Frequently, companies rely on an internal approach to tackle problems. One such practice commonly utilised by Human Resource (HR) departments is utilising different communication channels to enhance comprehension of health insurance schemes among their employees. This method enables the same group to create, enhance, and execute an optimal solution.
To confront the obstacles brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle them efficiently, it was essential for leadership teams to utilise the expertise of various departments like HR, IT, marketing, and customer service. By improving inter-departmental collaboration, businesses were able to create and execute proficient solutions, thus improving their overall effectiveness.
The following write-up intends to explore the advantages of multidisciplinary teams, the crucial elements that lead to their success, and the most potent techniques to encourage constructive communication among team members. However, before progressing, we must first examine the underlying reasons that make cross-functional teams so effective.
Defining Cross-Functional: What Is Its Meaning?
Multiple organisations have specialised teams responsible for performing distinct duties. For instance, the executive leadership is liable for strategic planning and decision-making, while the IT department manages technological concerns of the company. Similarly, the marketing team is responsible for creating and distributing content for targeted audiences. All of these departments are interlinked and interdependent.
A cross-functional team can be defined as a group comprising individuals from various departments with the common ambition of accomplishing a particular objective. Usually, these teams are formed when a company needs expertise from multiple areas to launch new technology or complete any project. These teams merge resources and outlooks of each department to devise practical and effective solutions.
Particular circumstances may only demand teams like cross-functional ones on a temporary basis, like when launching new technology. However, when organisations need continuous involvement from various departments, then these associations may remain active and even permanently exist. For instance, let’s consider the subject of feminism in the workplace. Irrespective of whether the team is temporary or permanent, a unified goal is crucial for its success.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Interdepartmental Collaboration
Cooperation and teamwork among various departments can present numerous benefits to an organisation. The overall effect of such interactions between employees from multiple business areas can offer opportunities for improvement and amplified productivity.
A group that consists of individuals from diverse fields can devise more innovative solutions to problems by merging distinct concepts. Consider the instance of Human Resources and IT collaborating to devise and execute technological solutions that would offer support to women in the workplace. This example aptly highlights a cross-functional team’s focus towards providing support for women in the workplace.
Having members from different departments attending meetings can augment the prospect of creating inventive solutions. For instance, the sales team may interact with current customers to understand their preferences and feedback related to the customer portal, which the IT department might not have direct access to. This information then paves the way for the team to plan ahead of introducing any new technology.
The above two scenarios shed light on how a cross-functional team can creatively come up with solutions to problems that could have otherwise gone unnoticed if a single department were to solely operate. According to Asana, a software company providing project management services, “A cross-functional team can bring new ideas and methodologies by breaking traditional thought processes, culminating in better outcomes for customers.”
Introducing multi-departmental teams can prove advantageous for an organisation, as these teams promote communication and collaboration between different sections. Including a few representatives from each division in the team can ensure that everyone acknowledges how their work contributes to the larger picture and business objectives. This, in turn, fosters a stronger sense of solidarity within the company.
Nevertheless, cross-functional teams encounter certain challenges despite the potential benefits.
One must be cautious of obscure objectives, as such unclear targets can leave cross-functional teams in a lurch, unable to provide meaningful solutions for the organisation. To avoid this issue, it is advisable to first identify the problems that the business endeavours to resolve, and then formulate clear objectives that are achievable and measurable concerning their impact on the problem.
Conflicting priorities among team members are a common issue that can impede a team’s progress to achieve their goal. Therefore, having a competent leader is essential to ensure all members work together towards a shared objective. In the worst-case scenario, a few members may seek to gain power, which could negatively impact the team’s overall performance and outcomes.
Recognising how to work together and identifying each individual’s proficiencies and how they can contribute towards the team’s goals is another challenge that newly-formed organisations must tackle. It is the leader’s duty to strive towards consensus among conflicting individuals in the group.
Team members may observe that their routine tasks take longer to accomplish due to the additional time spent on cross-functional teams, hindering their career advancement. In such cases, Forbes Advisor suggests companies to set timetables for team members and regularly rotate employees from other departments to strike a balance.
Approaches to Establishing a Multi-departmental Team
A cross-functional team refers to the formation of a team within an organisation comprising of individuals with different job functions.
Select a Goal to Strive Towards.
The start of creating a cross-functional team is to set the team’s objective. This might include a goal to increase revenue by 20% in the next year. It’s crucial to consider how the objective aligns with the overall goals of the organisation, such as maximising shareholder value or frequently introducing innovative products to customers.
Assemble the Team.
The initial step is to involve the pertinent stakeholders in the process. If the objective is to raise sales, appointing a salesperson to lead the team could be advantageous. It’s also advisable to gather input from other teams and identify potential collaborators.
The support team is frequently the primary interface with customers and, therefore, may have valuable insights into how to boost sales. The marketing team may have also conducted analyses on the target demographic that could offer useful input. The IT department might provide insight into the existing customer service technology and recommend enhancements. Lastly, the HR department may offer an understanding of the number of additional staff required to accommodate the potential increase in sales.
Diverse perspectives The success of a multi-departmental team is contingent on a variety of viewpoints and expertise from diverse sources, including ethnicity, gender, age, upbringing, and field of specialisation. By bringing together individuals with distinct backgrounds and specialisations, teams can move beyond the compartmentalised mindset that they were created to challenge.
Structure the Assignments.
Determine the team’s framework and establish communication protocols between sessions. Employ project management and productivity tools to assist in ordering meeting minutes and ideas. Additionally, create gateways to monitor the progress of the ultimate goal.
