5 Great Reasons to Have Cross-Functional Teams

Written By: James Nicholson
March 20, 2015
4 min read

A close-knit working environment can positively impact a team and the individuals within. But branching out and building new relationships with other employees and entire departments strengthens them in unexpected ways. Here are points to encourage your team to build bridges across all channels.

Cross department clarity / broader trust

When a team becomes isolated internally and compartmentalization makes tiny kingdoms and fiefdoms, it threatens the survival of the organization itself. Over time, a failure to build or maintain interpersonal and invisible bridges can cause a loss of efficiency and productivity and display an ignorance of the company mission. Cross functionality presents the kind of open-door communication that can eliminate problems before they start.

People can lose track of the greater purpose and forget about the survival and success of the company, choosing instead to focusing too much on their own progress. Interdepartmental trust is as vital to the long-term health of an organization as oxygen can be to the human body. In the same way, it needs to circulate.

Developing relationships through cross functionality and teamwork can keep the organization healthy and give everyone the confidence and clarity to report any early waning signs that there might be trouble before radical solutions are needed.

Broaden the range of skills in the department.

You and your people find your answers by thinking logically, others by thinking critically, and yet more others by weighing its emotional content. It turns out that solutions to unexpected problems can be found by examining the strategies of another department. For example, the ranges of skills needed to be successful in marketing are wildly different than those in the finance department, while supply-chain logistics require a different mindset than accounts receivable.

This is where cross functionality has its greatest value: Developing new ways of thinking and new skills to accompany them gives managers and direct reports more tools for their toolbox.

Further build team spirit.

Building a solid team of high performers is a terrific challenge. Finding the best way to take two or more high-performing teams and merge them into one—so they can grow more reliant on themselves and one another—is an even greater challenge.

And it’s one with amazing benefits. Creating effective, lasting, bonds of trust can further enforce each team’s sense of competence and unity.

The process will invariably give you experience in management. It will also broaden your understanding of conflict resolution, which is one of the critical skills of any leader…but it’s also an opportunity for the team. Together your team can learn more about tolerance and patience. They can also mature as individuals and as a unit overcoming challenges internally as well as externally.

Best example in the company

Cross functionality builds upon the skills and the relationships managers and employees should be creating every day. It provides a venue for the kind of understanding that makes teams and departments more effective and efficient. Additionally, this gives your associates the chance to be a part of that shining example that cross-department cooperation can thrive and generate new ideas.

This helps the individuals to find and overcome their own weaknesses or to improve upon their strengths. This can even give them the opportunity to test their mettle in greater and more dynamic roles within the company. Understanding what, why, and how other people are working effectively will give you the kind of long view that leadership should be on the look-out for.

Empowering to excellence

Cross-functional training can give team members the often-missing sense of how their work complements and enhances the work done by the rest of the department. It can exponentially increase sense of buy-in and empower people on a company-wide level.

For example, a sales associate may have made a big sale. But in addition, she also helped the company make budget plus ten percent this year…with the help of the rest of the sales team and the support team that backed them up, plus the IT department that in turn supported them. Show your team members their place in the bigger picture: not how small their contribution…but how great.

Remember, training people to work as a team is an important step, but it’s only the first. Training the teams to work together flawlessly is the next and best step toward meeting every worthwhile long-term goal.

James Nicholson is a freelance writer with an M.S. in Strategic and Organizational Leadership from Neumann University. His 20 year business career spans all levels from the mail room to the boardroom. He takes a road less traveled approach to leadership.