How to make cross-functional teams successful

A study says that 75 per cent of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.

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How to make cross-functional teams successful

Working professionals have different perspectives about assigning a project to a cross-functional team. But what is it that leads to such varying opinions? A study conducted by a professor at Standford University, found that 75 per cent of cross-functional teams are actually dysfunctional.

These cross-functional teams did not match at least three of the following five criteria –

1. Meeting a planned budget
2. Staying on schedule
3. Adhering to specifications
4. Meeting customer expectations
5. Maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals

Cross-functional teams fail to deliver the desired results because of certain reasons, such as lack of systematic approach, unclear governance, lack of accountability, unspecific goals and the organisation’s failure to prioritise the success of cross-functional teams.

Breaking siloes

A common problem that comes in the way of the success of cross-functional teams success is the very diversity that these teams represent and celebrate.
People coming from different functions do not work with each other in harmony. A person from the finance department does not get along well with the HR because they both share different values.

For instance, when a training programme is being run, the HR will always attempt to increase the training duration of the employees to ensure better and more learning, whereas the finance team will look at cutting costs, and will gradually try to reduce the number of days spent on training.

“An HR person will always have a people-centric mindset, while a finance person will always look at economising. Being contradictory in nature, it will always be difficult to follow these two values together,” says Rishi Tiwari, director HR, Hilton.

Saba Adil

“The Synergy programme helped us to make people understand each other’s functions and and emerge as ‘one’. It particularly impacted the mindset of the people”

To overcome this problem, it is very important to build the capability to understand each other’s values.

Saba Adil, chief people officer, Avanse Financial Services, shares her experience in one of the organisations she worked with. The Company used to run a programme called Synergy, which includes workshops to change the mindset of people and work together as a team, in spite of belonging to different functions.

“This programme helped us to make people understand each other’s work and emerge as ‘one’. It particularly impacted the mindset of the people,” explains Adil.

Proper governance

Another problem that we face working with a cross-functional team is proper governance or leadership. The study suggests that comparing successful cross-functional teams with others, the difference came out to be that there was an oversight team of senior executives who were governing the cross-functional team.

In 2000, Cisco made a cross-functional team with representatives from software engineers, marketing, quality assurance, manufacturing and customer service. There was a core team of 20, members of which reported back to their respective functions. Leading the team were three senior-level executives who looked after the end-to-end functioning of the project.

Mangesh Bhide

“Aligning the goals of these different functions with that of the organisational goals is done by the project sponsors in a cross-functional project”

“Aligning the goals of these different functions with that of the organisational goals is done by the project sponsors,” says Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio.

“In our organisation, we keep one thing in mind while making a cross-functional team— meeting the expectations of the customers and the stakeholders,” adds Bhide.

Alignment with organisational goals

Quite often, representatives of different functions think about their own individual function and not the organisation as a whole. This is one of the major reasons for the failure of cross-functional teams.

Rishi Tiwari

“The members of a cross functional team should not have different KRAs according to different functions. The team should have one single objective to achieve, which is aligned with the organisational goals”

“The solution is not to have different KRAs according to different functions. The team should have one single objective to achieve, which is aligned with the organisational goals,” explains Tiwari.

The benefits of a cross-functional team are immense. It can lead to a high degree of success. To top it all, it also gives employees working in different departments an opportunity to understand each other, which creates a sense of unity.

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