The perfect dish is a blend of the right ingredients that complement each other and enhance the taste of the final serving on the plate.
Each of the ingredients has its qualities and specific role in the dish and if chosen correctly and cooked right, it gives you the best results possible. Well, cross-functional collaboration is kind of similar to this.
The basic idea of cross-functional collaboration is to get a bunch of people with varied skill sets and expertise into one team for a specific project or task. These teams help in tackling tasks and projects that require a set of different skills and are especially helpful in getting such tasks done efficiently.
Studies have even shown that strong cross-functional collaboration has a success rate of nearly 76%. It’s something every department and company needs to do. If you want to know more about it, this is the right place to be!
In this blog, we will try to help you understand the concept of cross-functional collaboration and cross-functional teams, how they are beneficial, and how to build one for your organization. Let’s get started!
What is Cross-Functional Collaboration?
Typically in organizations, people with common skill sets are grouped and work as a team. For example, most organizations have a marketing team, public relations team, sales team, IT department, etc. They are grouped into these teams because each department has its projects that they work on.
But sometimes, a company gets a project which requires different skill sets, and this is where cross-functional collaboration is needed. It is the coming together of people from different departments with different skill sets and working together as one to achieve a common goal
The team that is thus formed, consisting of individuals with varied skill sets, to tackle such a diverse project is called a cross-functional team.
Let’s dive in and understand why cross-functional collaboration and cross-functional teams are extremely beneficial for organizations.
7 Benefits of Cross-Functional Collaboration!
1. Innovation and Ingenuity
A set of people with different expertise and skills will bring more innovation and creativity. A set of people with the same skill set tend to think in only one manner, because of which the ideas become monotonous after a while. A cross-functional collaboration, on the other hand, will bring in people who think in different ways and amplitudes, therefore the ideas will also be diverse and innovative.
2. Improved Employee Engagement
A major issue for companies today is a lack of employee engagement. It so happens that because of the segregation of departments, people tend to do monotonous work for months, which leads to a lack of employee engagement.
But in a cross-functional team, different departments work together and the task itself is more interesting. It pushes you to stay engaged with the other team members as your work depends on the performance of other team members. This creates an environment of teamwork that pushes everyone to give their best.
3. Better Work Culture
Having a cross-functional team means that the employees working in different departments will finally be able to see the hard work and efforts each department puts in to bring out the best in the organization.
This in turn leads employees to have more appreciation for each other and understanding of their respective roles. It can lead to an overall improvement in the company’s work culture. The value of colleagues appreciating each other’s work is priceless at the workplace and ensures a healthy and positive environment.
4. Developing Cross-Functional Leadership Skills
Managing a cross-functional team is one of the best ways of honing your leadership skills. With a diverse set of individuals, there are chances of conflicts between team members. This is where leadership kicks in.
A good leader and a good manager know how to get the best out of each member and ensure that the team’s overall performance is constantly improving. Someone who has mastered the art of managing a cross-functional team will easily be able to lead any project and manage any team.
5. Building a Collaborative Culture
While cross-functional collaboration happens for a chosen few projects, what it does is improve the overall collaborative culture of the organization. Employees who have worked together once will now find it easier to do so in their everyday work life.
This means that even after the project is completed and the employees have gone back to their original departments, they can still carry the bonds with the other departments which will help them in small collaborations in their everyday work.
They will not be hesitant in helping each other out and will develop a more positive approach toward their work and colleagues.
6. Improved Team Performance
Once a set of employees from departments have successfully worked together as a team, their ability to work in a team will improve by leaps and bounds. After having collaborated with different people of different skill sets, they will find it relatively easier to work with the team members of their departments.
Cross-functional collaboration helps you in mastering the art of communication, conflict resolution, and collaborating with others. They can take these skills with them wherever they go and use them in whichever project they are handed which can improve the overall performance of the team.
7. Focus on the Bigger Picture
When an employee is working in his/her department, all they have to worry about and work on is their part of the job. But when you are working in a cross-functional team, the focusses shifts from individual glory to the project itself.
In a cross-functional team, no one is a hero and everyone has an equal role and responsibility without which the team cannot function. Because of this, the focus will always remain on the project and its final output instead of the work of the individual employee, which means there will be more people working towards one goal than people only minding their share of the work.
Having defined and understood the importance of a cross-functional team, we will now try to understand how we can build the right cross-functional team that will help in improving the organization and results in better outputs.
