What Are Cross-Functional Teams? Everything You Need To Know (2022)

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Traditional organizational configurations often consist of a hierarchical structure, with a top-down approach to management and each department tackling a specific area. While this approach has its benefits, it can also result in unanticipated inefficiencies and a silo approach to conducting business.

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The antidote? Cross functional teams within the organization. While most departments are organized by expertise and purpose, cross functional teams are groups of people with different viewpoints and expertise who collaborate to achieve a common objective.

What Is a Cross-Functional Team?

Cross functional teams are groups of people from various departments in an organization—such as marketing, product development, quality assurance, sales and finance—who work together to achieve a common goal. Oftentimes, cross functional teams are organized to complete a specific project, but they can also be created with a more ongoing purpose.

Benefits of a Cross-Functional Team

Cross functional teams break through the “silos” of a traditional organizational structure so that the team can see the big picture. By working with members who have varying viewpoints, expertise and backgrounds, the collective team can more efficiently tackle problems and achieve the goals of a project. They can also anticipate hurdles earlier in the process because each department has input throughout the process, rather than a project moving from department to department.

(Video) Cross-Functional Teams

Cross-Functional Teams Promote the Goals of the Organization

When departments operate primarily within their specific vertical, they often focus on their own goals without seeing the big picture. For instance, the sales team may be concerned about securing new customers but they lose sight of the personnel issues involved with an overwhelmed crew. The finance team might be so focused on the bottom line that they are hesitant to take on the risks of launching a new product line. And the marketing team might be so eager to launch a new brand or product that they aren’t focused on product development challenges.

By putting together people with seemingly competing day-to-day goals, you can ensure that the goals of the organization are advanced throughout the entire project.

Cross-Functional Teams Increase Efficiency

Instead of a project moving through one department before being passed off to the next, cross functional teams increase the efficiency of project completion. Because you are working with personnel from other departments, the team can address potential challenges before moving too far along in the process.

For instance, if the product development department creates an innovative new product, only to find out that the sales department has concerns about actually selling the product, there will be wasted time in the project. On the other hand, if the sales department works alongside product development in a cross functional team, the potential challenges can be addressed earlier on to minimize lost time and sunk costs.

Cross-Functional Teams Can Increase Innovation

Departments often become so focused on sharpening their own skills and achieving their specific goals that they lose sight of the big picture. Siloed departments can get stuck in a rut. But by combining different viewpoints and knowledge, cross functional teams can increase innovation of both processes and products. They can find holistic solutions to meet the needs of the organization because they can see the perspectives of other functionalities.

Downsides of a Cross-Functional Team

There are a few cons to cross functional teams. For instance, some experts warn that they can limit the professional growth of individual members because they are focused on achieving the goals of a specific project. To prevent this, some organizations institute limited terms for group members, with members from the various departments rotating into and out of the team to prevent stagnation.

Another risk is that if a project is too broad or poorly defined, cross functional teams can flounder aimlessly. And if the organization doesn’t create effective compensation systems, team members can become disgruntled. These potential downsides can be minimized with careful planning, however, such as instituting an agile project management framework.

How To Create an Effective Cross-Functional Team

Ensure Diversity Within the Team

Diversity is a cornerstone of cross functional teams, but this isn’t confined to diversity of expertise. The more diverse the group is, the more effective and productive it will be at meeting its goals. This means diversity of age, status, background, viewpoint, gender, race and tenure with the organization.

Include Influencers

It is important that the team includes members of various departments who are influencers not only within their own respective departments but also within the organization as a whole. At some point, the cross functional team needs the buy-in of the organization and its various departments, so it is important to include people who can effectively communicate the hows and whys of the team’s work to others in the organization.

Set Clear Goals for the Cross-Functional Team

As mentioned above, if the project is too broad or lacks clear goals, the team may falter. But if you establish clear goals with specific deadlines or milestones, you can increase the likelihood that the team will meet the project’s objectives. Using project management tools can also help keep the team on task and communicate progress.

Reinforce the Team’s Authority and Discourage Hierarchies

In order for the team to be productive and efficient, the members need to be respected within the organization. It is important to establish their authority regarding the project and to reinforce their goals throughout the duration of the work.

Similarly, organizational leadership also needs to discourage a hierarchical approach within the group. Because diversity is a key feature of a cross functional team, members who have less experience than other members need to feel safe to share their viewpoints.

Encourage positive and healthy conflict resolution.

Conflict situations can arise in any situation, but cross functional teams may be more susceptible to conflicts because of the diversity of viewpoints, experience and expertise. Leadership can help to minimize the negative impact of conflicts by arranging conflict resolution training for all team members and making sure that they have opportunities to connect on a personal level. This can be done by increasing the proximity of team members in the workplace, through team-building exercises and by fostering productive communication.

