What is Cross Functional Team?

Cross Functional Teams

Have you ever wondered why some organizations are able to deliver innovative products and services at a rapid pace while others struggle to keep up? 

Have you ever considered why some teams seem to work seamlessly together while others constantly butt heads and struggle to accomplish even the most basic tasks? 

If so, 

you might be interested to learn about the power of cross functional teams.

You see, the modern workplace is constantly evolving, and traditional siloed organizational structures are no longer effective. As companies strive to keep pace with the changing business landscape, they are turning to cross functional teams as a solution. 

These teams bring together individuals from different departments and skill sets to work together on a common goal. This allows organizations to tap into diverse perspectives, skills, and expertise, resulting in more innovative and effective outcomes.

Cross functional teams have become a cornerstone of modern organizations because they allow companies to respond quickly to market changes, customer needs, and emerging technologies. 

They foster a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing, which leads to more efficient problem-solving and improved results. So, if you’re looking to create a high-performing organization that can stay ahead of the curve, consider the power of cross functional teams.

In this blog, we will dig deeper into the basics and various nuances of the cross functional teams

Read on, 

What Is a Cross Functional Team?

Cross Functional Team Definition

“A group of people from different areas of an organization (sales, engineering, marketing, finance). This group is set up in units to make overall decisions for a company for a particular project or achieve a common goal for the business.”

Cross functional teams can be the main form of organizational structure or part of an overall hierarchical structure. Therefore having an overview of things you should keep in mind when optimizing organizational structure is important.

A cross functional team means a workgroup made up of employees from distinguishing functional areas within a company who collaborate to reach a common objective.

Over the recent years, cross functional teams have become more popular for three main reasons. 

They improve coordination and integration, span organizational boundaries, and speed the production cycle time in new product development

Don’t Get Confused Between Cross Functional and Functional Team

It’s important to understand the difference between the conventional functional teams and the cross functional teams moving forward, 

Why wait then, 

Let’s look at the difference real quick,

Composition: The composition of functional and cross functional teams is one of the key differences between the two. Functional teams are made up of individuals with the same skills and expertise, who work together to achieve specific goals within a functional area. 

For example, a functional team of software developers would work together to develop software. On the other hand, cross functional teams bring together individuals from different functional areas, with diverse skills and expertise, to work together towards a common goal. 

For example, a cross functional team launching a new product might include individuals from the marketing, product development, engineering, and sales departments.

Purpose: The purpose of a functional team is to maximize efficiency and expertise within a specific area, while the purpose of a cross functional team is to bring together the expertise of different functional areas to solve complex problems and achieve shared goals. 

A functional team is focused on achieving specific goals within its functional area, while a cross functional team is focused on achieving a common goal that requires the input and expertise of multiple functional areas.

Structure: The structure of functional and cross functional teams also differs. Functional teams often have a hierarchical structure, with a clear chain of command and a designated leader or manager making decisions. 

On the other hand, cross functional teams often have a flatter structure, with more collaboration and decision-making by consensus. This structure allows for better integration of different functional areas and more effective problem-solving.

Decision-making: In a functional team, decisions are often made by a designated leader or manager, while in a cross functional team, decisions are made through collaboration and input from all members. 

This approach to decision-making in cross functional teams ensures that all perspectives and areas of expertise are taken into account, leading to more well-rounded and effective solutions.

Communication: Communication is also different in functional and cross functional teams. In a functional team, communication is typically focused within the team, with little need for coordination and collaboration with other functional areas. 

On the other hand, communication in a cross functional team is more widespread, with a need for coordination and collaboration between multiple functional areas. 

Effective communication is essential for the success of cross functional teams, as it allows for seamless integration of different functional areas and helps to achieve shared goals.

Functional Teams and Cross Functional Teams' structure

Understand Cross Functional Team Through Examples

Let’s look at some of the cross functional team examples to understand the concept of a cross functional team better.

These examples will help you understand the workability and benefits of the cross functional teams.

Collaboration for Projects

Mainly a cross functional team is formed for a specific period of a particular project. 

All individuals assigned that project will come together and work as a team. 

This way, confusion and politics both get cleared out. 

An cross functional team example would be for an IT project, all the developers, business unit managers, and designers will collaborate. 

Collaboration for Product Development

A cross functional team can also be used for developing a product. 

Product development requires innovation. Cross functional team management automatically brings creativity which in turn aids in innovation.

Hence having a team of market researchers, engineers, marketers, and another diverse pool of talents is a must. 

Collaboration of Marketing and Sales Teams

Teams that are often not very cooperative such as marketing and sales. However cross functional team management brings them together.

They work on pricing, customer services, lead qualification and generation, and many other functions here. 

Collaboration of Information Technology and Business Units

Another cross functional team example would be, when the IT team’s work pace level of responsiveness slows down, business units and the IT teams come together. 

This collaboration ensures that both the teams create, implement and support the exact requirements. 

