To justify having a cross-functional team, you have to know just why you need one. In this video, the Doug Rose shows reasons why cross-functional teams can work well.
There are generally five reasons why organizations create cross-functional teams. They want teams that can work quickly, deal with complexity, learn and adapt, think creatively, and work closely with their customers. Let's start with the two most popular reasons. Working quickly and dealing with complexity. Think about how most functional organizations deliver products. They work on the product, almost like an assembly line. The marketing team finds out what the customer needs, then they hand it off to the development team to enhance the product.
Then the quality assurance team tests it all out. Each team works on their part of the product and then hands it off to the next department. If something is unclear, then they schedule a meeting with the other departments to answer their questions. These meetings and hand-offs take up a lot of time. Think of all the time teams have to wait until they get the information to continue working. Cross-functional teams put everyone in the same team. So that eliminates a lot of these communication barriers and hand-offs.
If you need an answer to a question, you can just turn your chair around, and ask the person next to you. This is especially helpful when you're working on a complex project. There will be more questions and you will need more communication. If you have a complex product with many moving parts, Then it's often much better to have everybody in the same room. But you don't just want your teams to learn how to better communicate. You also want them to learn and adapt, so that they can improve.
It's here where cross-functional teams can really help. Sometimes people get so stuck in their own processes that they don't really understand how their teammates work. There's a real opportunity to learn when people from different functional areas understand how everyone works. Those show how their tasks impact other stages in the workflow. That means improvements to the system can be more holistic and efficient. Another reason to work with cross-functional teams is that they tend to be more creative.
It's the diversity of team that helps generate new ideas to solve problems. It might feel more comfortable to work in your own functional area. But it doesn't usually give you the perspectives you need to generate new ideas. One final reasons that organizations create cross-functional teams is that they need a better way to connect with their customer. This is especially true with software products that require a lot of small decisions. You don't want your software developers guessing at what your customer needs.
Instead it's much better to have your customer actively working with the team to develop the product. I once worked with a cross-functional team who's customer was in a different area of the country. To request new features the customer sent very short help desk tickets. The developers would have hour long meetings trying to decipher what the customer wanted. Then a few weeks later, they would send out an updated version of the software. Sometimes they got it right, other times the update was not even close to the costumer's expectations.
Each of these back and forth interactions took weeks of development and hours of long meetings. Plus a big chunk of the new features had to be tossed out or even re-worked. If they had used the cross-functional team, the customer would be sitting with everyone else. Product development would be faster, easier, and less costly. Just to remember that for certain products, cross-functional teams can be great for quickly and effectively delivering the best results.
- Types of teams
- Why have a cross-functional team?
- Creating a team culture
- Setting shared goals
- Dealing with conflict
- Promoting ongoing learning
- Managing performance