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Solving Cross Functional Collaboration Road Blocks

Posted by Jeff Roussel

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May 8, 2014 10:00:00 AM

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Creating Effective Teams

Wikipedia defines a cross functional team as a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal.  But what does that really mean, and why are they so hard to manage successfully?  

In many cases, a cross functional team is simply a group of people from the different departments across a business who come together with the goal of solving a specific problem.  However, it is easy to discount the other values that truly diverse teams can bring to projects and groups.  

This type of diversity allows organizations to:

  1. Create cultures where employees take ownership of problems and work together to bring about solutions

  2. Increase teamwork, leading to greater levels of commitment from everyone

  3. Facilitate communication more broadly across many different groups

  4. Increase the chance that positive change sticks

Given the importance of cross functional teams to an organization’s success, here are a few of the common roadblocks that you may have to overcome to make your team successful:

1.  Lack of Diversity

It’s easy to pick one person from finance, operations, and sales to develop a team, but if you really want to maximize the effectiveness of your team, you should create a group that is diverse across a number of areas.  

Here’s a list of variables that you should keep in mind when putting together your team:
  1. Experience

  2. Ability

  3. Skills

  4. Seniority

  5. Tenure

  6. Age

  7. Gender

  8. Location

2.  Too Many Meetings

It’s important to limit the number of meeting in any cross functional collaboration efforts. Everyone has a day job, and if you ask too much of them, you won’t get their best effort. Make sure you leverage newer technologies such as communication and collaboration tools. At KaiNexus, we use tools like Google Docs, GoToMeeting, and KaiNexus, and I’d recommend you take advantage of these or similar platforms to make it easier for your team members to collaborate.

I would also recommend that each meeting should have a very strict agenda, an assigned note-taker, and a well defined method to document follow up tasks.  Often, we set a timer on a mobile phone to limit our time on any one topic.  Or better yet, don’t hesitate to use the most surefire method to ensure a meeting ends on time - remove the chairs from the meeting room.

3.  Not Measuring the True Impact

At a team level, knowing the impact you are having can create momentum and often mean the difference to sustained success.  Across your organization, developing a standard way to measure the impact of every cross functional team can help you to truly understand the impact of your improvement efforts.  Proper measurement improves the visibility and transparency of your teams’ accomplishments, which helps you make course corrections in a timely, accurate manner.

Although there a number of roadblocks to overcome, cross functional teams are most definitely worth the effort.  Just make sure everyone remembers the most important word - Team.  You should set very specific goals for the team, and then compare every action against the impact toward these goals.  You’ll be amazed by how your teams will pull together and leverage one another to solve all types of issues.

We saw a great example of this at Array Architects recently when an architect was included on a cross functional team that was tasked with solving an accounting issue.  The architect recommended a solution that he had implemented years before, and his idea not only solved the problem, but it saved the company money and time by utilizing an existing software program that already existed within Array.  It’s a solution that would have never been identified if Array was not so disciplined about including many different types of people on their problem solving teams.  

With a little forethought and discipline, you will be able to create very successful cross functional groups.  However, if you’re having trouble creating or measuring the impact of your cross functional teams, contact one of the improvement experts at KaiNexus and let us show you how technology and methodology can be used together to maximize your improvement efforts.

Topics: Collaboration

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