ram, we laughed and adjourned as the wrong people were in the room.

After the problem is identified and the common language established, we will have to ASSESS the issue on hand to figure out the WHY – why it happened, why are we concerned, why is it a priority – before what most firms do, jump into solution-ing mode immediately before defining clearly what the challenge is. ASSESSMENT of the situation will define the statement of challenge, and set a foundation for collaborative discussion towards a solution.

Would you go to a doctor who, without even taking your temperature or put a stethoscope on you, prescribe medicine you should take?

With ASSESSMENT, we can establish a common goal and defined scope, ready for solving the problem, together.

ASSESSMENT give us the drumbeat in a dragon boat race to peddle to – many people, one goal, one tempo.

With an objective established, we can now move ahead to allow each of the constituents ALIGN their departmental objectives to this common objective. Do not mistake ALIGNMENT with AGREEMENT – which is a common mistake – as ALIGNMENT will show you how each department will play to it versus to contribute to it. It looks great on slides for presentation where one puts a tick in the alignment box but this does not necessarily mean that the actions are in agreement with one another to deliver the desired collaborative impact in outcomes.

However, it is also not saying that we should skip ALIGNMENT and jump straight to AGREEMENT as we need to provide each department the flexibility, and respect, to socialise within their individual departments, and to develop that ALIGNMENT alà the flavour of each department – to prevent a forced feeding syndrome and thus disrespectful which may go against the objective of collaboration.

AGREEMENT is a phase where every constituents AGREE to a set of joint KPIs and OUTCOMES.

This is when one changes hat, from a departmental one to a company one. It is not against their own departmental goals as they have participated, contributed to the development of these company KPIs in the previous phases.

The AGREEMENT on the KPIs and OUTCOMES will be the foundation for the development of solutions to solve the challenge identified in AWARENESS and ASSESSMENT phases.

We are now ready for the ADVANCEMENT phase.

ADVANCEMENT will require a clear set of actions that is targeted at solving the issue on hand, with clear timeline and leaders to lead sub-groups with sanctioned measurements and also the all important communication channels – weekly meetings, sub-group meetings, collaborative portals and documents, agreed format of communication and documentation of all meetings etc – the whole nine yards of good project management.

The above phases, I find, will facilitate the development of a impactful and collaborative solution for a clearly defined challenge, allowing cross-functional teams to focus on one target without sacrificing their own interest.

Happy collaborating in solving your company challenges.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

PARTNER

Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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