Proactively prepare for potential issues and disagreements. Seek advice from a senior manager to ensure that all objectives are met and that everyone is responsible for their roles and obligations. Determine what actions should be taken if the team fails to accomplish its objective.
It’s crucial to periodically review the team’s performance during the project, rather than waiting until its conclusion. Setting gateways for intermediate objectives and evaluating whether they have been accomplished, as well as identifying ways to increase efficiency, is necessary. Additionally, any separate groups working on different aspects of the project must keep the larger group apprised of their progress.
What Makes Cross-Functional Teams Successful?
Under what circumstances can teams composed of individuals from various departments be successful? Beyond ensuring diversity within the team, implementing sound conflict resolution methods and establishing well-defined objectives, companies that hope to benefit from a cross-functional approach should examine other tactics.
In the worst-case scenario, a cross-functional team can collaborate for months, devise efficient solutions, and achieve its objectives, only to have their work disregarded. For a cross-functional team to succeed, it’s crucial to gain the trust of senior management. To guarantee the project’s success, it’s essential to maintain oversight and frequently communicate the team’s objectives.
Although cross-functional teams have earned the respect of business executives, there is no assurance that their proposals will be accepted. To ensure that their ideas are backed and valued, it is critical that the team includes the company’s top leaders, whose knowledge and sway can assist in persuading and winning over any doubters.
Conventional departments within an organisation are often linked to particular roles and functions. For instance, a sales team usually fosters a competitive environment, with each person striving to meet their individual targets. On the other hand, the marketing team is typically made up of imaginative individuals who are constantly devising novel ways to promote the company’s products. To guarantee the success of cross-functional teams, it’s critical to concentrate on collaborative efforts and to foster a shared comprehension of their primary objectives.
Valuable Tips for Coordinating Efforts Among Departments
Efficient communication is crucial for the success of any cross-functional team. To assist your team in developing improved communication skills, we’ve compiled a series of resources below, including a video. Our goal is for these tools to enhance your team’s communication abilities.
Contemporary work teams have access to various communication techniques, and it’s crucial that these methods cater to the preferences of all team members. Nevertheless, to prevent messages, documents, and discussions from being lost or misplaced, it’s vital to limit the number of communication channels. It’s advantageous to establish a centralised hub where teams can store and retrieve data, enabling precise record-keeping of the team’s accomplishments.
In addition to conventional communication methods, modern professionals now have access to various technologies that facilitate communication. To determine which tools should be used by a cross-functional team, it’s advisable to inquire about the tools that team members find most advantageous. Instead of creating a new system, it’s more effective to adopt approaches used by other successful companies. Here are a few techniques that could enhance team communication.
Virtual Meeting Software
The COVID pandemic has resulted in professionals becoming increasingly adept at using conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. These services allow teams to collaborate without the need to physically gather in one location, while still facilitating a variety of interactions, such as live speeches, presentations, screen sharing, group brainstorming, and breakout sessions.
Incorporating these functionalities could enhance communication and assist teams in attaining their goals. When team members are unable to convene simultaneously in the same location, online methods appear to be the most effective option. However, it is advisable that teams gather in person on occasion to reinforce their bonds. All meetings, whether online or in-person, should be documented for future reference.
Instant Messaging Applications
Instant messaging applications, such as Slack, allow for discussions and the sharing of ideas while on-the-go. These are similar to the office ‘water cooler’, which has traditionally been a gathering spot for employees to participate in informal conversations that can often generate innovative, pragmatic ideas that can be put into practice in ongoing projects.
The growing use of non-traditional forms of electronic communication has led to many individuals no longer relying on email. Nevertheless, email can still be a useful tool for specific groups, particularly those that have cross-functional teams, and where email is already extensively used in the organisation. Through email, team members can maintain connectivity and provide input on projects even when they are not in the office, such as during business trips or from the comfort of their own homes.
Establishing communication protocols is beneficial for all team members. As per Atlassian, a provider of business software, it’s crucial that each team member feels comfortable sharing their views, even if they disagree. The leaders should provide direction on the most effective communication practices.
It’s typical to begin every meeting with a check-in, allowing each person present to provide an update on their work and any progress made since the previous meeting. Moreover, towards the end of the meeting, team members may have the chance to discuss any issues they’ve faced and any items that require attention.
In between planned meetings, team members are encouraged to stay connected with one another through messaging apps or other communication channels. Furthermore, the team members should support each other during challenging periods.
Leaders of cross-functional teams should emphasize to their members the protocols for providing and receiving constructive feedback. Investing in a training programme to develop the skills of cross-functional team members in this regard may be beneficial for businesses. Additionally, it’s important to establish guidelines on how to manage disagreements within the team.
When cross-functional team members are updated about significant developments, communication is efficient. Leaders must guarantee that constructive feedback is provided to their teams in a constructive manner. Instead of abandoning an unsuccessful endeavour, this can be viewed as an opportunity to explore alternative avenues.
The importance of efficient communication among multidisciplinary teams cannot be overemphasized. To guarantee the team’s triumph, it is crucial to designate a leader with superb communication abilities who can set a favourable example for the team in terms of how to engage, listen, and contribute.
Collaborating Across Departments
Efficient communication and collaboration are essential for the success of cross-functional teams. When executed correctly, it can enable teams to work together effectively to address challenges and accomplish objectives, while fostering a culture of cooperation within the company. Cross-functional teams are a valuable asset in establishing collaboration across all aspects of a company’s operations.