Openness, asking critical questions, and accepting diverse perspectives are key characteristics to embrace for success in a cross-functional team.
There are a few other characteristics to cross-functional teams that help everyone get the most from each other's ideas. Here are six that you should think about. The first is each team member should have extensive domain knowledge. The second is that they should be open to new ideas. The third is that they should always be able to ask and answer critical questions. The fourth is that they should have an overall view of the product. The fifth is they should embrace the team's diversity.
The sixth is that they should be very comfortable working with the customer. So the first characteristic is making sure that each team member has extensive domain knowledge. You should know your functional area inside and out. You should also be able to answer questions without sending an email or getting back to the team later. It's very difficult to have a cross-functional team meeting when one person is just taking notes so that they can ask other people. It's also important that as an expert you can explain difficult concepts to the other team members.
That leads us to the second and third characteristics. Each team member should be open to new ideas and be able to ask critical questions. Each team member in a cross-functional team is both a teacher and a learner. You don't want to be a team member who pushes for their own ideas, but are unwilling to hear from others. One of the key advantages to cross-functional teams is a diversity of ideas. These ideas won't have much value unless other people on the team are willing to listen.
With that being said, you shouldn't be afraid to push back when there's disagreement. That's why it's important for you to ask critical questions. There's a big difference between a critical question and criticism. A critical question encourages discussion about key ideas. It addresses how the idea holds together. If you can't answer the critical question, then it means that the whole idea might fall apart. Let's say a human resources person on the team says that the product will be more successful if we had more support.
A critical question might be something like, why do you think adding more people will improve the outcome? That forces the person to explain their ideas. It encourages the team to have a discussion. Compare that to saying something like, I disagree, we already have too many people. That type of feedback closes off discussion. It also encourages people to get defensive. The first bit of feedback says explain this to me. The second says you're wrong.
The fifth characteristic of a cross-functional team is embracing diverse perspectives. If you're not open to embracing this diversity, then you don't get much value from your cross-functional team. Remember to try and listen to what other team members are saying. The sixth and final characteristic of cross-functional team members is the ability to work closely with your customer. In many cases you get some of your best ideas from your customer. They help the team decide not just what they can deliver, but what they should deliver.
Many organizations get too focused on capability. They think about how they can solve certain problems and create a great product, but your customer will give you information on what value your product provides. Even the best designed product will just sit on the shelf if it doesn't provide some key value for your customer. Keep in mind the key characteristics of cross-functional teams, so you know which of these works best when delivering your products.
- Types of teams
- Why have a cross-functional team?
- Creating a team culture
- Setting shared goals
- Dealing with conflict
- Promoting ongoing learning
- Managing performance