The Benefits of Cross Functional Team

There are many benefits of cross functional teams. Let’s look at them:

Cross functional Teams Challenge the Old Ideas and Get Things Done Faster and Better

Businesses stuck with old ways of doing things can get a fresh perspective when there is a cross functional team collaboration. 

Another advantage of a cross functional team is that the pace of work gets accelerated. This results in improved productivity as well. 

Cross functional Teams Together Work To Keep Customers Satisfied

When in an organization, more preference is given to cross functional team collaboration. These teams plan out a roadmap around their customer’s needs and wants

This, in turn, fosters user satisfaction. 

Cross functional Teams Help in Reducing Cycle Time. 

When an organization decides on cross functional team collaboration, they help reduce the cycle time. 

Cross functional teams are incredible at handling customer pain points and delivering solutions on time. 

Cross functional Teams Foster Creativity, Flexibility, and Innovation


Among the other advantages of a cross functional team, the one that stands out is when teams collaborate, more and more creative ideas are bound to flow.

Cross functional collaboration inevitably fosters creativity, as there are multiple ideas that come together.


Flexibility means that all the cross functional team members have to be adaptable in their approach to others’ ideas and insights.

Due to the diversity and expertise of the team members, everyone has a great scope for learning. 

While exchanging ideas and skills, individuals can also look at the bigger picture and work towards common business goals. 


Cross functional teams help in the improved innovation of solutions and products. 

Since these teams are full of diverse skills, they crush the traditional thinking ways and discover a new way of innovating. 

These are just the few benefits of the cross functional teams. There are many more.

The Disadvantages of Cross Functional Team

Pitfalls of Cross functional Teams

Although there is an absolute value in having high functioning cross functional teams, here’s what the research says. 

Benham Tabrizi conducted a study on 95 teams throughout 25 corporations.

A panel of academics and experts selected these teams. The results showed that there is a 75% chance that a cross functional team will be dysfunctional

Dysfunctional” in this study means you fail to meet three of five criteria. The criteria are as follows: 

  • Meeting a planned budget
  • Staying on schedule
  • Adhering to specifications
  • Meeting customer expectations
  • Maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals

Interestingly, the highest success rate came from a clearly defined cross functional team management or a single, high-level executive champion.

The success rate was a whopping 76% compared to a paltry 19% when only moderate management was in place.

No doubt there are scads of benefits but there are few disadvantages of the cross functional teams too or to put it mildly reasons for their failure.

So without further ado, here are the reasons why cross functional teams fail. 

No Clearly Defined Leader

One of the common cross functional team challenges arises when the cross functional team management is not well defined. 

Without a clear leader, the chance of success drops from 76% to 19%. That alone should be enough to determine the value of having a defined leadership structure from the get-go. 

Misaligned Goals and Priorities

On a microscale, an employee considers their total responsibilities when deciding how to prioritize personally. 

If the cross functional tasks aren’t part of the employees’ overall assessment, they will lower priority. 

This is why in cross functional teamwork, a clear roadmap for employees is imperative to help them know what they’re working on.

In that same vein, making sure priorities are succinctly laid out will allow leaders to acknowledge and praise good performance without micromanaging tasks. 

An alignment matrix will allow your team to have a helicopter view of the features the stakeholders feel strongly about and which ones can have a lower overall priority. 

Too Little or Too Much Communication

Another reason why cross functional teams fail is due to communication. 

Too little communication would keep people out of the loop on what they are working on. Not giving enough information can leave stakeholders in the dark. 

Similarly, having too many meetings or emails can leave a stakeholder feeling like they’re constantly playing catch up. It deprives them of the opportunity to complete their necessary tasks. 

Lack of Trust 

Bringing stakeholders together from different departments and working together in a group is no small task. 

These individuals don’t interact beyond their specific departments most of the time. 

Therefore, the best strategy to employ is to build trust incrementally, which can only be done from within. 

Having the team focus on small tasks builds trust over time, knowing that everyone will complete requirements at times intended. The results will not happen overnight, but they will happen. 

Lack of Diversity

A culture of inclusivity is invaluable for your cross functional team and also across your whole organization. 

Your customer base will most likely come from a variety of backgrounds. Therefore, it stands to reason that your stakeholders ought to come from a variety of experiences as well.

Creating anything through a single lens obstructs the opportunity of developing for a limitless swath of people when all perspectives are considered.

Now that we have discussed the disadvantages of the cross functional teams, lets understand how to manage them.

How To Create an Effective Cross Functional Team?

Now that you know about the differences let’s quickly look at how you can create an effective cross functional team, so that you can reap maximum benefits.

Assemble The Right Team

There are specific sets of skills required to have a qualified cross functional team. The feature you are working on will determine who is needed to become a part of it. 

The often-overlooked requirement for well-oiled cross functional teams is assembling individuals with similar skills, just in different departments. 

This process of individuals coming together with different expertise to achieve a common goal is called cross functional team collaboration. 

The members of the cross functional team should be adequate self-starters who don’t need much direction but have the authority to make decisions.

