Cross-functional teams are the way of the future. Although it takes some getting used to, cross-functional teams have the ability to do the most good.
They do, however, come with a few downsides. A lot of cross-functional teams have communication problems and suffer from poor management that prevents them from reaching their fullest potential. If you’re supposed to be the rock star leader of a cross-functional team, there are a few things you’ll want to know before you step up.
How To Effectively Manage a Cross-Functional Team
Cross-functional team members have a lot on their plates. They’re often dealing with a wide variety of tasks, and they’re usually kept busy. Your team needs to have time to talk, both with each other and with you. Make sure you’re setting enough time aside for meetings, where every member can keep the others up to speed.
If your cross-functional team is partially comprised of remote workers, or scheduling conflicts are making it virtually impossible to get everyone in the same place for longer than ten minutes, make sure you’re providing enough alternative communication tools. Group chat apps are excellent for that purpose, as are internal social media networks. When things need to be face-to-face, remember that a brief informal meeting is far better than no meeting at all.
Recognizing Team Members as Individuals
Since cross-functional teams have a lot to address, it can be difficult to address them all under the same umbrella. While there are certain things that will apply to the entirety of the group, some things will need to be addressed on an individual basis. Don’t forget to make some time to check in with each team member separately. They’ll each have unique questions and concerns they’ll want to address with you, and although it may be hard to accommodate them all, they each deserve your undivided attention when it comes to major projects.
Rebounding From Arguments
Your cross-functional team is going to disagree, deadlock, experience conflict, and oppose each other. That’s the reality of the matter. While it may sound grim, this is exactly what you want. If these conflicts don’t occasionally happen, you might even want to hire some disruptors to keep the ideas circulating. Innovation is born from opposing minds coming together to solve a common problem, and these normal workplace conflicts can revolutionize the way your company works if they’re handled correctly.
Establish that no ideas are bad ideas and that every member of the team is equally as important. Discuss the pros and cons of every viewpoint, and look for compromises. Conflict resolution training also helps. If your cross-functional team hasn’t had any yet, you might want to set that up sooner rather than later. Don’t wait for problems to start.
Keeping Things Organized
There is a wealth of things to manage and keep track of when you’re overseeing a cross-functional team. They’re all working on different things, and they all need to know where everyone else is in proximity to the deadline.
Make sure you have plenty of spreadsheets and that you keep everything documented. Print off multiple copies of everything, or if your company is eco-friendly, make a digital copy of every document that every team member can access and modify. Be diligent about proper workflow management and automate as much as you can. Keep the running record as accurate as possible.
Leaving Some Room to Move
Your cross-functional team might come up with some pretty off-the-wall stuff, and that’s great. It’s a sign that things are working, and you should invite the change. Don’t throw the book at them when they begin to deviate. Understand the merits of what they’re doing, be flexible, and try your best to accommodate them when they need extra time. Accept the fact that things can change at any moment. If they’re changing for the better, celebrate the creative chaos that comes along with the process. Just make sure they have a full coffee pot and some healthy office snacks – let them burn the midnight oil if they need to. Your team might amaze you.
Evie Cooper is currently supporting online data libraries such as Postocode Checker or UKAreaCode where she works as a Communication Manager and a Team Leader. She is passionate about blogging and often shares her management and careers tips with other experts online.