In my last column I wrote about team development and team coaching. Most often when we talk about teams we think about teams that are close to us. Like the teams in the same reporting line or teams we share a project with. However, when working in partnerships or strategic alliances with other organizations, we also create teams.
Cross organizational teams
The fact that these teams span organizational boundaries might make working together even more challenging. As a team member in such a team you can be with one foot in your own organization and with one in the team that is shaped as part of the alliance. Decisions that are following the best strategy for one team, might not immediately align with the strategy for the other team. In those situations it can be extra challenging to decide when your loyalty is in what team. I have experienced that people even were asking me who was paying my salary.
These situations rise when the strategies for the two teams might not align on the short term. If for instance the alliance has a long term development strategy while your ‘home’ team has a short term quarterly focus, decisions might conflict with one or another strategy.
In these cross organizational teams it is even more important to create a strong team alignment and bonding. Stakeholders will be across both organizations and might have different views and different measurement systems. The better a cross organizational alliance team is aligned and working as a true team, the stronger their alliance results will be. It is essential for the team members in a team to have a common understanding of why the team exists, what the strategy and focus of the team is, what the core values are for the team and what the vision is for the team’s results.
Team development and team coaching of a cross organizational team is in many aspects similar to that of a ‘traditional’ team. However, team coaching for such a team will ask more focussed attention from the team members and also from the coach. That is due to the dual teams the members are in and thus more emphasize need to be put on developing a third culture. A culture that spans the two organizations and exists for the cross organizational alliance team. A culture that is defined by the core values for working together. Team members of a cross organizational alliance team will always live in two organizations and need to understand when to live to what team roles.
Additionally, it is essential for any team, and especially for a cross organizational team, to agree on a communication strategy. Such a communication strategy should clarify to the team members when they to share what kind of information among the team members and when to share what kind of information outside of the core team members.
How are you dealing with your cross organizational teams? Read over the team coaching description again for some inspiration with working with your own cross organizational teams. When you have done so, feel free to schedule a virtual coffee together for a short brainstorm on how you can improve your teamwork.