Corporations often utilize an internal approach to problem-solving. For example, Human Resource (HR) teams may leverage multiple communication channels to improve the understanding of health insurance options among employees. This approach enables the same group of people to generate, refine and implement an effective solution.
In order to effectively address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was necessary for leadership teams to draw on the expertise of multiple departments, including HR, IT, marketing, customer service and others. Through increased collaboration between departments, companies were able to develop effective solutions that improved their efficiency.
This article will investigate the benefits of multidisciplinary teams, the key aspects that lead to their accomplishment, and the most effective methods for encouraging productive communication amongst members. Before proceeding, however, we must first consider what makes cross-functional teams so effective.
Definition of Cross-Functional: What Does It Mean?
Many businesses have distinct departments dedicated to a range of duties. The executive team, for instance, is responsible for strategic planning and making key decisions. The IT department handles the organization’s technological requirements. The marketing team creates and disseminates content to targeted audiences. All of these divisions are interdependent.
It is possible to define a cross-functional team. These teams consist of individuals from different departments who come together to achieve a common goal. Such teams are often created when an organization requires expertise from multiple areas to complete a project or introduce new technology. These teams combine resources and perspectives from each department to find a successful solution.
In certain circumstances, such as when introducing new technology, cross-functional teams are only required on a temporary basis. However, when the organization requires ongoing input from multiple departments, these relationships may be ongoing or even permanent. As an example, take the issue of feminism in the workplace. For any team, whether it is temporary or permanent, it is essential to have a unified goal in order to be successful.
The Perils and Rewards of Cross-Departmental Collaboration
Collaboration between departments can bring numerous benefits to the company. The interactions between employees from different areas of the business can lead to opportunities for growth and enhanced productivity.
It is likely that a team comprised of members from various disciplines would be able to provide more creative solutions to a problem by combining different concepts. For example, a Human Resources and IT team working together to identify and develop technological solutions to offer women support in the workplace would be a great example of a cross-functional team focusing on how to support women in the workplace.
Having individuals from multiple departments attending meetings can improve the chances of generating innovative solutions. For example, the sales team may communicate with existing customers to gain an understanding of their preferences and dislikes related to the customer portal ahead of a new technology implementation. This is an area that the IT department may not have the same access to.
These two cases demonstrate how a cross-functional team can generate innovative solutions to issues that may have gone unnoticed had a single department operated independently. According to Asana, a software provider for project management, “a cross-functional team can disrupt typical thought processes and bring new ideas and approaches to a team, leading to improved outcomes for customers.
The implementation of interdepartmental teams can be beneficial for an organization, as it facilitates communication and cooperation between different sections. Having a small number of representatives from each division on the team can help to ensure that everyone is aware of how their work contributes to the wider business. This can lead to a greater sense of unity within the company.
Despite these advantages, cross-functional teams often face certain difficulties.
It is important to be mindful of unclear objectives, as this can cause cross-functional teams to become stagnant and unable to provide useful solutions for the organization. To counter this issue, it is recommended to first identify the problem the business is trying to solve and ensure that the goal is achievable and measurable in terms of its effect on the problem.
Team members may have conflicting priorities which can hinder the team’s efforts to achieve their goal. It is important to have a strong leader who can ensure that everyone is working together towards the same objective. In the worst-case scenario, some members may be looking to gain power for themselves, which could have a damaging effect on the group.
Understanding how to collaborate and identifying each individual’s abilities and how they can contribute to the team’s overall objectives is another challenge that all new organizations must address. It is the role of the leader to ensure that everyone in the group is in agreement whenever there are interpersonal conflicts.
Team members may find that their regular tasks take longer to complete due to additional time spent on cross-functional teams. As such, this may impede their career progression. To mitigate this, Forbes Advisor recommends that companies set time limits for group members and also rotate employees from other departments periodically.
Methods for Forming an Interdepartmental Group
Explain the concept of a cross-functional team. It entails assembling a group of people with different job functions inside an organization.
Pick something to work towards.
Establishing the team’s purpose is the initial step in creating an interdisciplinary team. The goal may be to increase revenue by 20% within the next year. Take into consideration how the target contributes to the organization’s overall aims, such as maximizing shareholder value or introducing innovative new products to customers regularly.
Gather the troops.
It is advised to begin by engaging the relevant stakeholders in the process. For example, if the aim is to increase sales, then appointing a salesperson as the head of the team could be beneficial. Additionally, considering input from other teams and identifying potential collaborators would be beneficial.
The support team is often the most direct point of contact with customers and thus may have valuable insights into how to increase sales. The marketing team may also have carried out analysis of the target audience which could provide relevant feedback. The IT department may be able to provide insight into the current customer service technology and suggest improvements. Finally, the HR department may provide an understanding of the number of additional staff needed to meet potential sales growth.
Multiple points of view A multidisciplinary team requires a range of thought and experience to be successful, including various forms of diversity such as ethnicity, gender, age, upbringing and expertise. By bringing together individuals from a variety of backgrounds and specializations, teams can break out of the compartmentalized mentality which they were designed to challenge.
Organize the tasks.
Define the team’s structure and set up communication protocols between sessions. Utilize project management and productivity software to help organize meeting minutes and ideas. Furthermore, establish checkpoints to track progress towards the ultimate objective.
