The Problem of Orchestrating Cross Functional Work as a CEO

• Digital Workplace

When you watch the conductor of a great orchestra, it looks like they aren’t doing a lot. They keep time and get passionate about the music, but it’s not hard to imagine the orchestra performing the music on their own.

CEOs of great companies look the same from the outside. When a company is finely tuned and operating at peak performance, the CEO can seem superfluous.

But if you are the CEO of a scaling company, you probably don’t feel unnecessary. In fact, you probably feel more like you are running around, playing every instrument at the same time. Individual departments might be running fine in your company, but when you start looking at cross-functional work, that’s where the real dissonance comes. This is a pretty common situation in most organizations. A detailed study of 95 teams in 25 leading organizations showed that 75% of the cross-functional teams are dysfunctional [1].

Let’s take the example of revamping your website.

The website belongs to everyone

In a digital company, nothing is more cross-functional than the website. Everyone wants a say in how it looks and functions.
Imagine you ask for a website redesign. The first round of discussions probably involves a creative team. They probably use a specialized tool to manage creative projects and come up with a lot of new designs.

But your lead gen team doesn’t use that same tool. When the new design is revealed, they have a lot of suggestions from what they’ve learned from months of A/B testing.

The sales team, who are in the middle of switching their CRM, wasn’t informed there was even a website change happening. When it launches, there are problems integrating leads into the old CRM, and your technical team has to spend a week working on fixing that, while also planning for integrating the new CRM after another week.

The product team wants to add some tracking code to know the relationship between landing page and which features customers use.

When the website launches, there are several bugs. You first ask people to report them in Slack, but that quickly gets overwhelming. So, you ask the engineering team to borrow some space on their ticketing tool. They get mad when the website team messes up some other product tickets accidentally.

And guess who hears about each one of these issues? The CEO.

The root of the cacophony

When you look at these issues from the perspective of the department heads, they all seem like reasonable requests. But, to go back to the orchestra analogy, if you sit with the audience, it sounds like six different ensembles playing different music.

When work is contained within a single department, the leader can find the tool that suits them best. But when work stretches out across the company, this isn’t the best solution. Each of these tools also comes at a high price, making the CEO feel like she is paying a tax just to get more chaos.

While department leads are justified in using their own tools, it’s usually only the CEO who sees just how this impedes the flow of cross functional work.

How CEOs can solve the cross-functional work management problem

Can any single solution really meet all the cross functional needs of a scaling organization? It would have to meet all of these requirements.

  1. Department heads must maintain autonomy. The last thing you need is to force department heads to use tools they hate or that don’t work.
  2. It should handle multiple types of work. It can’t be only project management, or process management, or collaboration. As soon as you start stretching a tool and making it do something it wasn’t designed for, you get more problems and hate.
  3. It should be highly integrated. It should easily integrate with itself so that data from one department easily flows to another one. It should also connect with other software that you already have, to pull in and push out essential data.
  4. It shouldn’t require any special IT training. Your department heads and leads have enough responsibilities. They shouldn’t need to learn a special programming language just to be able to manage their work.

A Digital Workplace

There is no silver bullet for all the cross-functional problems that CEOs face. However, building up a digital workplace that enables seamless cross functional work orchestration is a step in the right direction.

A digital workplace shouldn’t just be a collection of apps. It should be the epicenter that orchestrates all types of work across departments, teams, and geographies. know more about Kissflow’s Digital Workplace.

What are you using right now to manage the work that spreads across multiple departments?