The nature of work is cross-functional. To deliver a stellar project, you need different skill sets, perspectives, and expert knowledge. The best projects are those that involve workers from different teams—or different departments altogether. But when each department has their own way of doing things, work gets stalled and siloed.
The problems with cross-functional collaboration usually start at the project development level. These problems aren’t caused by individuals—rather, they often stem from the tools we use to coordinate work. The reality is, some of our most important business tools force us to organize information using one-to-one relationships.
Think of it this way: you’re on one team, supporting one project, in service of one objective, and all of your work lives in one place. This is a one-to-one relationship—when a document can only live in one folder, or an email can only exist in one thread. This way of structuring work is based on a container data model. You may not have heard it referred to this way, but you’ve likely encountered it before.
A container data model uses one-to-one relationships to organize project work. Essentially, it’s a data model in which a unit of work can only live in one place—for example, your team has a folder, and your team’s work lives in that folder. We call this data model a “container model” because every piece of work falls into a single “container.” And, while the container data model is simple to implement, it doesn’t allow for dynamic projects or cross-functional teamwork.
With a container data model:
A message can only live in one channel
An email can only live in one inbox
A document can only live in one folder
A task can only live in one project
A project can only live in one portfolio
A portfolio can only be associated with one higher level goal
Nowadays, most of our work operates in a complex, one-to-many relationship. You likely work with multiple teams, supporting a variety of projects, in service of a number of business objectives. Without a better way to organize information, you end up doing a lot of work about work like manually moving data from one tool to another, chasing status updates and approvals, and losing documents thanks to too many disorganized folders.
Ultimately, your most important and high-impact projects involve stakeholders from across the business, which means organizing work within the container data model isn’t enough. Rather than inadvertently siloing work, you need a way to increase visibility across departments.
To empower cross-functional teams, you need a cross-functional mentality—and effective business tools. Your tools should not only help you coordinate work within your department, but also facilitate collaboration across teams and people. To do this, you need a data model that’s flexible enough to connect your team’s work with your larger organizational goals.
That’s where Asana’s Work Graph® comes in.
You can’t do great cross-functional work in a silo. To enable cross-department collaboration, you need a flexible way to organize work. We needed that too, which is why we built the Asana Work Graph® data model—a system flexible enough that any piece of work can have a one-to-many relationship.
The Asana Work Graph® is a way to capture the relationship between the work your team does, the information about that work, and the people doing the work. Essentially, it’s a way to understand how all of the pieces of your work fit together, connecting the what, why, and who of work.See Asana in action
Creating a map of how your organization’s information fits together isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s an essential part of communicating across teams more effectively. Without one, you can’t understand how your team’s goals move the needle on your overall company success metrics.
Teamwork is built on trust. But when teams don’t share the same set of facts, they aren’t able to work toward the same company objectives and align on the same priorities in real time. By leading with a cross-functional mentality, you can unblock siloed work and empower collaboration—instead of stifling it.
Asana is the only work management platform that turns goals into action and breaks down silos between teams to achieve them.See Asana in action