Anatomy of a Cross-Functional Innovation Team

Group of colleagues having a discussion around a conference table.
Teams need to work well together.

Cross-functional teams are powerful tools for innovation. Instead of moving ideas through a committee process department by department, decision-makers and stakeholders come together in one to move raw ideas into concrete approaches. Here’s how to build a cross-functional team that works.

Involve Leadership

Leaders in a department are the ones who make things happen. They’ll likely be the go or no-go you need to fully implement an idea. Before you do anything else, ensure that top leadership is fully committed to a cross-functional innovation team, ready to provide the resources it needs, and accept the results it’ll produce.

Have Clear Goals

Before you pick a single team member, everybody should know what you’re planning to do. Whether that’s cleaning up your product line, developing new software, or applying customer feedback, when the team sits down, they should know what they’re trying to achieve.

Assemble a Diverse Team

A broad spectrum of team members is important when putting together a cross-functional team. Ideally, the team will include everyone who has a stake in the product, up to and including customers. Look for team members that will work well together and can keep their stakeholders informed.

Transparency Matters

Ensure that everything – from the internal decision making process of the team to how ideas will move out of the team for final approval – is as transparent as possible. Make sure that any questions are answered clearly, and that the process is approved by everybody on the team. Use an innovation platform to document steps, thoughts, and approaches, as part of the transparency process.

Two people working out at a gym.
Teamwork can achieve amazing things.

Limit the “Cooks”

We’ve all heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen,” and when decisions might affect a huge number of people, everybody wants their say. However, there needs to be an upper limit to how many hands can work on one task. Look for barriers that don’t need to be there and clear them away, where possible. Just as important, ask why the barriers are there in the first place. You may uncover an issue that may not be obvious until you stumble over it again.

Build Communication

Cross-functional teams should be able to talk with each other easily and have the tools to do so. Ideally, all this will be concentrated on one platform, so communications are archived and accessible for anybody who needs them. This becomes particularly important in situations when the team is scattered across a large geographical area, which would make video conferencing and chat integral parts.

Have a Feedback Loop

Feedback is important to any project, but for cross-functional teams it’s particularly vital, as you’ll need to constantly refine and develop the process. Have the tools to collect, analyze, and offer constructive feedback to keep refining as you go along, and to address challenges as they appear.

Teamwork is always going to matter with any project. Yet, having the tools to put together the right team and enable them to work together matters just as much. To learn how to assemble effective cross-functional teams, contact us!

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