There are two types of cross-functional teams:

  • Cross-Functional Project Teams – These are convened as part of a project. They are transitory and only last for the duration of a project. They are a collective that come together to complete a series of tasks in concert in order to deliver a finite goal or set of goals.
  • Cross-Functional Product Teams – These are usually formed at inception of the product/product line concept phase and remain in place until the product/product line is phased out.

In this article we are going to discuss what it means to be part of a Cross-Functional Product Team.

What is a Cross-Functional Team?

When a new product concept is mooted, a Cross-Functional Team is formed to act as the business that will support every aspect of the product. This means that members are drawn from all relevant functions within the business and from external stakeholders where necessary.

Representatives from the following departments are usually included:

  • product management;
  • engineering;
  • marketing;
  • sales;
  • customer service;
  • operations;
  • compliance;
  • finance;
  • IT

The members of the team are peers irrespective of their seniority within the organization. They are led by the Product Manager who is considered to be the “Business Head”.

To start with being part of a Cross-Functional Product Team can be fairly stressful. This is due to the team dynamics and standard stages that teams go through as they develop.

In order for a team to reach its potential and start performing, it has to go through various stages that were identified by Dr. Bruce Truckman. These are forming, storming, norming and performing. It is widely acknowledged that the longer a team stays together the better it performs, as long as the members remain challenged and stimulated.

Behaviors for Success of Cross-Functional Teams

In order for a cross-functional team to work and perform optimally the following behaviors must be acknowledged, felt and exhibited by each team member. As a product manager, you should strive to do everything you can to make these happen across the team:

Commitment – Each team member must be fully committed to the goals of the team. They must also be fully honest and upfront with their colleagues about what they can and cannot commit to.

Empowerment – Not only do the team members have to feel empowered, which is difficult enough if it is not a business culture that they are used to but their functional department head also needs to ensure that all mechanisms are in place to make sure that they are truly empowered.

Alignment – Each member’s goals must be aligned with their goals as members of the Cross-Functional Product Team. If they are not and they are aligned solely with their functional department’s goals then they will be unable to act in the best interest of the product team.

Trust – It takes time for team members to learn to trust each other. Being open, honest, helpful, sticking to your commitments, delivery time and again will all go a long way to help engender the trust needed for a team to perform well with minimal conflict.

Accountability – Each member of the team and the team collectively must feel that they are accountable for meeting targets, attaining goals and for the outcomes of their decision making processes.