Are You Making The Most of Your Cross-Functional Team? 6 Ways To Make Your Cross-Functional Team The Outlier

We don’t want to freak you out, but we have some bad news.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, failing at:

  1. Meeting the budget
  2. Staying on schedule
  3. Following specifications
  4. Meeting expectations of customers
  5. Remaining aligned with company strategy

The irony of a cross-functional team being dysfunctional is real. Cross-functional teams are an integration of different departments, working together. For example, a cross-functional team can be made up of a marketer, a customer service representative, and a product designer. Each of these team members has a different role in the business, but their macro objective is the same, increase revenue and efficiency.

How can you avoid falling into the majority, plateauing your revenue and decreasing your team’s efficiency?

Here are six ways to be the outlier and make the most of a cross-functional team.

Hire Team Members With Specific Qualities

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your candidates need to have worked on a cross-functioning team, but you want to make a conscious choice to choose the candidate that embodies a successful team member.

What qualities does this candidate have over others?

  • Strong communication skills exhibited during their interview
  • Motivated problem-solver who chooses to research solutions over delegating to another team member
  • Result- oriented

A cross-functional team member needs strong communication skills. These communication skills are the bridge between your departments. If each member has strong communication skills, your bridges will be built with a solid foundation. It’s much harder to crumble a strong foundation than a weak one. Your cross-functional team is only going to be as good as your team members’ ability to communicate with each other. Choose your team wisely.

The team member’s communication skills is then going to shift into their ability to communicate back and forth with other team members to solve a problem. The ideal candidate doesn’t wait for permission to solve a problem, they start to research a solution and come to the team with their answer. If each team member is self-motivated to find solutions and keep the needle moving, your business grows in return.

Then, if that team member is motivated by results, they’ll continue to work with their teammates to find solutions and scale your business. The goal is for each team member to be driven by the high-level results (growth and efficiency). If you have a team of candidates that showcase a results-oriented mindset (they want to see increasing metrics that directly correlate to their work)—you’ve found your A-team.

Become an Expert At Leading

Now that you have your A-team, we need to define what it means to be an A-team leader. It’s going to be your job to choreograph the dance of a cross-functional team. If your choreography is bad, your business succumbs to the majority of dysfunctional cross-functional teams. If your choreography is good, your business becomes the outlier.

How do you become the leader of an outlier company?

  1. Create clear goals with metrics for each quarter
  2. Set the example of being self-motivated to find solutions
  3. Invest in their education—buy the team books, send articles, etc.
  4. Let the team breathe

Clear goals with metrics are the solution to a majority of businesses’ problems. How can you scale or become more efficient if you don’t know at what point you have succeeded in doing so? Clear goals with related metrics are going to be what drives your results-oriented team to keep acquiring new clients, testing new marketing strategies, and innovating with your product.

Each goal is going to require problem solving and breakthroughs. You expect your team to solve these problems without being asked and to always look for hacks that can escalate the business higher. This means, you have to be the inspiration behind this mentality. If you’re always making breakthroughs, they’ll follow suit. If they’re struggling to find hacks and discover breakthroughs, then give them the resources to find solutions.

Investing in your team’s education is a massive component of forward-thinking businesses. If you’re only as good as your weakest link, then it’s time to make that weak as strong as possible. Buying books, sending the team articles and podcasts keeps the team moving in the same direction. If everybody on your team listens to a podcast episode that breaks down the future of your industry, what correlating insights will they have that directly impact your businesses growth and efficiency? Hack your team, hack your business.

Lastly, business growth can’t happen with a bottleneck. By micromanaging your team, you may end up slowing down progress. We’ll get into the topic of management later in this article, but for now just remember —a business that can’t breathe, can’t grow. If you have hired the right candidates, you should trust their abilities to reach goals without having to watch their daily movements.

Choose and Define Lingo That Everybody Understands

We have our team and we have our leader. Now, we want everybody to speak the same language so we can communicate with top efficiency.

What does it mean to have a team speak the same language?

It means that everybody understands the foundational terminology that grows and runs your business. Your customer service representative needs to understand what KPIs are and your product designer has to be familiar with retargeting.

To teach everybody the language of your business, you want to take a book out of Rosetta Stone. When Rosetta Stone first teaches you a new language, they don’t bombard you with 100+ words. Instead, they give you the foundation of the language and then build up your vocabulary from there.

The foundation of your business’s language is in the 10-20 words that are used on a regular basis.

Examples of the words every team member of a cross-functional team should be familiar with are:

Marketing Terms:

  • KPIs
  • Retargeting
  • Facebook Ad Insights

Product Innovation Terms:

  • CSS Code
  • Javascript
  • Event-Driven

Customer Service Terms:

  • Subject Matter Expert
  • Active Listening
  • Internal and External Customers

Choose the 10-20 words that are consistently used when talking about your business’s development so each team member has a total understanding of what is being talked about, regardless of the department it pertains to.

Find The Management Sweet Spot

Once the team speaks the same language, it’s time to implement a leadership strategy.

