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Cross-Functional Team: What is it and How Can It Assist You in Succeeding?

By Arooj Shakeel
September 19, 2023
A cross-functional team is a workgroup that combines employees from various departments to achieve a common goal.

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Many innovative software companies, such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon, have begun recognizing the benefits of cross-team collaboration. Do you understand why? Because of creativity, innovation, coordination, organization, and speed, if you are still reliant on siloed departments, you should reconsider. Collaboration among cross-functional teams is beneficial. When teams from various departments come together, it brings a global perspective to your work.

According to a survey, 75% of businesses consider online collaboration tools necessary for their operations. This is true because online tools facilitate collaboration and add incredible value to a business.


What Does the Term “Cross-Functional” Mean?

Most businesses are organized into departments that handle various tasks. The executive team, for example, makes high-level decisions and plans. The IT team is in charge of the company’s technology. The marketing department creates content and distributes it to potential customers. Members of these teams perform functions that are similar to one another. What exactly is a cross-functional team?

A cross-functional team is a workgroup that combines employees from various departments to achieve a common goal. Such teams are frequently formed when a goal necessitates input from multiple departments. Cross-functional teams may be temporary, as in the case of implementing new technology. They could also be permanent, such as when a company requires ongoing input from multiple departments. 

Consider the topic of empowering women in the workplace. These teams, whether temporary or permanent, work best when they focus on a specific goal.


Cross-Functional Teams’ Main Benefits 

When done correctly, cross-functional teams accomplish two things: 

First, they create a healthy, collaborative culture in which every participant can fully utilize their problem-solving abilities. 

Secondly, they distribute the workload so that no single person or department is overburdened. The most important answer for business owners to “What is a cross-functional team?” is that, when done correctly, they are a way to maximize efficiencies, boost collaboration, and ultimately increase profits.

Improving the workplace culture

A healthy workplace environment is becoming increasingly important as millennials enter the workforce. This generation, more than any other, values creating a home away from home with their coworkers and will resign quickly if they are dissatisfied. 

A cross-functional team allows members to interact freely and collaborate, allowing them to develop and harvest innovative ideas and strategies. The entire team is accountable. 

Cross-functional and well-designed teams are also staffed with a mix of personality types, leadership styles, and professional skills, increasing the team’s inherent agility.

Workload Management

Having effective cross-functional teams as a business owner is the way to achieve peace of mind and successful business outcomes. 

The difference between business operators and business owners is having a team of competent, like-minded professionals. Building a cross-functional team enables you to progress from being a business operator to a powerful business owner.


Forming a Cross-Functional Team 

You cannot just put a lot of people in a place and expect them to come up with the next iPhone. The keyword in the phrase “cross-functional team” is functional. Successful teams require strong leadership, clear goals, and a path to success consistent with your company’s strategy and culture.

1. Begin with Leadership

Focused leadership is critical for the success of any cross-functional team. According to Tony Robbins, one of the six basic leadership skills is inspiring others by discovering our strengths and encouraging others to do the same. Choose a leader who excels at this: the team will consistently outperform in their absence. 

The cross-functional team must also thrive under the leadership style you select. Common leadership styles include servant, democratic, visionary, coaching, affiliative, pacesetting, and commanding approaches. None of the leadership styles is either right or wrong; your choice will depend on your team members’ personalities, temperaments, and skill sets.

2. Select Working Styles 

Because cross-functional teams bring various skills, communication methods, and personalities to the table, you must also understand the working styles of your team members. 

Your team members’ working styles will influence the systems you put in place to organize workflow, whether they prefer to work independently, in collaboration with others, or alongside others. When you understand each person’s style, you can facilitate better communication and thus achieve better results.

3. Combining Different Personalities

It is not enough to identify working styles and skills; they must be combined to promote collaboration. A diverse range of departments and levels of experience must be represented on an effective cross-functional team. While senior management and executives are typically not involved in this type of team, ensure that all other levels and relevant departments are included to get the best mix of ideas.

Each type of business personality is represented on the best teams: an artist, a leader, and an entrepreneur. Take our business identity quiz to learn about your team’s passions and the complementary personality types you need to hire for effective cross-functional teams.

4. Have Very Clear Goals

Even the best cross-functional team will struggle if they are not given clear, actionable goals to work toward. Define your goals before forming your team because the goals will influence who you choose to be on the team. 

Consider what you want the team to accomplish and who can propel the company in that direction. While you should always set long-term and big-picture goals, you should also empower your cross-functional team to set short-term goals among themselves. Request that your team create smaller SMART goals they must achieve over a specific period to reach the larger goal.

5. Celebrate Success 

A good cross-functional team will thrive on success and want to be recognized for it.  Celebrating successes encourages the team to collaborate and assist one another rather than focusing solely on their part of the project. When you recognize achievements, you recognize not only the accomplishment but also the communication, teamwork, and collaboration required. So, when you have a big win, celebrate because it will motivate the team to work even harder.

5. Provide the Appropriate Tools 

Things can quickly become confusing when you have a large cross-functional team or one that needs to communicate frequently. Make things easier for everyone by implementing project management software that keeps everyone on track and the same page. Consider including a chat tool, such as Slack, Skype, or Microsoft Teams, where you can create groups to communicate about specific topics. Finally, cross-train team members on the tools used by other departments on the team. You will provide professional development and be ready if team members are absent.

7. Commit to Permanent Improvement 

Your cross-functional team is extremely agile due to the diverse range and mix of skill sets and talents, and they must continue to develop. This requires constant re-evaluation and tweaking to ensure that each member performs to their full potential. 

Cross-functional teams are frequently formed to focus on a single task or goal, such as bringing a product to market faster or providing innovative advertising ideas. Once the goal has been met, assess the team’s performance and any lessons learned that will help you be even more effective the next time.


Cross-Functional Collaboration 

Collaboration is the key to effective cross-functional teams. Collaboration, when done well, can not only solve the problem at hand but also promote a collaborative culture throughout the organization. 

Such a culture is critical in many aspects of work, including goal setting, problem-solving, and working together daily. Cross-functional teams are a great way to make collaboration a more intrinsic part of the business.

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