Prior to beginning the process of building and leading of cross-functional teams, training consultants urge you to stop and consider how often to you take the time to consider the effects of combining members based on personality, experience and age? How about considering the level of interdependency you needed in order to achieve success?
The truth is, regardless of how you approach it, it’s always a challenge to create a new cross-functional team. Team members may be reluctant to participate due to not being happy to take on the additional workload; others find it difficult to prioritize their routine responsibilities with this extra workload. From a leaders perspective, you may find it difficult to set priorities, make decisions, motivate people and manage performance when you do not have direct authority over members of the team. Additionally, team members require the use of different skills while in a new environment. For example, a programmer who normally works alone may now be required to work with others.
Our training consultants have put together a quick list of recommendations to consider when overcoming these challenges. If you're tasked with setting up a cross-functional team, consider these four quick tips to help give your team the best chance of success:
Setting up Your Team
1. Set Objectives
Begin by setting a goal for your team. What are its objectives, and why have they been set up?
Our training consultants praise this as a pivotal first step in ensuring everyone on the team, and throughout the organization, is on the same page and understanding level. Set and run these objectives over with senior management and the managers of the departments affected by your new team.
2. Define the Group Dynamic and Roles: Golf Teams or Hockey Teams
Consider the concept of interdependence, the level of support needed within a team in order to achieve results. Think of the level of interdependence in terms of a golf team and a hockey team. Some teams can effectively operate as a golf team. Members of a golf team are a team, but they play the game mostly independent of their teammates. The team shares a common goal to get the best cumulative score, but they don’t need to rely on each other to make the best putts or to move the ball through the course. Each individual is a member of the team, but work independently of others to contribute to the overall score or achievement of goals.
Other teams need the interdependence of a hockey team where members handoff to one another to achieve the best score and make results a reality. There is much back and forth interaction needed for the team to be successful. Leaders must assess which team they need to be. A common mistake made by teams is playing together as a golf team instead of working synergistically as a hockey team.
When defining roles, remember to think about more than just the technical expertise each person should have. For example, will they need good communications skills, or good decision making skills? Or, will they need to be able to work to tight deadlines?
It's also important to give people the opportunity to talk through how they see things. Be really clear about what you can decide as a team, and what has already been agreed by more senior people.
3. Establish Ways of Working
With a new team, you can't make any assumptions about the processes that the team will use to meet its objectives. Instead, you need guidelines in place that explain how the team will work together.
Here are some areas to consider:
- How acceptable is it to be late to meetings? Do these always start on time, or do you wait for latecomers? How are meetings structured? Is an agenda sent out in advance of the meeting, and, if so, how far in advance will it be sent?
- Are team members copied into all email correspondence? Or only into correspondence about certain things?
- Are team members expected to be "always available" or is it accepted that people will have times when they can't be contacted?
- Who is involved in making decisions, and how are they made? Who is told about these decisions?
4. Adopt a Leadership Style that Speaks to Inclusion and Communication
There are many things to consider when choosing the appropriate leadership style. Today’s work environment provides many challenges to leaders such as expanding global technology, exponential increase in the rate of change and the multitude of decisions required daily. We face growing difficulties inherent in working in increasingly diverse work groups. Although each team faces its own unique challenges and issues, all teams must align themselves around the same basic teamwork components we have already discussed (i.e. level of interdependence and characteristics of high performing teams) in order to ensure the achievement of business goals, continued growth and long-term success. Diversity challenges often stem from a lack of understanding of our own and other people’s attitudes, values, personality, work style, and perceptions due to differences in experiences, culture, generation, among others. Training consultants urge for the practice of open-communication and inclusion to help flourish the following benefits from a cross-functional team.
By knowing, including, and leveraging talents, perspectives, and contributions of all team members, many opportunities and benefits will arise, include:
- Improved corporate performance
- Reduced turnover
- Improved retention and employee morale
- Increased innovation
- Ability to reach new markets and build upon customer relationships
- Increased efficiencies by minimizing misunderstanding