In modern organizations, cross-functional teams are a standard practice that involves bringing together members from diverse corporate teams, departments, and even external companies.
However, despite their prevalence, many of them are dysfunctional, says Behnam Tabrizi, best-selling author and faculty member at Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering.
In a study of 95 teams across 25 leading corporations, Tabrizi found that nearly 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, failing at least three out of five criteria for organizational success:
- Meeting a planned budget
- Staying on schedule
- Adhering to specifications
- Meeting customer expectations
- Maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals.
And, the root cause? Tabrizi explains,
Teams are hurt by unclear governance, by a lack of accountability, by goals that lack specificity, and by organizations’ failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects.
As a result, Tabrizi suggests 3 key corrective actions.
Increase transparency and accountability
According to Tabrizi, it is essential for every cross-functional team to have a designated decision-maker who is held accountable for the team's success. In addition, this team leader must be empowered with the authority to override any conflicting objectives from individual team members. Otherwise, the team's objectives will always be overshadowed by the competing goals of its members.
Bridge data silos
Collaborating in a cross-function team can be challenging due to the use of disparate tools among team members and the absence of a seamless data flow between systems. This issue becomes even more pronounced when team members come from different companies, because data exchange often devolves into manually emailing files and spreadsheets back-and-forth. That's why cross-functional teams must be equipped with the right tools and systems that can bridge these gaps.
Eliminate digital friction
Leveraging Gartner's definition, Tabrizi explains,
Digital friction is the the unnecessary effort exerted by employees in using technology for work.
And, as Gartner discovered from a survey of over 5,000 employees and more than 100 CIOs, 94% of employees encounter digital friction when trying to do their jobs.
Employees want more standardization and automation to eliminate all these headwinds, Tabrizi observes. That’s why leaders must pay close attention to how these teams operate and equip them with tools to excel.
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Forbes: Creating A Cross-Functional Team In The New Normal
Organizations must break down silos, streamline data flow, and eliminate digital friction so that employees can get their jobs done without information or app overload.
Forrester: The Crisis Of Fractured Organizations
Teams today are drowning in tools. Large organizations with more than 20,000 employees use an average of 367 software apps and systems. Learn how teams can address organizational misalignment and achieve more in the modern work environment.
Gartner: Eliminating Barriers to Technology Work Across the Enterprise
Digital friction has become a silent killer of employee engagement, productivity and growth. Organizations looking to accelerate digital business must eliminate these headwinds in all parts of the enterprise.
HBR: 75% of Cross-Functional Teams Are Dysfunctional
Cross-functional teams often fail because the organization lacks a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, by a lack of accountability, by goals that lack specificity, and by organizations' failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects.