CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS: Benefits & How They Work

cross functional

Conventional organizational structures frequently include a hierarchical structure, with top-down management and each department focusing on a specialized subject. While this method has advantages, it can also lead to unexpected inefficiencies and a siloed approach to business.
The remedy? Within the organization, cross-functional teams. While most departments are organized according to competence and purpose, cross-functional teams are groups of people with diverse perspectives and expertise that work together to achieve a shared goal. Understand how cross-functional teams work and why they may be the answer for any organization trying to develop with agility and speed.

What are Cross-Functional Teams?

Cross-functional teams are made up of individuals from many functional areas of the firm, such as marketing, product, sales, and customer success. They can be working groups in which each member is a part of both their functional team and the cross-functional team, or they can be the core structure of your organization.

What Is the Purpose of Cross-Functional Teams?

If you’ve ever contacted a corporation with a straightforward question, such as an airline or a healthcare clinic, and found yourself being bounced from department to department, no closer to your solution after twenty minutes than when you initially called, you’ve experienced what it’s like to work in a silo.

This is a frustrating experience for the customer and a missed opportunity for your firm to build a long-term relationship. While an organization has several diverse functions, each of these departments exists to serve the client, thus they should work together to deliver a holistic, good customer experience.

By fostering good communication across teams, cross-functional teams assist firms in putting their customers first.

Getting people with diverse perspectives together can improve problem-solving and lead to more informed, long-term decisions. Instead of competing for resources, cross-functional teams inside an organization work together to make the best use of time, money, and effort in order to maximize customer satisfaction while also contributing to corporate goals.

The Benefits of a Cross-Functional Team

Cross-functional teams can view the larger picture by breaking down the “silos” of a typical organizational structure. By working with people who have different perspectives, knowledge, and backgrounds, the collective team can tackle difficulties and achieve project goals more efficiently. They can also anticipate roadblocks earlier in the process because each department has influence throughout the process, as opposed to a project going from department to department.

#1. The Organization’s Objectives Are Advanced by Cross-Functional Teams

When departments function solely within their specialized vertical, they frequently fail to perceive the big picture. For example, the sales team may be interested in acquiring new customers, but they may overlook the human issues associated with an overburdened workforce. The finance team may be so concerned with the bottom line that they are afraid to take on the risks of launching a new product line. And the marketing team may be so focused on launching a new brand or product that they overlook product development issues.

By bringing together people with seemingly competing day-to-day aims, you can ensure that the goals of the organization are advanced throughout the project.

#2. Teams with a Variety of Functions Boost Productivity

Instead of a project traveling via one department before being passed on to the next, cross-functional teams boost project completion efficiency. When you are dealing with people from other departments, the team can address possible issues before they become too far along in the process.

For example, if the product development department builds an exciting new product only to discover that the sales department is concerned about actually selling the product, project time will be wasted. But, if the sales department collaborates with product development in a cross-functional team, possible issues can be addressed earlier, reducing lost time and sunk costs.

#3. Creativity Can Be Boosted by Cross-Functional Teams

Departments frequently lose sight of the big picture by becoming too focused on honing their particular skills and accomplishing their specific goals. Siloed departments might become bogged down. Cross-functional teams can, however, boost the innovation of both processes and products by merging different perspectives and knowledge. Because they can view the perspectives of different functionalities, they may find comprehensive solutions to fulfill the needs of the organization.

Drawbacks of a Cross-Functional Team

Cross-functional teams have a few drawbacks. Some experts, for example, caution that they can impede individual members’ professional advancement because they are focused on attaining project goals. To avoid this, several firms implement restricted terms for group members, with individuals from other departments rotating in and out of the team to avoid stagnation.

Another risk is that cross-functional teams may float aimlessly if a project is too broad or poorly specified. Team members may get dissatisfied if the organization does not implement appropriate remuneration schemes. These potential drawbacks, however, can be mitigated with appropriate planning, such as implementing an agile project management framework work.

How to Form an Efficient Cross-Functional Team

#1. Ensure Team Diversity

Diversity is essential to cross-functional teams, but it is not limited to competence. The more diverse the group, the more effective and productive it will be in achieving its objectives. This includes age, status, background, point of view, gender, race, and tenure with the organization.

#2. Including Influencers

It is critical that the team includes people from several departments who are influencers not only within their own departments but also within the organization as a whole. At some point, the cross-functional team will need the buy-in of the organization and its various departments, thus it is critical to include people who can successfully convey the hows and whys of the team’s work to others in the organization.

