Managing a cross-functional team is an optimal way to overcome fragmentation and organize effective teamwork for the best project results. But this is not a group of people with similar jobs, such as a marketing team, IT department, or sales department. A cross-functional team rather includes people with different expertise from different departments within one unit.
What Is a Cross-Functional Team?
It is a group of people with diverse backgrounds who come together to achieve one common goal. It usually includes employees from all or any levels of the organization.
Members of a cross-functional team may have different skill levels. In addition, the team may have special decision-making powers. For example, a team can submit a project plan directly to the CEO, bypassing the regular approval process with the project manager, or avoid other management issues.
Benefits of Cross-Functional Team
Cross-functional teams tackle the complex challenges of today’s business environment. Any business environment. Changes and high dynamics are common, and innovation is constantly required in order to stay afloat.
There is an opinion that innovations may rather come from a lonely prodigy. However, studies prove this is a stereotype and that innovations are created by people with different knowledge and experience, united in a group. There are no longer people who have all the answers. Instead, intelligent cooperation helps to find them.
The cross-functional organizations also provide other benefits in business. Сross functional projects help companies grow faster and more efficiently and can even run tests on a project before hiring a new full-time team to deliver it.
A cross-functional team is more likely to break stereotypes and find better ways to get the job done. They also help fight the problem of groupthink. If everyone thinks the same way or has a similar experience behind them, it is easy to overlook problems or accept external hypotheses as true without questioning them. A cross-functional team is more likely to break stereotypes and find better ways to get the same old job done.
Employees Engagement & Retention
Finally, cross-functional team collaboration can help develop, engage, and retain employees. They create a sense of unity and cooperation. Employees feel more like they belong to the organization as a whole and not just to their department. In such teams, employees can learn new areas of knowledge and improve their skills, such as relationship building and problem-solving skills. When a team member has the opportunity to learn and develop, they are more likely to stay with the company.
Challenges of Cross-Functional Teams
Any cross-functional team also has some challenges to face. With all of the above, you may be surprised that about 75% of cross-functional project teams are ineffective. So what’s the reason?
Lack of Clarity
Sometimes a cross-functional team is given a vague or ill-defined goal. The team may not have (or may not be able to quickly decide on) the key parameters, such as the deadline for achieving the goal and the available budget, etc. Without a clear goal and a way to achieve it, the team is wasting time.
The other main reason why cross-functional team management fails is that its members have competing priorities or commitments. They primarily care about their own interests or the interests of their department and not about achieving a mutual team goal.
This is not the only personnel issue that can affect the work of a cross-functional team. When a team consists of members of different levels, the alignment of forces can be tricky.
And another obvious fact: working in cross-functional teams is an additional burden for participants who are also part of the team in their department. It causes stress, overstrains, and frustration, especially if some do not cope well with the teamwork.
However, even a productive and professional team can end up being ineffective if it lacks the authority to act. Then the work hangs in anticipation because of the cross-functional team leadership or decisions of the leaders of the organization.
Cross-functional Team Management Strategies
That is why to avoid pitfalls; It’s wise to develop effective communication strategies, apply the cross-functional team best practices, and succeed with the project.
The first thing a team needs is complete clarity. What are the specific goals of this team? Everyone should clearly understand what the criteria for success are. Undoubtedly, this is important for any team to know. But for a cross-functional team, this is especially true since its members have different mindsets and perceptions. They cannot speak the same language as a team within the same department can.
Arranging a meeting once a week just won’t do. These teams should not be afraid to talk directly, speak up and disagree if anything in no time. It’s important to make sure they have all the necessary conditions for this.
In addition to the main goal, set milestones along the way to achieve it. Develop a project road map that will help to mark those milestones and the pain points, etc. Participants may not see or communicate with each other every day, but this will help them to have a clear idea of what is happening and what is next.
Talking about the practical limitations your team faces isn’t as pleasant as talking about goal setting, but it’s just necessary. Work will be more efficient if everyone knows the budget and deadlines. Dwell on the transparency principle at the initial stages. Get back when it is necessary to put an existing command back on track.
Useful Tools for Managing a Cross-Functional Team
Here are some specialized best cross-functional collaboration tools you may apply to ensure each team member is connected and collaborates on the same page.
This is the first thing to use while you work together. Anyone with a Google corporate account can create a video meeting, invite up to 100 participants from any department, and meet for up to 60 minutes per meeting at no cost.
This platform may help managers build cross-functional teams by allowing them to search for the skills, roles, or specific people they want on a team. It’s giving members a place to connect, collaborate and celebrate each other’s hard work in no time.
GoVisually is a SaaS proofing platform used by creative, marketing, and other media teams worldwide to review and approve creative content. So it may help to simplify the collaboration between creative and technical members of your cross-functional team.
This is a cloud-based solution for teams in numerous industries. So, it also fits cross-functional teams. The solution provides applications for project collaboration, project management, resource management, task management, and much more. Key features include discussions, notes, Gantt charts, to-do lists, calendaring, milestones, timesheets, and others.
Another cloud-based proofing solution that will enable your small to large enterprises shares and on a variety of projects with stakeholders for proofing and review.
Also, feel free to share or recommend your favorite tools in the comments below.
Whether you’re helping build a new cross-functional team or streamlining an existing one, we hope to bring more clarity and give you some extra motivation with the correct information on a cross-functional team. This one includes people with different expertise from different departments within one unit for achieving mutual goals. To help them apply best management practices and tools, build and follow the high standard team management strategies.