Cross-functional teams contribute to a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement and innovation in organizations.
by Karen McCombs
June 1, 2021
A cross-functional team is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal. In many cases, the team is simply a group of people from different departments or functions working together to solve a problem, improve service outcomes or enhance product development.
Because of the team’s diverse makeup, each member brings an area of expertise that significantly improves the team’s capability for critical thinking, problem-solving and brainstorming, which ultimately adds value in strategically achieving the desired outcome. Consider the following advantages of cross-functional teams:
1. Different Perspectives Spark Innovation
We all see problems from our own perspective. Bringing people together from different parts of your organization can shed light on the root cause of a problem and help identify innovative solutions. Diverse ideas provide better data.
2. Increased Collaboration Drives Positive Change
Involving people with different areas of influence helps gain buy-in and build trust. It is an opportunity to get everyone “on the same page” that ordinarily might not work together.
3. Opportunity For Increased Business Acumen
Collaborating with people who are experts in different areas of the business increases awareness and helps employees better understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. It allows team members to see the value of their contributions and the larger impact. It helps increase understanding on how a cross-functional project contributes to your organization’s key strategies around quality, process improvement and performance.
4. Challenge Past Practices and Proactively Identify Levels of Risk
Each team member brings their own “expert lens” in identifying elements of risk and assessing effective workflow. A new set of eyes can be a huge advantage in finding errors and opportunities for improvement. Cross-functional teams create an environment where “this is the way we’ve always done it” can be challenged, which offers a new perspective for what “operational excellence” can look like.
5. Opportunity for Increased Employee Engagement and Leadership
While a certain degree of team dynamics and organizational structure is important, seeking input in a multi-directional team approach, particularly from those doing the work, yields greater results. Key stakeholders identify current barriers of a situation and what areas of process improvement need to be considered. Because of the team’s diverse expertise, this experience offers a more transparent approach for process improvement and employee engagement. Those involved as active participants may also emerge as newly identified “high-potentials” for your next pool of emerging leaders.
So the next time you are asked to be on a cross-functional team, consider it a valuable opportunity to contribute to your organization’s success and drive towards change and innovation.