If you are looking for your colleagues to innovate, engage, and eliminate inefficiencies then look no further than the concept of cross-functional teams. Cross-functional teams bring a fresh perspective to solving an organization’s problems. Here are four reasons why cross-functional teams can be a company’s secret weapon:
1. They Break Down Silos
Sales, marketing, IT, finance, legal, manufacturing, data analytics, etc. All potential parts of your organization – How well do they know about and work with each other… really? If your company has been operating in silos, cross-functional teams can be the answer. Simply put, cross-functional teams open up lines of communication across the company, leading to greater efficiency.
Be careful though, as cross-functional teams can easily devolve into disarray, if you’re not careful. A researcher writing in Harvard Business Review claims that 75 percent of cross-functional teams fail. Why? Because employees from different areas in a business don’t like working with one another, or more accurately, they don’t know how. This pitfall of cross-functional teams can be avoided with strong team leadership. An appointed team leader is essential to keeping professionals with different backgrounds and skills on task and to keeping the focus on the team’s end goal.
2. They Eliminate Blind Spots
Have you ever had your marketing department develop a brilliant campaign for customer outreach…only to find out later that the customer service department has actually been fielding customer complaints about the very features that the marketing team’s campaign planned to highlight? That’s time, money, and employee morale down the toilet. But imagine if someone from customer service had been on the campaign development team—they could have headed off this unintended consequence much sooner. Gathering the appropriate input from all of the functions that specifically and tangentially touch a company initiative can create efficiencies and save on embarrassing, time consuming errors.
3. They Cultivate Creative Problem-Solving
Cross-functional teams by definition create organizational creativity – simply by putting different employees from different functions together. People from different backgrounds and expertise bring fresh eyes to old problems. When professionals become too close to a problem, they fail to see the workarounds right in front of them. Enter cross-functional teams…When functional innovation is needed to create growth, efficiencies or product diversity… enter cross-functional teams. When corporate performance has flattened or begun a decline… enter cross-functional teams. Organizational problems are solved by employees all pulling in the same direction.
4. They Illustrate a Company’s Larger Mission
When colleagues feel connected to an organization’s larger mission, it leads to higher levels of engagement and, ultimately, a culture of high performance. The culture of a company is how the organization brings that mission to life; this cannot be accomplished without people and their buy-in and dedication. Cross-functional teams allow their members to see how their role and purpose fit into the larger organization to continue to drive the culture and the mission in the right direction. IT allows team members to clearly see how their role directly impacts everyone else in the company (how marketing impacts the sales team; how sales then impacts productions, how the customer service team impacts sales, etc). The examples are endless. Intentionally creating opportunities for employees to influence employees, should require the same amount of time and effort as is taken to craft and cascade the mission everyone is focused on.
Forming cross-functional teams can be a rocky process if your company hasn’t leveraged them well in the past; although the benefits will make it worthwhile. This is where smart team development comes into play. Team development activities can help ensure that colleagues from different areas of the company work better together. Remember to make team development an ongoing priority—not just a one-time or once-a-year activity.
Have you delved into forming cross-functional teams at your own organization? What has been the outcome so far?
About the author
As Executive Vice President Global Performance, Paul has extensive experience in consultation, design, and delivery of programs over his 20 year career with Eagle’s Flight. Through his genuine personable approach, Paul is not only a trusted advisor but also a valued partner to his clients; he works seamlessly to ensure that Eagle’s Flight solutions are aligned to their needs and desired outcomes. As a result, Paul is the account executive for Eagle’s Flight largest account. Many of his clients are multi-year accounts from multinational, Fortune 500 companies.