#3. Establish Specific Objectives for the Cross-Functional Team

As previously said, if the project is too broad or without clear goals, the team may struggle. But, if you define explicit goals with specified deadlines or milestones, you can boost the possibility that the team will reach the project’s objectives. Utilizing project management software can also assist the team in staying on track and communicating progress.

#4. Encourage Hierarchies and Strengthen Team Authority

Members of the team must be appreciated inside the organization in order for the team to be productive and efficient. It is critical to establish their authority over the project and to emphasize their aims throughout the work.

Similarly, organizational leadership must discourage a hierarchical approach within the group. While diversity is an important aspect of a cross-functional team, those with less experience must feel comfortable sharing their perspectives.

#5. Promote constructive conflict resolution.

Conflicts can develop in any circumstance, but cross-functional teams may be more prone to them due to the diversity of opinions, experience, and expertise. By organizing conflict resolution training for all team members and ensuring that they have opportunities to engage on a personal level, leadership may help to reduce the harmful impact of disagreements. This can be accomplished by bringing team members closer together at work, through team-building exercises, and by encouraging productive communication.

Who Should be on your Cross-functional Team?

After you know the goals of your team, you can decide who should be on the squad. These are some criteria to think about:

  • What types of knowledge do you require? Who in your organization has the ability to give it?
  • Team members should have personal attributes that will make them valuable contributors in addition to their specific skills. Do they have prior experience with cross-functional collaborations? Can they work freely and make recommendations or decisions?
  • Don’t overlook the more practical aspects of politics. Who are the stakeholders if your team is focused on launching a project or making a decision? Your team should include representatives from each stakeholder group.

Selecting a Leader

Your cross-functional team does not need a leader, but it will work much better if it does. So, who should that person be?

The leader of a cross-functional team must be able to direct conversations, delegate, and hold other team members accountable. They must be able to do this even if certain team members are higher up in the company hierarchy. In other words, can they persuade people to do things even if they lack formal authorization to do so? Can they influence and persuade others?

Creating Ground Rules for a Multi-functional Team

Once a leader is in place, one of the first things they should do is work with the rest of the team to create ground rules for how things will be done. Again, this is extremely beneficial when a team is starting, but it is never too late to implement it on an existing team.

First, everyone should understand exactly what is expected of them. Each member must contribute so that no one feels overburdened.
Your team requires a clear idea of how everyone is expected to behave in addition to clear expectations on contributions. Team members must feel comfortable speaking up, even if they disagree. Cross-functional teams are all about bringing diverse people together to create better answers. Yet you can’t get there until you can successfully negotiate your differences.

Finally, everyone on your team should understand how decisions will be made. Does everyone have an opinion on everything? When can the team leader operate alone?
Choosing the correct communication tools is another critical step in forming a successful cross-functional team. You won’t see each other every day, so you’ll use these tools frequently.

Additionally, if you have people in cross-regional locations, your communication tools will be the key means of collaboration. Think outside the box here. Instead of sending a lot of emails, perhaps a shared blog will work nicely for your team.

Other tools and resources may be required in addition to your communication routes. Consider the following inquiries:

  • Does everyone on the team have the hardware and software they need to work together?
  • Do you require physical or virtual storage space for your work tools and materials? Can everyone on the team use this space?
  • Where will your team’s in-person meetings take place?

Cross-functional Teams Meetings.

Whether you’re forming a new cross-functional team or fine-tuning an existing one, we hope this post has given you a new feeling of clarity and momentum. Here are a few things you can do to keep that going:

  • Keep an eye on the development of your team on a regular basis. This is when having well-defined goals comes in handy. Are you meeting your goals? Try using the team health monitor to get to the bottom of the problem. To get started, use the Confluence templates.
  • Maintain your adaptability. What should you do differently if you’re not meeting milestones? You may also need to adjust your plans in response to other changes. For example, the CEO may change your deadline, or unexpected layoffs may affect some of your team members.
  • Remember that you are not required to go it alone. Confluence has resources to assist you in handling the issues of cross-functional teams, from goal-setting to meetings to decision-making.


Two heads are always preferable to one. Similarly, cross-functional teams outperform traditional hierarchical business structures every time. We hope the information in this post inspires new ideas and keeps the odds of success in your favor.


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