How to get the best out of cross-functional teams
A recurring theme across agile project management is the cross-functional team structure and the influence it has on the quality and speed of work delivered. Cross-functional teams take less time to reach a consensus on projects and require significantly fewer resources to get work done. And, research makes it abundantly clear that cross-functional teams work, and are a significant factor that contributes to the success of the project.
What are cross-functional teams?
A cross-functional team is a group of diverse experts with different skills that are united into one effective team to achieve a specific target. The basic foundation of cross-functional project team building is bringing together diverse experts and channeling their skills and capabilities towards a shared goal.
Given how successful a cross-functional team organization has proven over time, we’ll be looking closely at what they are and how they work. You’ll learn how to build, run, and successfully pilot a cross-functional team for outstanding results.
How to build an effective cross-functional team
The success of a cross-functional team depends directly on the effort that’s gone into setting it up. There are best practices that must be followed to transform a bunch of experts into a cohesive team that’s united and driven towards achieving a common goal.
Here are some of them:
1. Assembling the right team
For a cross-functional team to be successful, the team must be made up of experts whose capabilities complement one another. The team members must be carefully chosen to include individuals who’re not just capable but excellent in their particular field, so the work required of them can be delivered with minimal lapses.
2. Building a team identity
For the members of a cross-functional team to successfully contribute their expertise to driving a shared goal, there must be a sense of oneness that binds them together. Team members must begin to see themselves as part of the shared vision since that’s the only way they can be committed to doing their part.
3. Prioritizing quality communication
In order to keep every member of the team on the same page, it’s necessary that every member of the team should have access to the information they need. That way, team members can decide and take appropriate action as and when due.
The management of a cross-functional team must ensure there are good communication tools and a framework available to help coordinate the flow of information across the team.
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4. Leveraging a clearly defined decision-making process
The process of cross-functional collaboration will undoubtedly require a lot of decision-making to determine what gets done, when, and how, so the team’s work can flow cohesively. In order to ensure that decision-making doesn’t become a time-wasting convention, the cross-functional team must clearly define how it’s done every single time.
This will help guarantee that:
- Decision-making becomes a scalable part of the organization that can be repeated
- Decision-making takes less time since it’s based on a ready-to-go framework
- Better decisions are made since they’re based on a proven framework.
Skills needed for a cross-functional team to be effective
To build and maintain a cross-functional team successfully, there are several values and skills each team member must embody. These values are what transform the team from a group of highly capable experts into a team that can collaborate to deliver better results faster and under budget. Some of these include:
For a cross-functional team to remain on the cutting edge, there must be clear information flowing through the team so that the relevant stakeholders will be able to apply them and deliver the appropriate results. A cross-functional team that doesn’t prioritize tasks clarity in the communication process will find it hard, if not impossible, to build and maintain consensus.
2. Empathy and understanding
Members of a cross-functional team must not only understand each other’s points of view or challenges in the project management process but must essentially put themselves in each other’s place. It’s easier to accommodate the shortcomings of other team members, as well as offer help and encouragement when it’s needed.
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3. Organizational clarity
For a cross-functional team to remain on the cutting edge, the place of organizational clarity cannot be overemphasized. Their work must be duly organized in a project management tool that enables every member of the team to have clarity into:
- where they’re at on the project
- the specific aspects of the project they’re directly responsible for
- the deadlines and targets they must meet, and
- how their work ties into the rest of the team’s
4. Good interpersonal relationship
People can only do their best work around those they love and respect. As a result, for a cross-functional team to be functioning at the top of its capacity, the team leader should offer avenues for team members to build strong interpersonal relationships that’ll enable them to get to know each other better.
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Advantages of cross-functional teams
To understand why cross-functional teams are effective and how to successfully replicate their success for your organization, it’s necessary to first understand why cross-functional teams exist in the first place.
Generally, cross-functional teams are a favored structure in situations where speed, resource efficiency, and continuous improvement are critical. Find out more below.
In a situation where there’s the need for faster iterations, a cross-functional team offers the best value possible. This is because the various experts required to deliver the project are working together closely and can make decisions regarding whatever needs to be done or changed, with little or no bureaucracy.
A cross-functional team structure eliminates the need for endless meetings and puts all necessary doers within reach so a consensus can be reached faster.
2. Resource efficiency
Resource efficiency forms another huge reason why cross-functional work exists. There are fewer hoops to be jumped through for information to flow across the team. Team members can have the information they need to work without lengthy communication chains, and as a result, can create change and deliver results with fewer resources than a conventional team would require.
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3. Continuous improvement
An iterative culture thrives on speed, or else, work will stagnate. As a result, any organization that’s looking to consistently improve its product or service offerings must be based on a cross-functional team structure which will enable the responsible experts to make decisions faster, create, test, and overall, grow the product without lengthy processes.
In all, cross-functional teams are the natural choice whenever there’s the need to consistently do more with less and stay competitive without incurring higher costs.
Cross-functional teams are assembled to spark innovation, break bureaucratic interventions, and speed up project delivery by granting a more collaborative working environment. Individuals from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds make better strategic decisions and tend to outperform those in a homogeneous group of people.
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Take it for a spin and see how it can help your cross-functional team.