“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Cross-functional teams seem to be very popular at the moment. If you are new to the concept, you might be wondering ‘Why do I want to create a cross-functional team?’ A few reasons for you to ponder below.
Input and Ideas
When working on a project, you might find that it would be beneficial to gather others’ insights. Sure, you might have your own ideas, however a collective ‘think-tank’ is bound to expand thinking. If your project is about finding new ways, improving processes or coming up with new ideas, then it makes sense to gather a diverse group from which to seek ideas. Invite people who you know will have a different perspective, invite people from departments that are different to yours, invite people who may have a vested interest in the project outcomes. Whilst you don’t want the group to be too large (depending on the situation, generally no more than 8 – 10) you do want to have some diverse opinions from which innovation or inspiration is likely to come.
Politics and Policy
Some projects are going to have significant impact on others in your department or organisation. There may also be impacts on external customers or stakeholders. Especially when the project will lead to change, it is important to seek input from those who the change will affect. Allowing people to have their say or provide their ideas will go a long way towards effective change management – they and their team will feel ‘heard’ and you may also prevent problems you hadn’t anticipated. Even if the changes are not ones that people agree with, giving them a say in the process often helps to alleviate issues later. A cross-functional team is a relatively easy way to start to deal with the politics of a project.
Many projects also may be limited by, or involve change to policy . It’s very important to involve the policy makers / holders / governors during the process. Whether they are part of the cross-functional team from the beginning, or whether they are brought in at the relevant stages, their involvement could save serious headaches later!
Involve and Invigorate
As humans, we are innately designed to participate in a community. Whether an extrovert or introvert, we all generally have a need to feel involved. A cross-functional team is a great way to harness this need and to invigorate action and acceptance. Invite those who are passionate about your project to contribute and act as advocates within the wider organisation. Invite those who may be skeptical and have them involved in understanding the issues and solving problems – turning a skeptic into an advocate is a huge win and often results from cross-functional discussion.
These are just a few reasons why creating a cross-functional team can be a productive and positive influence on your project. While we can overdo meetings and involving others, if we do things the right way, the benefits can be wide-spread.
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