Do you remember Steve Jobs’ iconic product launches for the iPhone, iPod Mini and iPad?
The spotlight might have been on him on stage, but the game-changing products weren’t a result of just his work; they were the result of the work put in by his entire company.
Jobs knew this. When his biographer, Walter Isaacson, once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, Isaacson assumed Jobs would choose the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead, Isaacson writes that Jobs’ reply was Apple, the company. “Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product.”
Apple is known for its cross-functional teamwork, an approach championed by Jobs. Let’s look at the meaning of cross-functional teamwork and see how we can apply it in our workplaces.
What Are Cross-Functional Teams?
In many organizations, different teams tend to focus on their workstreams and deliverables. The sales team is focused on boosting sales, the marketing team is focused on promoting the business, and the finance team is focused on keeping budgets on track. This is how different departments end up working in silos and rarely join forces.
If organizations stop working in silos, they will be more capable of meeting organizational goals. They can adopt cross-functional systems that help break the habit of teams working in silos. In short, cross-functional teamwork occurs when different functional groups work together to produce better business outcomes.
Benefits Of Cross-Functional Collaboration
Cross-functional collaboration gives any organization a competitive advantage. Here are some advantages of embracing a cross-functional structure:
1. Collaborative Culture
Cross-functional teamwork leads to increased communication and transparency. The more teams communicate, the better their collaboration and ability to work together. Cross-functional teams understand how every member can effectively fulfill their roles while keeping everybody’s interests in mind. In organizations with a cross-functional structure, teams can work together to solve problems and achieve targets. The increased transparency also helps team members sensibly navigate conflicts.
2. Shared Learning
Cross-functional teams encourage diverse groups of individuals with different abilities and skillsets to come together and learn from each other. One of the simplest examples of cross-functional collaboration is the marketing team collaborating with the sales team. The sales team could help the marketing team with promoting the organization’s quarterly achievements on social media by providing summarized versions of reports. On the other hand, the marketing team could help the sales team make their email content more interesting by using relevant buzzwords.
3. Employee Engagement And Productivity
Cross-functional collaboration fosters employee engagement. Employees feel motivated when they receive feedback from people they’ve collaborated with. Working together enhances communication. This may even lead to mutually beneficial friendships. Think of it like this: if an employee enjoys their coworker’s company, he or she will be more engaged and hence more productive at work.
4. Increased Creativity
There are times when work gets monotonous and boring. Cross-functional teams help break the monotony because employees are constantly receiving fresh perspectives and taking on new and diverse tasks. Cross-functional teams encourage innovation and creative ideas tend to flow in a mixed group. Members of cross-functional teams think outside the box. Creating a cross-functional system is a healthy and powerful way of shaking things up at work.
5. Improved Decision-Making
At the heart of cross-functional teamwork lies collective decision-making and problem-solving. When different teams collaborate, they look at numerous alternatives before reaching a conclusion. This ensures that no element of a problem goes unnoticed. In cross-functional teams, each member has their area of expertise. This enables the team to make important decisions quickly and confidently.
Harappa Education’s Managing Teamwork course is designed to guide you in the problem-solving process. The concepts and frameworks in the course will help you learn how to work in and manage teams at the workplace.
How To Develop Cross-Functional Teams
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you create cross-functional teams at work:
The first step is to set goals. It’s important to clearly define the problems that need solving. This will later become your teams’ primary focus.
Make sure that you assemble the right team. It’s best to choose team members with complementary skill sets and knowledge for the project.
As a leader, you should be able to delegate work and mentor your team members. The cross-functional approach is successful only when someone is at the helm, keeping an eye on everybody’s performance.
Provide your teammates with conflict resolution training and help them develop group facilitation skills. Use professionalism and respect when resolving conflicts.
Celebrate your wins, both individual and collective. Use constructive criticism and feedback when the need arises.
It’s a widespread notion that cross-functional approaches are only applicable to large companies. While that may be true in some start-up operations, it’s certainly not true for small businesses. Most small operations require cross-functional teams to plan and meet larger organizational objectives. Time to let go of the silos and let cross-functional efforts shine!
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