“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” ~Henry Ford
Most businesses – small and large – use cross-functional teams at some point. Whether or not they actually call it a cross-functional team is irrelevant – if there is a group of people from different parts of the business working on a project, process review or planning – it’s a cross-functional team. Cross-functional teams have many advantages over a single department focus – sharing of ideas across the company, gaining valuable input from stakeholders, compiling a strong business case for change – just to name a few.
Whether the cross-functional team is undertaking a one-off meeting or involved in a year-long committment, it’s important that we maximise the resources (people and time) assigned. So how do we get the most out of these often diverse teams?
There are many factors to be considered to help ensure and effective cross-functional team: ranging from budget to office politics to communication skills. At the very basic level, there are some core elements to address in the initial stages of creating a cross- functional group. These elements may be handled differently depending on the business and the scope of work, however they should all be considered.
These core elements can be divided into three areas:
The above order is deliberate. Deciding the ‘what’ helps determine the ‘who’, which in turn will help shape the’ how’.
- SMART objectives (specific-measurable-realistic-timebound): what is the team to achieve?
- Business impact: how might the team’s objectives help the business? are there any predetermined risks in either not achieving or achieving the objectives?
- Relevant representation: what roles / people are essential to be involved to achieve the objectives? what roles / people might be required for occasional input beyond the essential membership?
- Team leader: who will lead the team and what will be their responsibilities? (having a leader is actually quite important!)
- Team sponsor: is an executive management sponsor required and if so, what will be their responsibilities?
- Operating guidelines: what are the different team members’ roles and responsibilities; (and once formed) what is fundamental to ensure we are working well together? )
- Milestones: to achieve the objectives, what are the key steps involved?
Beyond these initial key elements, there are other factors that should be considered to sustain an effective cross-functional team -these will be discussed in a later post. In the initial set up of such teams, if the WHAT, the WHO and the HOW are at least covered, then you will be off to a good start in maximising your team’s efforts.
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