What (Really) Goes Into Cross-Functional Collaboration That Works
Smarter GTM 04.04.2022

What (Really) Goes Into Cross-Functional Collaboration That Works

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Shownotes

In this episode, Jeremy Foster talks about cross-functional collaboration’s do’s and don’ts. He breaks down what cross-functional collaboration is, his framework for it, and how he prepared himself to become a cross-functional leader. Jeremy also shares the challenges and opportunities he’s come across during cross-functional collaboration and how to leverage a project management organization (PMO) for success.

About the Guest

Jeremy Foster leads the Cloud Infrastructure and Software Group at Cisco. As vice president of the organization, he and the team are responsible for $10B in infrastructure, software, recurring revenue, and services driven by a customer-first focus, deep market understanding, and innovative technology. Jeremy’s 12-year Cisco career has spanned computing and storage systems through data center networking and software. Jeremy spends time with his wife, three children, and five dogs outside of Cisco. He is an avid outdoorsman, a pinball wizard, and an avid sports fan.

Contact Jeremy Foster

Key takeaways

  • Working cross-functionally is about leading through influence solving business objectives that may make sense to everybody but may not be easy to accomplish when everyone’s involved.
  • Jeremy says the first steps to cross-functional collaboration are awareness, cadence, and communication. Know your audience, treat them like customers, be confident, and be patient.
  • Communicating in silos is a trap that you can sometimes fall into while cross-collaborating. Sometimes it’s okay, but it’s generally very important to give everyone great visibility throughout the project.
  • Surround yourself with people who give you quality, helpful feedback. If you’re working with external partners, like channel partners and suppliers, make sure you get their candid feedback on the solution.
  • A PMO is a group of folks highly skilled in project management. A PMO can help you get your priorities straight, keep you organized, make sure your work is in scope, and drive projects on a daily basis, so you don’t have to do the admin work.

Quotes

 “It’s not going to move… as fast as you want it to. As you get better and better at it, you’ll start to be able to figure out how to take these groups, put them together for a purpose and a reason, and actually move things along a lot faster than you could have as you mature them in position.”

 

Highlights from the episode

What is cross-functional collaboration?

These are behaviors that are both instinctual and learnable. Working cross-functionally is about leading through influence solving business objectives that may make sense to everybody but may not be easy to accomplish when everyone’s involved. Learning to work cross-functionally requires awareness of how others understand the situation and how they want to achieve the goal. Everyone’s incentives, resources, and backgrounds won’t be the same. It takes more EQ than IQ.

How do you prepare yourself to become a cross-functional leader?

I grew and learned in the field as a salesperson. Then, I started to manage the different groups as my first leadership position. That helped grow my confidence and understanding of leadership. Then, I moved into a corporate sales position where I worked with one business unit whose primary function was cross-collaboration. 

What is your framework for cross-functional collaboration?

The first thing is awareness, then cadence and communication. Know your audience, meaning you have to talk to engineering like you’re an engineer and to marketing like you’re a marketer. Treat them like a customer and coach them along until they change their default behavior. You have to be confident in your ability to deliver and the patience to await results.

What challenges have you faced in cross-functional collaboration?

Communicating in silos is a trap that you can sometimes fall into. Sometimes it’s okay, but it’s very important to give everyone great visibility and transparency throughout the project. If you know something is important, and it’s going to move the needle for the business, lean into it.

What is a PMO, and how do you leverage one for success?

A PMO is a project management organization, a group of highly skilled folks in project management. A PMO helps you get your priorities straight, keep you organized, make sure your work is in scope, and drive projects on a daily basis. This releases our teams from doing admin work that they should not be doing.

Do you have any resources you recommend to the audience? 

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford

Shout-outs

Stephen Orban – VP of Marketplace & Control Services at AWS and Author of “Ahead in the Cloud”

Cynthia Johnson – SVP of Global Solutions Sales at ServiceNow

Brandon Sweeney – CRO at HashiCorp

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