Taroona Sharma

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Essentials for Cross-Functional Teams

Cross-functional teams as the name suggests is a team that has people from different functional groups in it. They are all working towards a common goal but the skills they bring to the team are unique. Someone might possess financial knowledge, someone might be the king or queen of IT and others might be from marketing, sales, or operations. These are a set of individuals who speak different languages. For example, when an IT expert uses the term AGILE in a cross-functional team; he won’t necessarily be referring to moving quickly and easily. He would rather be using it for a methodology of software development that involves breaking a large project into smaller and more attainable milestones.

Many times it does happen that some team members who are mostly working on computer keep on sending urgent emails to members who are mostly away from their desks. For e.g. a Research Analyst sending emails to IT infrastructure Analyst. The IT infrastructure Analyst would only reply emails when he or she is available on desk (unless this person has corporate email configured on phone) and Research Analyst might be expecting immediate response. This situation can lead to frustration and misunderstanding between the two members esp. when this happens routinely.

Another example would be of a Financial Analyst working with an IT programmer to load some metrics in an online database. The IT programmer might want the data in a certain manner and the financial analyst might provide it in the way it’s usually used by the finance teams. It’s not the programmer’s job to re-arrange the worksheets and so the financial analyst would have to do some re-work. This again might lead to frustration and misunderstandings esp. if the changes requested are simple like changing the blank’s in the spreadsheet to N/A. The programmer might be bound by a service level agreement for not changing anything in the sheet. While the financial analyst might be thinking that there is no need for re-work if the programmer can make that simple update in the sheet by himself.

There are many situations that occur routinely in organizations between people just because they are unique and do not clearly understand the dynamics and thinking of people from other functions. We can’t expect everyone to be aware of everything in the world and thus it becomes really important for each of us at individual level to understand the responsibilities of people working with us.

  • It is essential to conduct regular meetings where everyone provides updates and discusses any limitations openly without the fear of being judged. Unless members of the cross-functional teams interact with each other openly they won’t be able to benefit from each other.
  • It is important to be patient and cooperate with others. Someone might be really busy preparing the annual budget or for an important firm event. If you are expecting an immediate reply consider talking on phone or meet in-person if you are in the same office.
  • Time management is also essential. It is highly unlikely that members of the cross-functional team are working only on a single project. They might have other things in their plate which may be more, less or equally important. Under such circumstances, the team should collectively decide on the amount of time they would dedicate towards the project e.g. everyone would spend 10% of their time on the project for next 6 months.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for support or express interest in learning new skills. The biggest benefit of cross-functional teams is that they have a wide variety of talent among them. Some of this talent might be clearly evident via the roles people perform while others might be hidden inside their hobbies. For e.g. a software programmer can be a lead guitarist or singer. Likewise, a communications person might be learning Dreamweaver to develop his or her designing skills. It might just happen that you are requested to perform a task which requires taking help from others, or you might find an opportunity to exhibit skills gained out of interest. Therefore, it is important to keep an open mind and participate in opportunities that require exchange of skills.
  • Develop your listening and communication skills. People who understand the ideas of others and who know the art of communicating their point of view without hurting others are probably the best fit for cross-functional teams. But, professional situations are not idealistic and therefore it is a wise idea to keep on practicing your listening skills and communication abilities routinely in various situations including the cross-functional teams. This would help you improve your knowledge about other areas and you will be able to ask relevant questions. For e.g. what is AGILE? Can it be used for non-IT projects? Or shouldn’t we consult the legal department first before hosting that application on apple store.

Cross-functional teams are the best place to develop some inter-personal skills and for networking. By considering some of the essentials enlisted above you might just become a popular and eminent member of such teams, where people not only value you for your skills but also for your overall personality.


One comment on “Essentials for Cross-Functional Teams

  1. akabrainz
    January 19, 2015

    Reblogged this on akabrainz.


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This entry was posted on December 29, 2014 by in Management, teamwork and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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