Working With and Within a Cross-Functional Team

team management
Cross-functional team meeting
How many times have you engaged in or heard griping about having to work with an outsider—anyone who is not a part of your regular team or department? How many times have negative comments outnumbered the positive ones? When you are developing or working within a cross-functional team, how can you maximize its potential and effect a positive outcome?

Construction and Operation

A cross-functional team comprises individuals with diverse areas of expertise and works toward a collaborative goal. You can import members of other departments or organizations to construct your team.

Resistance and acrimony may develop from feelings of competitiveness or a perceived threat of inadequacy. Reassurance of confidence and competence is the only offering possible. Explaining the expertise brought by the “outsiders” is both necessary and unavailable within other members to the high degree necessary for problem resolution.

As a member of a cross-functional team, you may be assigned team duties in addition to your normal work load, or you might be assigned temporary duty within the team, returning to your normal job description and work responsibilities once the team has completed its work.

Examples of cross-functional teams are in the news often: A combined-agency law enforcement task  is a prime example. Joint military operations is another, whether the forces are from different branches of the same country’s military or conjoined in a joint exercise with another country’s military forces.

Within a business environment, a cross-functional team can be developed from finance, marketing, research and development and logistics, for example. The team goal might be developing a product line earlier than projected or overcoming snafus in the development process—anything that requires input from non-departmental experts.

Enhancing Success

Once initial resistance is overcome, a cross-functional team that is well-constructed and focused can have quick results that an internal team cannot provide. However, there are general outlines and parameters for operation that maximize the team’s potential…

1. Set Goals

The team must have a clear goal. Without it, the team has no set direction and can dissolve into chaos.

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Every member should have a clear understanding of his roles and responsibilities, as well as those held by others. Clear lines of communication should be outlined as well as a chain of command, and core-department personnel may not always be at the top of the communications and authority food chain.

Never succumb to the temptation of favoring one’s own personnel over others’. Always ensure the right person is in the right role with the right level of responsibility and authority. In a cross-functional team, the old adage of “there is no I in ‘team’” is never more important.

3. Evaluate Team Resources and Needs

Does your team need dedicated space and equipment? If so, provide it or gain access to it. Does the team and the individuals within it have equal access to shared information and resources? If not, maximize as much as possible. If not, ensure the liaison from that department or organization has the authority to share upon valid request and the procedures are announced.

4. Determine working protocol

Ensure everyone knows how the team and members will operate. Ensure ethics, boundaries and restrictions are known. Ensure proper authority is assigned. Have operational requirements established and confirmed.

5. Lastly, ensure the team leadership style complements the team goal, methods and personnel.

Ensure the right leader is assigned and granted proper authority as well as responsibility. Ensure the person is properly empowered to accomplish the team mission.

The author of this post is Sara Woods, who writes for Coupon Croc, where you can find savings on everything you need to streamline your career or professional life.