Today, when you embark on the product development journey setting strictly-enforced boundaries between the departments, won’t accelerate the growth, but will only slow it down. To bring a gulp of fresh air, some creativity and, perhaps, new ideas, try opting for a cross-functional team instead.
A cross-functional team comprises a group of people with different functional expertise that work towards a common goal. It includes representatives from different levels of the organization and may also include members from outside the company. Team members are often separated by functional or organizational boundaries but they all work towards a common goal.
So how to set up such a miracle or a team? What are its strengths and weaknesses? And why should you even bother with a cross-functional team?
Cross-functional teams work better under certain conditions. Going back to the previously mentioned HBR study, it concludes that what keeps such groups focused on the project is primarily a clear and strong cross-functional governance.
There has to be a top tier of senior managers that oversee cross-functional projects and make sure that a team sticks to proper project prioritization. They guarantee effective use of resources while keeping the bigger picture of their project in mind.
But as important as clear governance is, the main ingredient of your product’s success is a talented and competent team that will do all the heavy lifting.
In an interview with MIT Sloan Shamim Mohammad, CIO of CarMax, the largest retailer of used cars in the US, shares their success story of setting up an agile cross-functional team. Mohammad distinguishes three key roles on their cross-functional team:
- A product manager who is typically not from IT field and acts as a CEO of the team
- A lead developer or an engineer
- A UX (user experience) designer
Their teams are free to bring their input and ideas into product development as they are self-governing in finding solutions on their own, the leadership team only guides them when it comes to setting objectives and KPIs.
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