Software development today is a collaborative process across a broad range of groups (XFN), that might include Data Science, User Research, Product Management, Engineering, User Research, UI Design, UX Design, Content Strategy, Product Marketing, Network Operations and Legal
In addition to the requirement of organizational collaboration, the pressure to ‘move fast’ is always present. ‘Done is better than perfect,’ is the maxim made popular by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Businesses need to innovate faster in the market place in order to keep growing their market reach.
The tension between optimal collaboration XFN, and need for speed creates an array of challenges for individuals, teams and especially their leaders.
Creating high-quality work under these conditions becomes very difficult. According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study of leading corporations, 75% of cross functional teams are dysfunctional.
Without a doubt, the need for speed and cross-functional collaboration is challenging. Should you focus on building your team and reaching your goals? Or should you focus on building relationships with cross-functional partners in support of better collaboration?
These goals don’t need to be mutually exclusive. If you experience collaboration problems like the ones above in your own team, you may consider forming an alliance with your XFN partners and carefully craft your working relationship.
By definition, an alliance is a union or association formed for mutual benefit between partners based on an affinity, typically of shared interests. Additionally, an alliance empowers each party to declare where their boundaries lie and how to work with them optimally.
An alliance works best when you begin the process with a conversation and ask open-ended questions:
No one likes to feel like an item on your ‘to do’ list. For this alliance conversation to work, you must listen without interruption, without jumping to conclusions, or problem-solving. Most importantly, be genuinely curious about the person and what they are saying. Avoid jumping in to fill an awkward silence; give the other person time to complete what they are thinking.
“No matter what we do on the outside, people respond to how we feel on the inside,” The Arbinger Institutes, “Leadership and Self Deception” book. Creating an open and collaborative conversation to launch an alliance will allow the best of both people’s “insides” to connect with the other.
When we join a company we bring our skills, our expertise and our expectations of how things should work. In a fast-paced, collaborative environment, it can feel rough until we acclimatize to the culture and build relationships with other people on whom we can depend. The value of designing an alliance with other people is time well spent and will create results that reflect well on you over time.
Try this experiment. Ask someone the three questions below, whether an employee, a peer, a cross-functional team member, your boss, a date, or a stranger in line at the airport:
Then, take a step back and assess where you are in the conversation. Have you created a connection with this person? Do you understand them more fully than you did before? Did they gain insights into themselves and the way you communicate with them?
Congratulations, you’re on your way to greater success as an XFN leader!
Let me know how this helps you connect with key people in your work and home environment. Good luck!
This article was first published on the Design and Innovation, Design Thinking conference proceedings on March 29th 2019.
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