Some people believe that multifunctional teams can be very productive because they have clear governance, accountability, specific goals, appropriate project management tools, as well as the organization to invest in and prioritize their success. Multifunctional teams are generally created to drive innovation, break down bureaucratic boundaries and reduce production cycle times by providing a more collaborative environment. Aaron Rodriguez, an expert in management and optimization of resources, provides some of the best suggestions for businesses to have fairly stable multifunctional teamwork.
A multifunctional team is a team in which members have different skill sets, but all work toward a common goal. It often includes people from different departments and from all levels of the organization, although it may also include participants from outside the organization. These teams are generally self-directed. They are assigned tasks, which are then approached in unique ways due to the varied experience of the team members. Each participant can offer his or her own perspective, leading to a more “out-of-the-box” solution. This creative approach can lead to innovation, which can be a substantial market advantage over the competition.
“Multifunctional teams often exist in small or startup environments. Because startups generally have a small number of employees, team members may have to perform a variety of tasks in different departments, thus collaborating with those departments as well. This certainly creates a cross-functional team environment, even if the organization has not yet recognized it,” Rodriguez explains.
Multifunctional agile teams are common. If a multifunctional team mixes specialists from different fields, agile teams take this a step further. They have them combine and require each team member to expand beyond their area of expertise. In addition, Agile requires self-organizing teams, which fits very well with the way a cross-functional team works. Team collaboration can help the organization work productively and efficiently at all times. Cross-functional collaboration is a great team-building proposition and can create a more productive environment.
According to Rodriguez, assembling the right team is one of the best strategies to implement from the start. “There is a skill set that is required to have an effective multifunctional team. The project will dictate some of these. The work will require a variety of expertise from the team, and therefore that team should have people who have the various skills needed,” Rodriguez adds.
Having a leader is also more than suggested. While it is not a prerequisite to have one person in charge of a multifunctional team, the benefits outweigh the risks. First, everyone on the team must take responsibility. Find a leader who can give the team accountability and develop self-leaders from each team member. A team leader needs to educate, delegate and give autonomy while tracking progress. Collaborate with the team, too, by inviting them into the planning process. If you can, get mentors to help guide the team and instruct them as needed.
Rodriguez has made it abundantly clear that objectives have to be always defined. Just like any other team, if a multifunctional team does not have clear objectives, they may find themselves going in directions that lead to a dead end. Therefore, it is crucial to have objectives defined and established even before assembling the team.
Some of the ways to define those objectives are the same as any other project. For example, you want to have the charter to define project priorities. An approved budget gives everyone a financial roadmap. It’s important to always keep in mind what outcomes you want and in what time frame you have scheduled to complete them.
Rodriguez explains, “The earlier you determine these markers, the easier time you will have. Team members will be able to go off on their own, with greater autonomy, knowing what is expected of them, when it is expected, and what resources they need to achieve those expectations.”