Cross-functional team


A cross-functional team is a group of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal. It may include people from finance, marketing, operations, and human resources departments. Typically, it includes employees from all levels of an organization. Members may also come from outside an organization (in particular, from suppliers, key customers, or consultants).

Cross-functional teams often function as self-directed teams assigned to a specific task which calls for the input and expertise of numerous departments. Assigning a task to a team composed of multi-disciplinary individuals increases the level of creativity and reduces groupthink. Each member offers an alternative perspective to the problem and potential solution to the task. In business today, innovation is a leading competitive advantage and cross-functional teams promote innovation through a creative collaboration process. Members of a cross-functional team must be well versed in multi-tasking as they are simultaneously responsible for their cross-functional team duties as well as their normal day-to-day work tasks.

Some researchers have viewed cross-functional interactions as cooperative or competitive in nature, while others have argued that organization’s functional areas are often forced to compete and cooperate simultaneously with one another (“coopetition”) and it is critical to understand how these complex relationships interplay and affect firm performance.

Decision making within a team may depend on consensus, but often is led by a manager/coach/team leader. Leadership can be a significant challenge with cross-functional teams. Leaders are charged with the task of directing team members of various disciplines. They must transform different variations of input into one cohesive final output. Cross-functional teams can be likened to the board of directors of a company. A group of individuals of various backgrounds and disciplines are assembled to collaborate in an efficient manner in order to better the organization or solve a problem.

Some organizations are built around cross-functional workflows by having reporting lines to multiple managers. This type of management is called matrix management, and such organizations are often called matrix organizations.

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