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Should your company decide to undertake a large project without assembling cross-functional teams — for example, a development and implementation project that requires a sizeable number of your staff at all levels and could take six months or more – it will greatly reduce the project’s chance of success. In other words, cross-functional teams produce results!
“Break down barriers between departments.”
from Deming’s 14 Points
We are not advocating that you “put a committee at the top of every task”, or “there has to be unanimous agreement on every detail of the project plan“. We are saying that capable project leaders assemble capable and diverse groups of assistants and empower them.
Why? By assembling a cross-functional team, you ensure “out-of-the-box thinking.” Conventional thinking doesn’t breed the kind of change you need. In fact, conventional thinking can be dangerous to your company. Think about it:
- Does conventional wisdom ”always” work?
- Can you think of companies that no longer exist because they stayed with the status quo?
When you gather people from diverse backgrounds, departments, and levels, everyone’s thinking outside other’s boxes. Let’s say I’m in the “development box”. The people in the “accounting box” and the “marketing box” are outside my box, and vice versa. We’re bringing a fresh perspective to each other, thereby strengthening the project and assuring better results. It’s similar to what Mendel discovered over a hundred years ago about cross-pollination — the result is a hybrid more robust than its parents.
Everyone’s opinions have some merit. Anyone who’s been with your company for a couple of years or more probably knows your business well enough that their observations and opinions have validity.
Those who stay in their boxes — companies that get the same teams together every time to think over important stuff and don’t reach into the employee pool for new, fresh ideas and thinking — are handicapping their efforts. They can barely see to the top of their boxes, let alone see what’s outside.
Leaders have the necessary forward vision to see the immense benefits their organization gains by using cross-functional teams. How often do you use cross-functional teams?
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- McCafferty, Dennis, “What Your CFO Is Not Telling You”, CIO Insight (Sept. 20, 2010), http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Business-Intelligence/What-Your-CFO-Is-Not-Telling-You-802981/