Bottom Line

Your organization may already be using cross functional teams without realizing it. Take a look at the way your organization’s departments work with each other. If there are informal cross functional teams popping up organically, you may want to be more intentional about your approach to these groups. And if you aren’t utilizing cross functional teams in your organization, now is a good time to consider implementing them.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should an organization create a cross-functional team?

Cross functional teams can be created anytime, but they often work best—especially when new—if they have specific and clear directives. Accordingly, an organization should consider creating a cross functional team to address a specific and timely project.

Who should assemble the cross-functional team?

An organization’s leadership should assemble the members of the cross functional team, with input from HR on potential personnel issues. When creating the team, consider the expertise, experience level and communication styles of the candidates.

(Video) Why Cross-Functional Team Is Important

Are there any drawbacks to implementing cross-functional teams?

While the positives often outweigh the negatives, there are some drawbacks to having cross-functional teams in use in your organization. Among these include making sure that a strong organizational plan is in place that considers the outcomes to the business or company as your staff gets reorganized, verifying that you have the proper personnel in place to pull off a strong cross-functional team and that departments or teams that lose members can remain strong without the team members pull into the cross-functional team.

FAQs

What is a cross-functional team? ›

A cross-functional team is a group of people with a variety of expertise who come together to achieve a common goal. It typically includes employees from all levels of an organization.

What is cross-functional team with example? ›

A cross-functional team is a set of people with different skill sets, responsibilities and disciplines who work together to perform specific tasks. An example is a firefighting crew.

What does it mean to work cross functionally? ›

Cross-functional collaboration happens when different groups or individuals within a company with different functional expertise come together to work towards a common goal.

Why is cross-functional team important? ›

Cross-functional teamwork helps foster relationships amongst teams who otherwise would have never crossed paths, creating a collaborative culture that benefits all levels of an organization.

What are the three main roles that you would find in a cross-functional team? ›

Communication, collaboration, coordination: The 3 Cs guiding successful cross-functional teams.

What are cross-functional skills? ›

In other words, a cross-functional skill candidate is a person who has mastered one or more related skills or technologies but also has a grasp of other technology/skills.

What is the key to working cross functionally with success? ›

Communication is the Key to Cross-Functional Success

Connecting the tools that align with the ways that people naturally communicate and learn gives everyone a chance to contribute and increases the likelihood of success for each cross-functional contributor.

How does a cross-functional team help lead change? ›

Leading companies know that strong cross-functional teams are central to building innovative solutions at a fast pace. At their best, cross-functional teams bring together top talent with different skill sets to develop, build, and market products that can launch a company far past the competition.

What is another word for cross-functional? ›

A cross-functional team, also known as a multidisciplinary team or interdisciplinary team, is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal.

Who leads cross-functional teams? ›

A cross-functional leader is someone who is in charge of a team with members who are from different departments and disciplines within an organization.

Which behavior indicates a team is cross-functional? ›

Agile Teams are Cross-Functional

They can: Define – Independently elaborate and design features and stories to accomplish their mission. Build – Contain all skills necessary to create the artifacts to meet their mission. Test – Ensure an artifact's quality and performance.

How do you implement cross-functional teams? ›

Developing cross-functional teams
  1. Identify the skills and expertise needed. ...
  2. Choose the right personalities. ...
  3. Select quality leadership. ...
  4. Clarify each team member's purpose. ...
  5. Develop a team charter. ...
  6. Set a clear budget. ...
  7. Create project schedules. ...
  8. Establish lines of communication.

Can you give an example of cross-functional work you have done? ›

Examples of cross-functional improvement projects include: Sales and marketing working together to improve the process of handing off leads. Manufacturing floor managers and procurement staff making improvements to reduce inventory or ensure part availability.

What makes a functional team? ›

Teamwork keeps communication lines open. Creates and maintains a climate of trust and open, honest communication. Allows team members to talk openly with one another. Promotes the exchange of feedback.

Is cross-functional teamwork a skill? ›

Cross-functional team leadership is when you manage a group of people who come from several different departments, with different functions and different skill sets. It's one of the most powerful tools for innovative organizations—and one of the most tricky to use effectively.

What are functional skills examples? ›

Communication Exchange, convey, and express knowledge and ideas. Information Management Arrange and retrieve data, knowledge, and ideas. Physical Use hands, tools to build, repair and invent. Organization Management Direct and guide a group in completing tasks and attaining goals.

What behaviors help create a functional team? ›

Cross-functional team best practices
  • Build a foundation of open communication. ...
  • Define goals and develop a plan of action. ...
  • Build trust. ...
  • Streamline decision-making processes. ...
  • Understand your team's identity. ...
  • Prepare for conflict resolution. ...
  • Re-evaluate and improve processes.

