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How to make a cross-functional team work and what value they bring
Tap into the magic of cross-functional teams to make sure the best output possible.
When you embark on the product development journey setting strictly-enforced boundaries between the various departments will only slow down the growth. To bring a gulp of fresh air, some creativity, and perhaps, new ideas, try opting for a cross-functional team instead.
A cross-functional team comprises a group of people with different functional expertise that work towards a common goal. It has a traditional organizational structure and includes representatives from different levels of the organization and may also have members from outside the company. Operational or organizational boundaries often separate team members, but all work towards a common goal.
So what is a cross-functional team, and how to set up such a miracle or a team? What are its strengths and weaknesses? And why should you even bother with a cross-functional project management team? It is time to explore these questions in greater detail.
What to expect when building a cross-functional team
A cross-functional team means that it gathers people of all sorts from different departments, divisions, offices, and sometimes even companies. What brings them together is a common task. The beauty of such a big picture cross-functional collaboration team is that by bringing people from various spheres, you also get to your project baggage of their experience, knowledge, and expertise. They encourage collaborative culture and knowledge sharing and can spur creativity within the team.
As promising as they sound, cross-functional teams have their weak points and can quickly turn such teams into somewhat dysfunctional teams. According to an article in Medium, 75% of cross-functional teams must be fixed. The report is based on a detailed study of 95 groups in 25 leading companies, revealing shocking numbers of cross-functional teamwork.
The companies under scrutiny were from various industries, including communication, software, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, retail, government, and banking. The survey showed that most cross-functional teams within these high-profile businesses had no clear goal. Even if they did have them, they didn’t meet their specification (i.e., schedule, budget, or were unable to achieve results expected by the sales team, marketing manager or management). Moreover, many surveyed companies needed to be aware of or concerned about their cross-functional problems.
Benefits from a marketing team cooperating cross-functionally
While the studies above have a point, and it raises serious issues these cross functional teams important encounter, it should not be a generalization. By establishing transparent processes, they can and will be how cross-functional teams bring together their full potential. What matters is the approach you adopt when building your cross-functional team.
Cross-functional teams work. However, like every other team, they are not immune to mistakes and must reach a certain level to perform properly. Only then these cross-functional teams increase and will start bringing value. And the key here, they have to be not only cross-functional but also self-managed. If the team doesn’t reach this self-managed level, it doesn’t matter whether it’s cross-functional or not; it won’t be able to show outstanding results.
Compared to other teams of equal impact, a cross-functional team does have its benefits. One of the most valuable and effective cross-functional teams is in its ability to be interchangeable. Cross-functional teams will always be the most capable of utilizing resources. In the case of an ordinary team, if your work process is sequential, it’s unlikely that you will be able to distribute your workload into all aspects of production evenly. Hence, some areas will have less than 100% utilization. From the business perspective, cross-functional teams can fully resolve such issues.
Adopting a cross-functional approach
Cross-functional teams work better under certain conditions. Going back to the previously mentioned HBR study, it concludes that primarily a transparent and robust cross-functional governance keeps such groups focused on the specific project itself.There has to be a top tier of senior managers overseeing cross-functional projects and ensuring that a team sticks to proper project prioritization. They guarantee the effective use of resources while keeping the bigger picture of their project in mind. But as important as clear governance from project leaders is, the main ingredient of your product’s success is a talented and competent team that will do all the heavy lifting. Essentially, there are three key roles on their cross-functional team:
- A product manager who is typically not from an IT field and acts as the CEO of the team
- A lead developer or an engineer
- A UX (user experience) designer
Their teams are free to bring their input and ideas into product development as they are self-governing in finding solutions independently; the leadership team only guides them when setting objectives clear goals and KPIs. By adopting this approach, companies like CarMax have found that it increased feedback, the pace of development, and the process of trial and error to find a solution that works best for the customers. The teams also improved at taking smarter risks and being more creative in meeting their objectives.
The strength and power of a cross-functional team are in clearly defining their responsibilities and giving them the freedom to find solutions. Any issues and disagreements that a product development team may encounter should be resolved at their level, and only if they hit a brick wall the governance team should come as a last resort.
To work and be successful, a cross-functional should reach a common ground and vision. This a strong cross functional team should be a group of people that share a single mindset. To avoid any miscommunication or product delays, it’s essential for the team to “speak the same business language” and establish clear and straightforward processes within the team.
An investment that goes a long way
Setting up a solid effective cross functional team-functional team re-functional team might be a challenge that requires a lot of commitment, work, and dedication, but the results are more than simply rewarding. To name a few:
1. It spurs innovation
The most important reason to build a cross-functional team. When you assemble such a full team composed of people of diverse expertise, you bring their competence, experience, and ideas. And somewhere between the discussion and different points of view, creativity and innovation are born.
2. It motivates by bringing change
Changing your team’s work environment, including members and staff, is like a gulp of fresh air. It’s helpful to shake things up occasionally, to help their productivity, break the daily routine, and even fire enthusiasm to conquer new challenges.
3. It results in further education and improvement for team members
Working in a cross-department team means tackling the tasks with a team collaboration of people of various expertise, which results in the team includes members exploring some new roles and acquiring new skills.
4. It encourages communication and collaboration
Practical, clear, and concise communication are cornerstones of any accounting team in teamwork modern business environment. Bringing a diverse group of people means developing their soft skills of feedback, giving constructive criticism, and working together towards resolving manifold issues.
5. It results in further education and improvement
Working in a cross-department team means tackling tasks with traditional team of people of various expertise, which results in exploring new roles and acquiring new skills.
6. It helps to come up with an idea quicker
Cross-functional teams tend to iterate on ideas quicker. Each team leader and team member each brings to the project their skills, knowledge of their department’s limitations and weak points, and strong suits. By bringing their best practices, the team will only thrive and find a solution quicker.
Despite its initial challenges, the formation of a cross-functional team yields significant benefits, including fostering innovation, motivating change, promoting continuous learning and improvement, enhancing communication and collaboration, and accelerating idea generation. The amalgamation of diverse skills and perspectives enriches the team’s collective knowledge and catalyzes the problem-solving and decision making process, making it a worthwhile investment for any forward-thinking organization.
What is the secret of a successful cross-functional team? The following works for us:
- Making them self-managed
- Occasionally shaking the team
- Taking care of their professional growth
- Building a team around highly motivated people that care what they do and share the same mindset
The most important thing to remember – is never to strive to make cross-functional your ultimate goal. As good as cross-functional sales teams are, one ingredient should always come first – excellent service. A diverse team is a valuable tool that helps increase utilization, but the objective should always be a first-rate service.
Ready to start with a cross-functional team or want to know more? Contact us and dig deep into the many in-depth insights our expert teams can offer.
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