Taking the cross-functional approach to a new level can put you ahead of the innovation game.
When you set your sights on a new initiative for your organisation, you will probably pull together a group of big thinkers from key areas to work out how you can achieve it. But this cross-functional teamwork concept may not be the simple solution you’re hoping for, according to Sally Blount and Peter Leinwand, writing for Strategy+Business.
THE STANDARD APPROACH
Forming a small team of experts from various departments of your company – like finance, marketing and operations – to concentrate their efforts on the issue over a short period of time is the most popular tactic in the rapidly changing, global business environment.
However, a recent survey shows that all too often the members of these cross-functional teams find the whole process, at best, unreliable in terms of optimum results. Only between six and ten per cent of those questioned in the study believed the teams they were part of were regularly hitting the mark.
The overwhelming majority thought that their teamwork wasn’t a priority for management, and that as a team they were failing to make clear decisions or be held responsible for the ones they did make. On top of that, they thought the different perspectives they brought to the table were largely ignored.
MAKING IT WORK
Putting together an effective project team isn’t something to be taken lightly; it requires careful thought. Not only do you need to select candidates according to the specific skills required for the task, but you also need to be very clear about your goals and offer regular support.
Once you have the right people on board, make sure you put some safeguards in place to keep them from straying off the desired path into risky or futile areas.
THREE WAYS TO FOCUS TEAMWORK
Here are three key pointers to fine tune your group of experts and their direction:
1) Appoint a senior executive to oversee the team. This confirms there’s a meaningful purpose attached to the process, a structure for conclusions and a method for acknowledgment of team members.
2) Have coherent intentions and procedures to measure success. Underpin the group’s collective focus by linking the results of the project to both the executive’s own efficiency and the company’s overall blueprint.
3) Make good and obvious use of the team’s insights. Ensure the knowledge gained is applied and shared in appropriate areas throughout the organisation.
TAKING IT FURTHER
Blount and Leinwand cite major companies that have used these strategies successfully, including Kellogg, Apple, Ikea and Lego.
These big players have been inspired to embrace more integral switches in policy, making cross-functional teams a perpetual part of their R&D function, allowing their automatic participation in a consistent flow of innovative expansion under the guidance of chief innovation, chief risk or chief growth officers.
Whatever your ambition for your business, you will need input from a diverse group of inhouse experts to create the best action plans. With cross-functional teams now the norm, if you want to stay ahead of the game, it’s time to think beyond the box to shape your own most effective model.