It is important to plan ahead for potential issues and disagreements. Consult with a senior manager to ensure all objectives are met, and that everyone is held accountable for their respective roles and responsibilities. Consider what steps should be taken should the team be unable to meet its goal.
It is recommended to regularly evaluate the team’s performance throughout the project, rather than waiting until its completion. Setting checkpoints for intermediate objectives and assessing whether they have been achieved, as well as identifying ways to improve performance, is essential. Furthermore, any separate groups working on different aspects of the project must keep the larger group informed of their progress.
Why Do Interdisciplinary Teams Succeed?
When can teams consisting of members from different departments be successful? In addition to ensuring diversity within the team, employing healthy conflict-resolution procedures and having clear objectives, companies hoping to benefit from a cross-functional approach should consider further techniques.
In the worst-case, a cross-functional team can work together for months, create effective solutions and meet their objectives, only for their work to be overlooked. For a cross-functional team to be successful, it is essential that they gain the trust of senior management. To ensure that the project is successful, it is important to maintain control and continually communicate the aims of the team, as suggested by Forbes Advisor.
Even if cross-functional teams are respected by business leadership, there is no guarantee that their recommendations will be adopted. To ensure their proposals are supported and appreciated, it is essential that the team comprises the company’s top executives, whose expertise and influence can help to persuade and win over sceptics.
Traditional divisions within an organization are often associated with specific roles and functions. For example, a sales team typically has a competitive atmosphere, as each individual strives to meet their own targets. Conversely, the marketing team is often comprised of creative minds, who are continually developing new ways to promote the company’s products. To ensure the success of cross-functional teams, it is important to focus on collaborative activities and to cultivate a shared understanding of their core objectives.
Helpful Hints for Coordinating Efforts Across Departments
Effective communication is essential for any successful cross-functional team. To help your team build better communication, we have provided a selection of resources below, including a video. We hope these resources will help to improve your team’s communication.
Modern work teams have access to a range of communication methods, and it is essential that these accommodate the preferences of all team members. However, to ensure that messages, documents and discussions are not lost, it is important to keep the number of communication channels to a minimum. It is beneficial to have a centralized hub where teams can store and access data, allowing for accurate record keeping of the team’s activities.
In addition to traditional methods of communication, modern professionals now have access to a range of technologies to facilitate communication. To decide which tools a multidisciplinary team should use, it is best to ask the team which tools they find most useful. Rather than devising a new system, it is more efficient to make use of approaches used by other successful companies. Here are a few methods that may be used to improve communication.
Video conferencing systems
The COVID period has seen professionals become increasingly proficient in the use of conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. These services allow teams to collaborate without the need for a physical gathering in one location, whilst still enabling a range of interactions, including live-streamed speech, presentations, screen sharing, group brainstorming and break-out sessions.
The implementation of these features could facilitate better communication and help teams to achieve their objectives. When team members are unable to meet in the same place and at the same time, online methods seem to be the most efficient solution. Nevertheless, it is recommended that teams come together in person periodically in order to strengthen their relationships. All meetings, both in-person and virtual, should be recorded in order to have a record of them for future reference.
Apps for instant messaging
Messaging applications, such as Slack, facilitate conversations and the exchange of ideas while on the move. These are comparable to the office ‘water cooler’, which has typically been a meeting point for employees to engage in informal conversation that can often lead to creative, practical suggestions which can be implemented in current projects.
The increasing use of alternative forms of electronic communication has resulted in many people no longer utilizing email. Nevertheless, email can still be a beneficial tool for certain groups, particularly those where cross-functional teams exist, and email is already widely adopted in the organization. With email, team members can stay connected and make contributions to projects even when they are away from the office, for example on business trips or from the comfort of their own home.
Establishing ground rules for communication is beneficial for all team members. According to Atlassian, a developer of business software, it is important that every member of the team feels comfortable expressing their opinion, even if it is in disagreement. Leadership should provide guidance on how the team should best communicate.
It is customary to start every meeting with a check-in, allowing each individual present to provide an update on their work and any advances they have made since the last meeting. Additionally, at the end of the meeting, team members may have the opportunity to share any problems they have encountered and any items that need to be discussed.
Between scheduled meetings, team members are encouraged to stay in contact with each other through a messaging app or other communication medium. Additionally, it is encouraged that team members offer each other support during challenging times.
Leaders of cross-departmental teams should remind their members of the ground rules for delivering and receiving constructive criticism. Businesses may benefit from investing in a training program to enhance the capabilities of their cross-functional team members in this area. Moreover, there should be established guidelines on how to manage disagreements within the team.
When members of a cross-functional team are kept appraised of any major developments, communication is effective. Leaders should ensure that negative feedback is provided to their teams in a constructive manner. Rather than giving up in the event of an unsuccessful endeavor, this could be seen as an opportunity to explore alternative approaches.
The necessity of effective communication among multidisciplinary teams cannot be overstated. To ensure the team’s success, it is essential to select a leader with excellent communication skills who can set a positive example for the rest of the team in terms of how to interact, listen, and contribute.
Working Together Across Departments
Effective communication and collaboration are integral to the success of multidisciplinary teams. When done properly, it enables teams to work together efficiently to address issues and achieve goals, while creating a culture of cooperation within the organization. Multidisciplinary teams are a powerful tool for embedding collaboration across all areas of a company’s operations.