Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) can be an effective tool to expedite a launch. But if not managed correctly, they can be your worst nightmare. CFTs have two purposes. The first is to combine the widest possible range of expertise so that, hopefully, every detail is surfaced, documented and addressed. The second is to improve time to market. These may seem at odds, but CFTs accomplish both when effectively organized and managed. Here are some tips for building and managing strong CFTs
An effective CFT has one representative from each functional area who has the ability to make commitments on behalf of that area. If the representative can’t make commitments, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Team members who sense their time is being wasted will stop coming to meetings. Picking the right representative for each functional area is key. Do your homework and identify the best available resources.
Avoid ambiguity by clearly defining CFT goals and expectations so the team knows what is expected of them. Even if you have experienced members from previous CFT teams, it’s still critical to set expectations, including consequences if expectations aren’t met. Also, make sure management understands the importance of the CFT to your organization and that their support of the team is fundamental to its success.
Keep CFT meetings brief. One hour is usually enough. Distribute an agenda several days before each meeting so that team members have sufficient time to prepare. It’s also a good idea to increase meeting frequency as the launch nears. For example, in the planning phase you may want to meet every two weeks. In the readiness phase you may want to shift to weekly meetings, and then to daily meetings as the launch phase approaches.
It’s not necessary to invite every member to every meeting, but be sure to indicate who is required to attend and who is optional. Include someone to track time and document action items, issues and decisions. This frees the leader to focus on driving the meeting. When an action item is raised, document it, assign it and set a date for completion. When an issue is identified, document it and assign it. Likewise, when a decision is made, document it.
It’s your responsibility to communicate progress—good and bad. How you communicate may depend on the audience. A summary email may be all you need for communicating with the management team. But it may be helpful to call team members who aren’t under your direct supervision to remind them that CFT commitments are a top priority.
By selecting the best available people for your team, setting clearly defined expectations and getting management buy-in, you’ll be well on your way to creating an effective team that will expedite your launch.