Does your organization function in silos?
Chances are that as your marketing department focuses on a new vertical, sales actively grow the current accounts. In contrast, customer success struggles across various verticals, trying to provide a personalized customer experience.
While each of these departments' functions is inherently different, their objectives should be consistent; otherwise your company might work itself out of business quickly by stretching its valuable resources in multiple directions at once.
Introducing cross-functional teams promotes cohesion across the company, optimizing your efforts to accomplish goals faster with minimal waste.
Read on to learn what is the meaning of the agile term "cross-functional team", how it works, its benefits, and examples for companies looking to grow with speed and agility.
What Is a Cross-Functional Team?
A cross-functional team is a group that consists of people from various functional areas of an organization, such as product, marketing, customer success, and sales.
These people sometimes belong to their department and cross-functional team, but an organizational structure can also consist solely of cross-functional team individuals.
Typically, cross-functional teams exist long-term. However, the company can also assemble them to meet specific goals and complete specific projects.
For instance, a member from the marketing department may help the sales department appeal to new leads for the latest product release, and a representative from logistics can keep track of what's working and what isn't. Also, these diverse skills can enhance the effectiveness of your Agile software development framework.
In short, members of cross-functional teams leverage their unique expertise for driving success for the entire team.
Benefits of Being a Cross-Functional Team
Cross-functional team companies are quickly replacing conventionally siloed departments. With opportunities for innovation, improved speed and organization, and more flexibility, it's no wonder that the World Economic Forum report (2020) found cross-functional team collaboration to be a critical leadership skill in 2020.
Here are some benefits of cross-functional teams:
Innovation and Insight
When people with unique perspectives and skill sets collaborate and connect, creativity thrives.
This cross-functionality transforms the typical 'group thinking' and motivates ideas to flow in from different ends of the company, making it easier to make improvements and detect issues within the value stream.
Furthermore, learning from team members who have different strengths and motives broadens the entire group's perspective and improves problem-solving skills. All these help with innovative and clever solutions that might have never surfaced if the members continued to work in siloed teams.
Cross-functional teams create a collaborative culture for members of different departments to achieve a collective objective.
Shared decision-making, frequent team building, and implementation of a standard language bridge the gaps among siloed teams and foster a more inclusive and cooperative company culture.
Enhanced Leadership Skills
One of the other great benefits of cross-functional team collaboration is that it allows individual employees to direct the project.
All employees have opportunities to develop and enhance their leadership skills with cross-functional teams, encouraging and motivating them to acclimate their collaboration, conflict management, and communication styles to the specific requirements of their team.
Innovative and new leaders can ensure a project's success, and they can also be fortified to seek management positions in the long run.
Increased Employee Engagement
Employee engagement has experienced a decline in the past few years, as the uncertainty of hybrid vs. remote vs. return to normalcy leaves companies struggling to ensure that their employees remain on track and connected.
According to Gallup's report (2021), 51% of the workers are disengaged in their workplaces, whereas 13% of them are actively disconnected. These employees aren't only hampering productivity levels – they’re also directly impacting the bottom line.
Cross-functional Teams Example
Here are some illustrative cross-functional team examples to enhance your understanding of team members' responsibilities and talents:
Marketing and Sales
Integrated marketing and sales teams can be organized by region, product, and other factors to minimize the political non-cooperation and tensions among the marketing and sales units.
An integrated marketing and sales team can perform diverse functions like lead qualification and generation, pricing, promotion, closing, customer service, and proposals.
Information Technology and Business Units
It is normal to combine the capabilities of information technology into business units. This enables you to address a lack of responsiveness and perceived lag on the information technology department's part.
Cross-functional teams might also address converse issues like business units with overly expensive or unrealistic requirements with little business justification. The idea is to have similar groups implementing, supporting, and creating conditions to try to introduce low-value requirements and slow things down
Cross-functional teams can be temporary structures that exist during a project. The idea behind this is to get all the members you require to complete projects on one cohesive team, to avoid the negative and overhead politics that can happen when various large departments of a company are involved.
For instance, a cross-functional team for an IT project may have a particular business unit representative, several software developers, and a designer.
Product Development Teams
Cross-functional teams for product development, research and other innovative functions focus on diversity and depth of talent.
One example is product development teams with market research, industry, user interface design, engineering, visual design, finance, marketing, supply chain, and finance-related talents.
Cross-functional teams enable your organization to solve problems more efficiently and quickly. They boost innovation due to individuals with different functional departments working simultaneously on novel ideas, and augment company alignment as team members collaborate to reach shared goals.
The cross-functional team examples outlined above can help you manage and put together excellent cross-functional teams.