How to Build a Cross-Functional Team?
Step 1. Find the Right Team
The first and most crucial step in making an effective cross-functional team is finding the right members. You need to know the set of skills and expertise you require in this team and then pick the individuals accordingly.
Most of the time the project you are working on will dictate the kind of skills you want in your team members.
Apart from the technical skills of each individual, you also need to evaluate their qualities and how they work together in a team environment before selecting the team. You must pick good team players who will willingly collaborate with others and act as assets to the team.
Step 2. Find the Right Leader
You need to have an individual with the right leadership skills, who can manage a set of diverse people to manage your cross-functional team. While the team in itself does not require a lot of leading, the job of the leader is to instill accountability and responsibility into each member so that they are on top of their work.
The team leader should be able to delegate the work properly and at the same time give autonomy to all the team members. The leader should also keep a track of the progress of each individual as well as the overall project. They should be able to guide the team when required and help them perform at their potential best.
Step 3. Set Clear Goals
Like most teams, having a set of clearly defined goals is imperative in a cross-functional team. If a cross-functional team does not have clarity on its goals, it can be like a ship without a captain, being directionless and going nowhere.
Therefore it is important to work on setting these clearly defined goals and communicating them properly to the team.
These goals should be made keeping in mind the priorities you have for the project. This could be a budget restriction, a deadline, or anything else. The goals should be made and tweaked accordingly.
The goals will give them clarity on what is expected of them, the resources they have at their disposal, and the time frame within which they have to complete their tasks.
Step 4. Focus on the Right Decision-Making Process
Working in a cross-functional team will lead to situations where you will have to make quick decisions. So, there should be clarity concerning the decision-making process in the team. Ensuring you have the right decision-making process at work will benefit the team and the overall project.
For this, you need to have the right framework for this process and it should be clear to all the team members so that there is no scope for conflict or confusion among them.
You should build this framework keeping in mind the right individual who will decide on the right part of the project. Having this clarity streamlines the workflow and makes for a more professional environment.
Step 5. Clarity of budget
You need to have a planned budget when you are working in a cross-functional team. Having a transparent, clear, and flexible budget will improve the efficiency and success rate of the project.
So the budget must be intelligently divided between the various tasks and the team members. It should be transparent and kept flexible.
During the project, if you feel that some areas might need a little more spending or that you can limit the expenses in some, you should change the budget accordingly and inform the team about it.
Step 6. Form a Team Charter
A team charter basically focuses on specifying how the team will operate. It is a set of guidelines that make the job of the employees clear and is a very professional manner of handling things.
The charter essentially focuses on things like the general purpose of the team, the objectives that have been set for them, and the roles and responsibilities that each team member has.
While it is often the case that the upper management drafts such a team charter, it might not be a bad idea to include the team leader as well as the team members in drafting the team charter. This will make the team members feel more involved in the project and work more responsibly.
Just make sure the charter is flexible so that necessary changes can be made according to the needs of the project.
Step 7. Offer Proper Communication
A lack of communication or miscommunication can be disastrous when you are working with a cross-functional team with diverse skill sets and different expertise.
So you need to bring your A game in communication to the table. Having the right communication at the right time and keeping a space open for people to communicate with each other will go a long way in ensuring the successful completion of the project.
What happens in a cross-functional collaboration is that you might not always find all team members at the same place at the same time, therefore you need to figure out the right tool for communication within your team.
Technology can be of great help here as you can make use of Skype or Slack and project management software to get the help you need.
Step 8. Continuously Re-evaluate
One of the most attractive qualities of a cross-functional team is its ability to adapt and change according to the needs of the project. Therefore as a team, you should be comfortable in constantly re-evaluating your workflow, the task at hand, and even the individual work of the team members.
This can also contain performance reviews. You may need to keep the team members in check and if someone is not up to the standard, you’ll need to help bring in the change that will improve the performance of the team.
You need to constantly monitor and analyze the performance of each team member concerning the project and the progress being made.
Having a cross-functional team is a modern phenomenon that has arisen out of the needs of projects that require you to have a team with diverse skill sets and qualities.
The advantages of having an effective cross-functional collaboration have been well documented and recognized in various fields. If done right, a cross-functional team can be of utmost benefit to you. However, if the team is not managed well, it can lead to disasters and failure.
Do the things that are mentioned above and you will not have to worry about managing a cross-functional team. Simply enjoy the advantages it gives you! Adios!
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