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7 Tips for Building Cross Functional Teams

Cross-Functional Collaboration is critical to innovation and improved business performance. It is in every business leader’s best interest to lay the foundation for a united approach to innovation and improvement. 

Let’s break down seven tips for building Cross Functional Teams in your workplace. 

01: Promote Diversity 

It’s easy to grab one person from each department and develop a team, but if you really want to focus on maximising the effectiveness of your collaboration, you should create a group that is diverse in a number of areas – not just in their work areas. 

Here are some ideas of factors to look for when developing your cross-functional team: 

  • Experience 
  • Ability 
  • Skills 
  • Seniority 
  • Tenure 
  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Location 

02: Resist the Urge to Overschedule Meetings.

When working with large, diverse, dispersed teams, it can sometimes take weeks to get everyone’s’ schedules to align for a meeting. Meetings also take away from the time your team has to focus on their plan and stick to it, which can be quite frustrating for them. 

For these reasons, it is important to limit the number of meetings in any cross-functional collaboration efforts, using time wisely. Make sure you leverage newer technologies such as communication and collaboration tools such as Google Docs. 

When there is an urgency behind a meeting, there should be a strict agenda, an assigned note taker, and a well-defined method to document follow-up tasks. A good idea is to use a timer on your mobile phone. 

03: Measure the True Impact.

Enabling your cross-functional team to see the Impact that they are having creates momentum and ensures the sustainability of the teams. People want to know that their efforts are making a difference; showing them their results will get them more interested in continuing engagement. On a larger scale, developing a standard way to measure the impact of every cross-functional team can help you truly understand the ROI of continuous improvement in your entire business. Correct measures improve the visibility and transparency of your business. 

04: Involve Influencers.

In most businesses, there are some people who are natural leaders regardless of what position they hold. These people are respected and they work well with others. It is easier for them to inspire other people to participate in activities. These are the perfect individuals to involve in your cross-functional collaboration efforts because they’re more likely to be able to get the team engaged. 

05. Leverage Subject Matter Experts.

The people in your business who know the most about particular processes, products, or disciplines can help to accelerate your cross functional collaboration efforts by sharing their knowledge with the rest of the business. Pairing a subject matter novice with an expert is a great way to educate the less experienced person, while simultaneously providing the expert with a new point of view. 

06: Encourage Random Interactions. 

Often, a spontaneous conversation in the break room can lead to an innovative breakthrough. Businesses that are great at cross functional collaboration intentionally design the workspace and the work day to encourage such random interactions. Google, for example, is famous for intentionally creating lines in the cafeteria and snack area so that employees from different departments will have an opportunity to chat. 

There are some fantastic ways of encouraging random interactions by forcing the random interactions. Team building, team lunches, team events... it doesn’t take much. 

07: Align Incentives.

All of these other strategies can be undermined if employees throughout the business are not recognised and rewarded for their team effort. It is not uncommon to find financial incentives that are based solely on the goals of one department. This creates a conflict with the employee’s own pay-check and achieves predictably poor results. In order to improve cross-functional collaboration, leaders should set goals and incentives that require it and reward people for improving their overall system, not just one piece of it. 

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