Apple’s New Product Process, the system that takes an idea and turns it into a product, was created to open the bottleneck as far as possible. What Apple did was purposely create a system that allowed their product team to breathe, yet still stay accountable to deadlines and budgets.

Their system looks like this:

Each project is given a specific time frame and budget for completion. That time frame is broken down into weekly, biweekly, or monthly segments (depending on what works best for the project) and the budget is allocated accordingly. For each segmented time frame their is a specific goal that needs to be accomplished. For example, the iOS team needs to develop a specific feature of the iMessage app within two weeks.

As long as the iOS team is on schedule to complete the feature within that two week span, management stays completely out of the project.

If the iOS team predicts they aren’t going to finish within two weeks, they reach out to management and then discuss a plan of action. Only once the iOS team has reached out to management is there a conversation.

What this allows, and why Apple chooses to create their products this way, is a loosened bottleneck that still provides accountability. It’s the golden balance where the team can get their projects done and management doesn’t have to spend their time supervising. Instead, management gets to focus on the macro picture, instead of the daily progress of a micro feature.

ANPP’s is a template that can be used with cross-functional teams. Once each team members knows their role and what actions they need to take to reach the business’s goals, they no longer need to be micromanaged. The team should be able to thrive on its own, without you there coaxing them along. If they don’t, then it’s important to reflect on why they’re not moving forward and if it’s because of them or you.

If they can move forward without you and communicate with each other, you’ve created a successful cross-functional team and become part of the 25% of outliers who succeed.

Create A Digital Headquarters

Becoming an outlier requires a communication tool that is developer, marketer, customer service (etc.) friendly. As much as tools like SalesForce, can be useful for your sales team, if your customer service team and developers can’t see project progress and the goals being met—how are they going to make your business more efficient and help you scale?

The idea behind a communication tool is to have it house your business’s digital headquarters. You want all of your team to have a place to communicate as a whole, with specific team members, and with you.

For example, the Brief productivity app is designed for cross-functional teams that want to be the outlier. The app is structured into Hubs that organize members according to team, function, topic or project. Each Brief member can be a part of several Hubs that relate for them. In the case of ANPP, the team could have three hubs. One hub with all of the iOS developers, another with the iOS developers and management, and another with the iOS developers, management and a high-level executive.

What these hubs create are tiers of communication. While the iOS developers are in the middle of a project, they don’t have to include management in their conversation and day to day tasks. Yet, when they finish the project and need to bring management into the conversation, all of the files and tasks are stored in the Brief app and can be shared within other Hubs. It’s a seamless approach to cross-functional teams that need to communicate with various team members at once, without having to spend time searching for tasks, documents or messages in a long email string.

Regardless of the communication app you choose, you’ll want to create communication systems that support your team.

The key necessities of your communication system include:

  • Don’t micromanage—team members should have messages that don’t include you
  • Create a group message with all team members
  • Schedule weekly or biweekly video conference calls (Brief integrates Zoom)

Your business is rooted in the communication spanning departments. Here are ten communication tools to run your business.

Make Reflection A Practice Of Your Business

Lastly, what is a team without a post-game meeting? There is a reason sports teams come together in the locker room after a big game–they need to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses to ensure their next game is performed better.

The same goes for business. Businesses grow with small continuous adjustments. These adjustments can pertain to the systems that run your business or the product/service itself. Without adjustments, a bottle neck ensues and without realizing, you can hold yourself back from higher revenue and decrease the efficiency of your team.

The best times for business reflection are after big product launches, quarterly, and annually.

After big product launches, reflect with your team on:

  • Where did we excel?
  • Why did we excel?
  • Where did we fall flat?
  • Why did we fall flat?
  • If we could do it all over again, what would we change?
  • Etc.

Quarterly questions to reflect on with your team are:

  • Are we on track to meet our goals?
  • Why are we on track to meet X goal?
  • Why are we not on track to meet Y goal?
  • What changes can we make in the next few weeks to increase our chances of meeting Y goal?
  • Do we need to adjust any goals and adapt to new opportunities?
  • What are the weakest links of our systems (lead acquisition, client-onboarding, deliverables, etc.)?
  • What are the strongest links of our system?
  • Etc.

And of course, an annual reflection is going to set the foundation for the future of your company. Ask your team:

  • What did we do incredibly well this year?
  • Why did we do incredibly well in these areas and how do we replicate that success?
  • What did we totally fail at?
  • Why did we fail here and what lessons have we learned that can be implemented to avoid that failure again?
  • Where can communication be improved?
  • What departments had the hardest time this year?
  • Etc.

Reflection is what moves the needle and the reason some cross-functional teams become one of the few to to find success.

Cross-functional teams may seem like a challenge, but when broken down into six actionable steps, it’s a process of:

  1. Hiring the right candidates
  2. Stepping into leadership
  3. Defining your business’s language
  4. Finding the management sweet spot
  5. Creating a digital headquarters
  6. Reflecting regularly to amplify growth

Read more: 5 Unique Team Bonding Activities for Remote Teams.

Ready to create your digital HQ? Join Brief for free today.