Every organization consists of critical teams with specific operational responsibilities. While these teams inherently provide value to businesses, working cross-functionally is often necessary to achieve long-term sustained success. This collaboration is key to both financial success as well as engagement and performance, as workforce members are 200% more likely to feel more engaged in a collaborative environment that is devoid of silos.
Here’s your actionable guide on how to build and work with cross-functional teams, enhance collaboration, and reduce silos across functions. We encourage you to use this template to elevate teamwork in your organization.
Why Cross-Functional Teams Are Necessary
Every functional team thrives in what they do best. But capitalizing on these skills—and the business’ competitive advantage—requires teams to connect and work with other organizational groups.
Specific benefits of successful cross-functional teams include:
- Innovation and adaptability: Deloitte cites cross-functional teams as sources of innovation and adaptability. By working together and sharing expertise, teams can quickly respond to change and create new value for customers and stakeholders.
- Enhanced access to resources: Rather than responding to a manager of a specific team, workforce members may respond to another leader in a different department. This bolsters access to resources such as diverse perspectives, ideas, and skill sets.
- Efficient problem-solving: A diverse set of skills allows team members to learn and make better decisions. There are no silos among successful cross-functional teams. Thereby, team members can combine resources, bolster efficiency, and become more innovative.
Common Challenges and Solutions to Cross-Functional Teams
Establishing successful cross-functional teams is a challenging task. Harvard Business Review reports 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. These groups commonly fail in these key areas:
1. Staying on Schedule
45% of team members state that a “lack of clear direction is a challenge,” especially in today’s hybrid and virtual work environments.
Every project should possess:
- A clearly established purpose and set of goals to achieve
- A practical step-by-step development process for each initiative or project
- Adequate resources that team members can share
- Deadlines with relevant milestones when team members can meet and review progress together
- An end-to-end accountable person who is in charge and has decision-rights
These items should be accessible to all team members via a collaboration technology/platform. Transparency allows everyone to understand where the project currently stands and the specific action they need to take. In short, people need to know where they fit in and why they matter.
2. Unclear Roles Related to Objectives
When working across functions, there can be ambiguity and confusion on how best to integrate everyone’s work and skill sets in such a way that leads the combined effort to a successful level of completion around the cross-functional team’s critical objectives.
Start by staying aligned with organizational objectives. Fostering these discussions with other teams will lay the groundwork for cultivating trust, aligning priorities, and executing the mission. Every initiative should be able to answer these questions:
- How does everyone’s role and responsibilities contribute to those objectives?
- Who are the specific people one should reach out to when an issue or dilemma arises?
- Who are the individuals whose roles pertain and connect to yours?
- Who will essentially help achieve the individual and collective goals of the project?
Success in these areas will help bridge gaps and inject the collaborative effort with the necessary specificity.
Learn how CMOE's teamwork programs can assist teams in overcoming common challenges and unlock formulas for success.
3. Meeting a Set Budget
Failing to stay on schedule and adhere to specifications creates a waterfall effect. One way this is created is by failing to meet an established budget.
The projects should have:
- Approved budget
- Defined priorities
- Desired outcomes
Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) will help cross-functional team members stay on track and fulfill their roles within budget. Consulting agency, PwC, reports data-driven companies are three times more likely to report better decision-making than their counterparts.
How to Build and Find Success with a Cross-Functional Team
Here are the four main steps leaders can take to create a successful cross-functional team experience:
1. Discuss Roles and Expectations
What do other teams need to know, or need from you, and vice versa? Communicating this early on can bridge the gap, establish essential expectations, and build camaraderie.
Examples of cross-functional needs may include:
- Expertise to help fill in knowledge gaps
- Guidance on executing critical tasks
- An introduction to a team member
- Access to technologies or tools
2. Ensure Collaboration Styles Are Being Addressed
Research illustrates that in any meeting, 57% of team members feel that their collaboration style isn’t being optimized or utilized. Thus, it’s critical to first identify unique work values and ground rules to lay the foundation for cross-functional teamwork to flourish.
There are three general collaborative styles:
- Expressive: People need ideas sketched out visually through images, charts, diagrams, etc.
- Relational: People need to connect with and create a bond with others.
- Introspective: People need space and time for reflection to process their thoughts before sharing their ideas.
Share collaborative styles with the other team(s). This assists in creating a better understanding of how to communicate with other team members.
3. Establish a Collective Roadmap
Have the teams take time to examine, share, and reflect upon the information gathered above. Encourage them to use the data to identify:
- Resources that each team member can offer
- Opportunities for collaboration
- How roles and responsibilities can be divided amongst teams
From here, you can begin building out a roadmap. A step-by-step roadmap should include:
- Names of each team member
- Defined responsibilities of each team member
- Explanation of how responsibilities pertain to project and organizational goals
- Who should be working cross-functionally with who
- The exact points in the roadmap where team members’ roles connect
- What the desired outcomes are with examples of what they look like
- Specific deadline dates
- Specific milestones
- Designated accountability leader or owner who is ultimately responsible for a specific task
4. Invest in Technology
The right technology keeps all areas organized, offers a birds-eye view of progress, and helps everyone stay on track.
Research notes that:
- 57% of individuals believe collaboration technologies are useful in driving tasks to completion.
- 51% believe the technologies are productive.
- 37% believe they are engaging.
Examples of the top performance management systems include:
Take Advantage of Customized Team Development Services
The most impactful learning and development programs are ones that are customized to your objectives. CMOE’s portfolio of Team Development Products & Services does exactly that. With the aim to overcome cross-functional team challenges, we’ll help you strategize unique and effective ways to create formulas for success.
Contact us for more information.