More and more, we’re seeing businesses shift from hierarchical project management methods to team-orientated, agile structures. For many people, this can take some getting used to, so managing your cross-functional team effectively is crucial to your team’s success.
What is a cross-functional team?
A cross-functional team involves bringing together different people with a variety of skill sets and expertise to work towards a common goal. Collaborating with people from different disciplines can lead to more thorough decision making, increase productivity and improve problem-solving.
A team leader is often assigned to encourage the team’s accountability by delegating tasks, managing timelines, providing direction and collaborating with the team on the planning process. If that’s you, here are 5 tips to keep your team on track.
Agree on your goal
Before you start any project, it’s important to set and agree on a clear, achievable objective. Some of the most innovative and disruptive companies like Google and LinkedIn have adopted the increasingly popular goal-setting methodology called OKR (Objective and Key Results). The objective here should be qualitative (for example, successfully launch an awesome MVP) and the Key Results are quantitative (achieve 15% conversion rate). Both are used to focus a group on a bold goal. According to Christina Wodtke, ‘The real power of the OKR system is figuring out how to live that goal every day, as a team. OKRs are best achieved if they are baked into the daily and weekly cadence of a company, from planning meetings to status emails’.
Start your day together, with a quick 15-minute catch-up. Daily “stand-ups” or “scrums” are a common agile principle and are usually held at the same time and place each day. This helps set tasks for the day's work and gives you time to quickly assess what has been done the day before. Ideally, a daily standup is held in the morning and should be strictly time-boxed to 5 - 15 minutes. This keeps the discussion short but relevant and reinstates the common goal.
Communicate to collaborate
Effective communication is a no-brainer – it’s a huge contributor to any team’s success. As a team leader, it’s important to open those lines of communication and facilitate any tricky conversations to avoid potential blockers that interfere with a cross-functional workflow.
Don’t forget to get to know your team – encourage group activities, grab a coffee together and build those relationships which help a team (of potential strangers) to collaborate and communicate effectively. If a group coffee run isn’t possible and you’re managing a team abroad, jump on Skype or create a dedicated Slack channel to communicate quickly without clogging your email inbox. Another great productivity hack is JIRA – a popular project management software designed to help plan, track and manage agile projects and teams from a single platform.
Celebrate the small stuff
All too often, we forget to celebrate the small wins, especially in the workplace. As the team leads, make this your priority – highlight the great work of a team member in stand up, start a group clap when tasks move into the done pile and encourage the team to complement each other’s work. This will help to build the team’s confidence, boost morale and creates underlying respect for the role each team member plays in the project. Never underestimate the power of a high-five!
Although sometimes more difficult to manage, cross-functional teams need to be fluid and able to quickly adjust to a changing environment. As a leader, it’s important to constantly reevaluate the team’s priorities and processes. One way of doing this is scheduling regular “retrospective meetings”. These are common in most agile teams and are used to create an open environment to reflect on each “sprint” (a timeboxed work period, usually 1 - 2 weeks). Discuss what went well, what needs improvement, and determine the next steps.
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