The power of Cross-Functional Teams

We live in a digital age where everything is going so fast, and you, as a company need to be able to keep up. We need to innovate quickly, otherwise, someone else will beat you to the punch. Even after successfully starting a company, we tend to forget that we need to communicate with each other within the organisation very clearly in order to continue to make good things happen.

Decision-makers and employees are often two different kinds. This has been going on for quite some time. However, when we notice new trends within our branches, we pick up on this. So why don’t we implement new trends into the organisation and work diversely? It’s time for a change. Let me tell you something more about cross-functional teams and why it could be really important for you as a company to implement this kind of teams within your organisation.

What are Cross-Functional Teams?

The modern business world is more about flat hierarchy, open workspaces, flexible work hours, freelancers, and virtual teams. Over the past years, many organisations developed a different kind of bureaucracy that have helped fasten the organisations speed. One such approach is implementing cross-functional teams.

But what are cross-functional teams? As it already mentions it is a team existing out of members from several teams. They all have different functional expertise within the organisation and they can use their expertise to achieve a common goal.

For instance, the marketeers make sure people are aware of the product via different channels. They are promoting the brand and its products. Then there is the technical team who makes sure the website works as it should be. And there is the sales team, where it is all about selling the product. Each team is working at their own island have their own goal, while they are working for the same big picture’.

Why not show everyone the big picture’? Share the common goal. Let’s bring the group together instead of working each on their own island. Make it more efficiently. Work together as a group and share ideas while every group has its own vision. Let’s implement cross-functional teams.

The success of cross-functional teams is determined by some factors, without those a team could be struggling a bit more. It is important to have:

  • Team members who are highly motivated
  • Team members who are open-minded
  • A team with clear priorities and directions
  • No incompatible personal goals within the team
  • A management team who is supporting the team

The benefits

It can be challenging setting up cross-functional teams when your organisation never worked like that beforehand. But in this case, the advantages outweigh the challenge.

When putting together people from diverse functions, creative solutions will take the overhand. This is due to the fact that different people with different expertise aiming for a different goal will be brought together. If said people are open-minded, a lot could be learned from one another. Organisations that do not look beyond the boundaries of their functional silo structures’ and will not choose for cross-functional teams may run the risk of being overtaken by their competitors that do so.

Some benefits why an organisation might consider the challenge to implement cross-functional teams:

  • Improvement of coordination and communication
  • Improvement on problem-solving
  • Improvement on dealing with complexity
  • Improvement of team spirit
  • Engaged employees
  • Innovative ideas

How to implement it

To start working with cross-functional teams it is really important to break down the barriers, get the different islands working together. Take the key concerns from each department and bring them together.

Select the right team member
The first step is choosing the right team members. With this being said, it is important to know that within the teams, there is no hierarchy or some kind of authority.

For each team member, it is important to have a set of skills in order to let the project work as a well-oiled machine. Therefore, the best candidates are mostly self-starters who are independent, take initiative and who are able to make decisions. It is also ideal that the person already has experience working in such an environment.

Set shared goals
With a cross-functional team, there are different team members with each a different goal. However, those goals should be an overall success, because they eventually lead to the same goal. Therefore, it is important to set shared goals, so it feels as accomplished for the whole team. This will make sure people will not get focussed on their own small aspect of the project.

Establish clear roles
As any other functioning team, having clear objectives in order to work well as a group and letting processes go more easily is of great importance. When this is not clear the project will flow into different directions, which will eventually lead to a dead end. It is important to have goals modified and set up before getting the team together.

To have clear objectives, it is important to know what the approved budget is. This gives everyone a clear perspective of the financial roadmap. Besides this, it is handy to know what the expected outcomes should be and what the timeframe is to complete those.

Clear communication
Communication is key. This is the same within cross-functional teams. You must be heard and understood while moving forward in the project. Besides this, when working with a cross-functional team, there are people working together with different expertise who are not always on the same page. This will sometimes make communication a little bit more difficult. Communication needs to be open and it needs to happen frequently.

Are you ready to make the change? Of course, there will be some stumbling blocks, but there is always a solution to each! And remember communication is key.

Guest blog by Kiki von Meijenfeldt
Originally posted on

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