In one scenario, your cross-functional team provides many benefits and is a powerful and effective solution for an array of workplace obstacles. In a different scenario, your cross-functional team crashes and burns. So, what makes the difference? Management.
Organized, transparent, and flexible management is of the utmost importance when it comes to the success of a cross-functional team. As a team leader, you’ll very quickly find that managing this type of team comes with complexities rarely found in a traditional team-management setting. However, if handled correctly, your team will reach new heights, breakthrough long-standing barriers, and accomplish goals that would otherwise be out of reach.
Learn how to achieve success with these 9 key ingredients to managing a cross-functional team.
1. Excellent Communication
Without an organized strategy for excellent communication, your cross-functional team doesn’t stand a chance. This is the first and most crucial component of your team’s success and should not be taken lightly.
Whenever possible, it’s best to meet face-to-face. If regular in-person meetings are unrealistic, there are plenty of online tools you can use to provide a steady, dependable line of communication between you and all of your team members.
2. Thorough Organization
To manage a team of this diversity and complexity, you’ll need a system for organizing deadlines, files, notes, data, research, and whatever else you bring to the project.
When working with a cross-functional team, conflict and misunderstandings that result in a lack of accountability are common. We’ve all heard it before: “I thought he was going to do that,” “I couldn’t start until she did this,” and so on. You can prevent these frustrating situations by defining crystal-clear goals and expectations, not only for the team but on an individual level as well.
4. Mutual Understanding
It’s crucial that every one of your team members understands the importance of the task at hand. Keep in mind that the responsibilities of the cross-functional team are often in addition to your team members’ existing to-do lists. If they don’t value the cross-functional team’s objective, they won’t put in the time or effort you require. Help them understand why the team’s objectives should matter to them.
5. Individual Attention
When you focus on the team as a whole, maintaining the morale of individual team members can easily fall by the wayside—and this may result in the failure of the team. By giving each member of your cross-functional team individual attention, praise, and time, you’ll be able to
- Become better acquainted with the different strengths and skills at your disposal.
- Set clear expectations for each person.
- Weed out any disinterested or counterproductive parties.
- Obtain a better view of each aspect of the project.
- Encourage and reward hard work, innovation, and team-oriented thinking.
6. Conflict Resolution
There’s really no way around it. When a team is comprised of people from different departments (with different motives and loyalties to different areas of the company), you’re going to experience some conflict. It’s important for you to be prepared to handle conflict effectively. Many industry experts suggest you provide your cross-functional team with conflict-resolution training before bringing them together.
7. Strong Ties
Provide ample opportunities for your team members to get to know each other better, increase their trust in one another, and form strong ties that will contribute to the effectiveness of the team. Arrange social events outside the workplace, create a co-work space, and conduct a few outdoor team-building exercises.
8. An A-Team
When assembling your team, it’s important to put personal opinions or preferences aside so you can approach the task objectively. You may think you have the best employees for the team, but have you considered their individual strengths or whether they’ll work well together? If your dream team is comprised of valuable, high-performing employees who also have a history of taking charge and unofficially managing other employees “for the good of the company,” you may need more time for conflict resolution than you can spare.
Before you gather the perfect “A-Team,” spend some time defining the team’s goals, and make a list of the strengths and skills required to accomplish those goals. You will then be able to assemble the perfect team according to your predefined list of required skills and qualifications.
One of the greatest benefits of a cross-functional team is that it fosters innovation. By bringing several different areas of expertise together into a productive and encouraging work environment, you’re creating fertile ground for fresh ideas and new, game-changing insights to flourish. To take advantage of these ideas and help the company improve, you must be flexible, open-minded, and allow these opportunities to manifest. The worst thing you can do to your cross-functional team is stifle it with narrow thinking.
A cross-functional team can be your company’s greatest asset if it’s managed properly. By using the nine key ingredients listed above, you’ll be able to assemble and manage a powerful team comprised of effective individuals geared toward success. Good luck!