According to a study cited in the Harvard Business Review, 75% of cross-functional teams are ineffective. They will not deliver the project or service they have been tasked with in the way the organization would like. If they are even able to deliver it at all! Many cross-functional teams may not perform as expected, but they are still very common in business today. The main question is: how can you build an (even more) effective cross-functional team?
The concept of Cross-Functional teams
What is a cross-functional team? And when does it add value to a project? Cross-functional teams (aka multidisciplinary teams) are groups of people with different functional specialties or multidisciplinary skills. They are responsible for carrying out all phases of a program or project. From start to finish.
When should you use a cross-functional team?
Multidisciplinary teams seem to be most effective in companies with fast changing markets. Like software, telecom and pharmaceuticals. As well as industries that value adaptability, speed and have an intense focus on responding to customer needs. Which in today’s world is just about every organization!
Advantages of Cross-Functional teams
In his book Cross-Functional Teams: Working with Allies, Enemies and Other Strangers, author and consultant Glenn M. Parker describes six important competitive advantages to organizations that successfully implement cross-functional teams:
- Speed. Multidisciplinary teams often reduce the time it takes to get things done, especially in the product development process.
- Complexity. The teams improve an organization’s ability to solve complex problems by bringing together multiple perspectives.
- Customer focus. The teams focus on coordinating the organization’s resources to satisfy the customer’s need.
- Creativity. By bringing together people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, cross-functional teams increase the creative capacity of an organization.
- Organizational learning. Members of these teams are more readily able to develop new technical and professional skills, learn more about other disciplines and discover how to work with people who have different styles and cultural backgrounds than employees who do not participate in cross-functional teams.
- Single point of contact. The multidisciplinary team promotes efficiency by identifying one person to go to for information and for decisions about a project or customer.
Constructing a cross-functional team
There are four pillars that are the foundation for a successful multidisciplinary team:
- The right team members. To form an effective team, consider how you will bring together diversity, balance and complementary skills.
- Team development. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman came up with the team development phrasing of forming, storming, norming and performing. To get the most from your team, they need time and support to progress through each stage of team formation.
- Task delegation. Reduce confusion by dividing responsibilities among each team member.
- Communication. Effective, clear communication is key for the success of cross-functional teams. When you are working on a team, consider the communication needs of each team member.
It sounds easy, yet in practice, teams often struggle to be effective. There are a number of tools that can help you to build your team, and the Emergenetics Profile is one that can support all four pillars of successful development.
How to support cross-functional team success with Emergenetics
The Emergenetics Profile identifies the thinking and behavioural preferences of team members as well as shows the diversity and balance across the team. By understanding the preferences of your employees, you can construct cross-functional teams that are cognitively diverse. And have complementary strengths. When you understand the needs of each Emergenetics Attribute, you can accelerate the forming, storming and norming portions of team development by honoring all Profiles. Doing so will help you perform more quickly.
As you delegate tasks, consider the strengths of each teammate. An individual with an Analytical preference, for example, will likely enjoy delving into research and data for your team. Someone with a Social preference may be more interested in speaking to other departments and getting their feedback on your project. Be sure that as you delegate tasks, you also involve someone with different thinking and behavioral preferences – as their cognitive inclinations will spur new ideas.
To make communication more effective, use the Emergenetics attributes to guide how you present information within your team. Would someone prefer a written email or a face-to-face conversation? Do they need detail, or simply guidelines? By tailoring communication to the needs of the team members, cross-functional teams are far more effective collaborators. And, with the Emergenetics+ app you always have access to the Profiles of your team as a collective and each individual team member. So information about the strengths, communication preferences and needs of your teammates is always available.