As the Director of Content here at Tesla Government, I lead eight different teams covering eight different regions.
While each team has unique skills, strategies, and expertise—and each covers different areas—they often find themselves working together on the same project or toward a common goal. In other words, collaboration isn’t optional around here. It’s part of our DNA and baked into virtually everything we do.
As other agencies and organizations see our internal teams working together to serve them, they inevitably ask, “How do you guys do that? How can we create cross-team collaboration with our own groups?”
We’re proud of the collaborative culture we’ve developed over the years, but it’s not magic—we’re not doing anything that you couldn’t accomplish within your own teams. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some ways you can encourage healthy collaboration.
Communication: What Are We Doing Here?
A shared understanding of the mission is essential to cross-team collaboration, and that requires being intentional about communication.
Successful cross-team collaboration starts with a well-communicated vision of the mission at hand.
Yes, each team needs details on their specific tasks, but you have to start with the right foundation across all teams: a clear picture of the mission’s ultimate goal.
Once each group understands the “What are we doing here?” question, you can move on to answering “How are we doing it?” Lay out the strategy. Make sure everyone grasps how their role fits with everyone else’s roles.
Leadership: Keeping Everyone on the Same Page
The quality of your teams’ collaboration is largely dependent on the quality of your leadership.
One key element to recognize is that every team has their own set of goals within the larger strategy. Which can pose a challenge to effective collaboration . . . if you let it. In other words, everyone is incredibly busy, and the easiest thing to do is put blinders on and ignore anything outside of your immediate priorities.
So how do you break down those barriers that come with each team focusing on their own tasks and responsibilities?
Leadership is critical here. Take the time to regularly meet with each team. This is an opportunity to assess short-term objectives and ensure they align with the shared vision for the mission across all teams. Establish objectives that make sure they grasp not only the importance of their role, but the importance of each spoke in the larger wheel.
Put another way, if you want your teams to collaborate, set the tone for how they value and respect each other’s roles.
Now that we’ve covered the 30,000-foot view of cross-team collaboration, let’s see how it looks up close.
At Tesla, we often get requests that cut across multiple areas of responsibility. For example, how does a multinational terrorist organization operate around the globe? To answer this question, Tesla’s regional teams will all have to independently perform research, connect with data providers in the relevant regions, and create content specific to their areas of responsibility (AORs). But that’s only the initial piece. Getting a useful product to our customers means addressing the issues that cut across areas of responsibility. For example, how does the group operate in borders between the different AORs? How do you handle and present contradictory data from data providers in different regions? More broadly, how do you weave all the threads together to create a coherent product that our customers can use to inform their decisions?
Managing issues like these requires close coordination throughout the whole process. To handle the issue of activity on the border of AORs, Tesla delineates each team’s research responsibilities and implements a process for easily sharing information relevant to each team’s task. The teams then have a clear understanding of what the others are working on, and can easily pass on important information they discover. Contradictory information from different data providers is addressed in regular team meetings. We use these as an opportunity to develop follow-on questions that enable the providers to clarify their information. Finally, to bring it all together for an actionable product, we’ll incorporate each team’s input and review as a group to ensure the pieces fit, everyone’s information is presented accurately, and what we’re delivering fits the needs of the customer.
Turning Potential Mess into Success
Collaborative projects provide opportunities for messiness; there will always be work that doesn’t fall clearly under anyone’s umbrella . . . or that falls under multiple umbrellas. Success depends on collaboration, meaning everyone is working towards the same goal, understands their role in the larger team, and sees how their role contributes to success.
When people see how the collaborative work they’re doing every day is actually advancing the mission, it leads to more collaboration. Success breeds success, and a shared vision leads to shared victories.
Internal collaboration is a challenge, for sure, but external collaboration is a whole different ball game. Learn how our Community Building team brings together like-minded groups to solve global challenges.