What is an example of a functional team? ›

Functional Work Teams

For instance, the housekeeping of a hotel is the responsibility of the laundry and cleaning department, which is an excellent example of a functional team as all members belong to the same department and contribute towards the common goal. Each member has a functional role to play.

What are the five key concepts of successful collaboration? ›

The 5 Rules of Effective Collaboration
  • Get Aligned. This critical piece is about ensuring everyone on the team understands why cracking the challenge matters and the size of the opportunity ahead. ...
  • Get Structure. ...
  • Get Diverse. ...
  • Get Active. ...
  • Get Human.
23 Mar 2018

What is cross-functional decision making? ›

By (cross-functional) decision order, we mean the decision process in which each member of the cross-functional team makes necessary decisions exactly once, in a predetermined sequence.

What is the opposite of cross-functional teams? ›

Adjective. Opposite of performing multiple functions. monofunctional. single-function.

What is a better word for collaboration? ›

In this page you can discover 20 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for collaboration, like: cooperation, coaction, teamwork, quislingism, interaction, collaborationism, synergy, relationship, partnership, dialogue and collaborative.

How do you effectively work together? ›

12 easy ways to improve workplace teamwork
  1. The role of leaders. It starts at the top. ...
  2. Communicate, every day, every way. Good communication is at the heart of great teamwork. ...
  3. Exercise together. ...
  4. Establish team rules. ...
  5. Clarify purpose. ...
  6. Recognize and reward. ...
  7. Office space. ...
  8. Take a break.

What 3 factors improve teamwork and success? ›

Collaboration, cooperation, and competition work together to improve teamwork, and as we improve in one area, it can lead to benefits in another, creating a momentum which will lead us to optimal performance.

What is an example of a functional team? ›

Functional Work Teams

For instance, the housekeeping of a hotel is the responsibility of the laundry and cleaning department, which is an excellent example of a functional team as all members belong to the same department and contribute towards the common goal. Each member has a functional role to play.

How do you create a cross-functional team? ›

Developing cross-functional teams
  1. Identify the skills and expertise needed. ...
  2. Choose the right personalities. ...
  3. Select quality leadership. ...
  4. Clarify each team member's purpose. ...
  5. Develop a team charter. ...
  6. Set a clear budget. ...
  7. Create project schedules. ...
  8. Establish lines of communication.

Is cross-functional team mandatory for agile? ›

Perhaps the most prevalent and persistent myth in agile is that a cross-functional team is one on which each person possesses every skill necessary to complete the work. This is simply not true.

What is another word for cross-functional? ›

A cross-functional team, also known as a multidisciplinary team or interdisciplinary team, is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal.

What are cross-functional skills? ›

In other words, a cross-functional skill candidate is a person who has mastered one or more related skills or technologies but also has a grasp of other technology/skills.

What are the 4 main types of teams? ›

Teams can be divided into four main groups: project teams, self-managed teams, virtual teams, and operational teams. What type of team you have depends on its purpose, location, and organizational structure. Each type of team comes with its unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

How do you ensure cross-functional team effectiveness? ›

How Do You Develop Cross Functional Collaboration?
  1. Begins With the Team Leader. ...
  2. Have Clear Decision-Making.
  3. Resource the Team with Subject Matter Experts, too. ...
  4. Developing Agile Teams. ...
  5. Define roles and responsibilities as clearly as possible. ...
  6. Implement a core-team model for the Cross Functional team.

How does a cross-functional team help lead change? ›

Cross-functional team leadership creates extra demand on those skills, or requires them to be used in unique ways.
  1. Creating mutual understanding. ...
  2. Excellent communication. ...
  3. Project management. ...
  4. Decision-making. ...
  5. Clear goals. ...
  6. Conflict resolution. ...
  7. Problem-solving. ...
  8. Team building.

How big should a cross-functional team be? ›

What size makes sense to you? The experts from Wharton Business School suggest five or six, but also acknowledge its age-old question. On a cross-functional team, it may depend on which roles need to be filled, but 12 or under seems like a good rule of thumb.

Which behavior indicates a team is cross-functional? ›

Agile Teams are Cross-Functional

They can: Define – Independently elaborate and design features and stories to accomplish their mission. Build – Contain all skills necessary to create the artifacts to meet their mission. Test – Ensure an artifact's quality and performance.

Videos

1. Cross Functional Teams: Their definition and benefits
(Krishnamurty Pammi)
2. How to build a cross functional Agile team - in five minutes
(Agile in 5 minutes)
3. The Journey To CROSS FUNCTIONAL Development Teams
(Healthy Software Developer)
4. Netflix Culture Explained: Working Cross-Functionally
(WeAreNetflix)
5. 3 | Collaborating with Cross-Functional Teams | The ABCs of Product Management
(Productboard)
6. Why Cross-Functional Teams Build Better Microservices • Peter-Gillard Moss • GOTO 2016
(GOTO Conferences)

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