Have a Defined Leader

Remember that it is not an absolute requirement to have a defined leader. However, suppose there aren’t clearly defined objectives for a cross functional team. In such a scenario, you can end up with chaos and team members working in opposite directions. 

Finding a leader is easier said than done. Yet, having someone that can simultaneously develop individuals working within a defined spectrum will create a successful team. 

A good leader will delegate and educate while giving autonomy to the individuals working within that organization.

Set Defined Goals

Before even assembling your team, you must have definitive goals set. 

This is for the same reasons as mentioned previously. You want your cross functional team to work with specific objectives in mind. That way, they don’t end up working in different directions. 

There are a few ways to define goals clearly, but one of the most efficient ways is to create a clear roadmap

A good feature roadmap will allow you to assign tasks, dates, and team members to specific tasks to maximize their abilities and keep everyone on track. 

The product roadmap pillars.
The product roadmap pillars.

Product management software like Chisel has roadmap pillar tools that will help to neatly determine how to allocate resources, set timelines, and assign tasks effectively.

Perhaps non-intuitively, this structure will allow team members more autonomy. They will have a defined expectation of them and execute accordingly.

Align the Team

Now that leadership is set and you have clearly defined goals, it’s time to align the team. 

Team alignment is one of the most essential but most demanding tasks. 

Essentially, team alignment requires balancing all of the opinions and observations of your team. 

Then, you turn them into clean, actionable prioritization. 

The balancing act of prioritizing can be tricky. That is why we have created an alignment matrix to see where your cross functional team aligns the priorities organically. 

The alignment matrix in Chisel’s workspace shows you how your team members have voted on a certain feature and prioritize it accordingly.
The alignment matrix in Chisel’s workspace shows you how your team members have voted on a certain feature and prioritize it accordingly.

Shared Success

Once you have the alignment of your team put down (thanks to software such as Chisel), it’s vital to focus on the wins. 

No matter how big or small a priority may be, anything that you complete deserves some level of acknowledgment by the stakeholders. 

The goal is to lead and complete the set objective. Leadership should be the reinforcing factor here. All of your successes should be shared with your team, and they should be given equal credit.

Always Reevaluate

The beauty of having a roadmap and a constant team alignment functionality is the ability to reevaluate at every step. 

None of these functionalities ought to be stagnant and need to be malleable as different priorities and tasks come to the forefront. 

Going back to the drawing board and requesting a team vote on prioritization for a new feature is practical. All you need to do is sign up and try it.

How To Manage a Cross Functional Team?

We have seen that a cross functional team can bring diverse skills, innovation, experience, and many more advantages to the plate.

But when a large group of people collaborates on something, there may be some differences, conflicts, and hiccups. 

However, if the cross functional team is managed effectively by its management, then you will clear the obstacles to achieving success for the business. 

Following are some of the ways you can implement to manage a cross functional team better. 

Get the Teams on the Same Page

It is of utmost importance for a cross functional team to know the desired goals. Such clarity results in less conflict, more cooperation, and collaboration from the newly formed cross functional team. 

Three things to keep in mind when overlooking these teams:

Firstly, define SMART project goals. Map out the outcome and the way to reach it. And share it with your team and openly discuss the various ways to collaborate effectively.

Secondly, give a free choice for everyone to have a say in the team. Having an open conversation makes an individual feel a part of the team. Also, when everyone contributes, new ways of doing things can come up.

Finally, if your goal is to smartly get the work done, then you must clarify and let each team member know their roles and responsibilities.

Communication Is the Only Key To Helping the Teams Collaborate

When you build a cross functional team, people who are used to working independently may also be a part of it. 

Office communication tools and channels are a great way to collaborate with such a team.

Tools such as slack, google chat, work front, and zoom can work wonders to open up the conversation amongst the teams. 

A few ways to help cross functional teams converse are:

  • Conduct team bonding exercises from time to time
  • Conduct regular team meetings and discuss progress, ideas, suggestions or just have an informal chat.

Foster Trust and Acceptance

When various teams collaborate, they bring along their specific expertise as well. 

Using jargon that others in a cross functional team may not well understand will lead to a lack of trust.

Some ways to foster collaboration and trust are:

  • Create a common language in terms of simplifying the concepts.
  • Be ready to fail.
  • Listen to the team members trying to put their point across.

Be Prepared for Conflicts

As we saw previously, sales and marketing are the teams who are always on two extremes when doing their work. Conflict in any work setting is a regular occurrence too. 

And when a cross functional team is brought together with diverse backgrounds, things will be no different. 

Conflicts can take place for various reasons, power, competition, lack of resources, and more.

Project managers must be ready to face such conflicts and take some measures to see how you can turn this into a fruitful experience for the team.

Cross functional teamwork can only yield best results if it’s managed properly.

Create a Roadmap

We know why the cross functional teams fail. But the other reason for cross functional team challenges is the absence of a roadmap.

An action plan is a must for any team to know where they are heading. 

Some of the cross functional team management tools that you may use are:

  • Scrum board
Give Chisel’s kanban board a try today. It guides teams to plan their work which maximizes work efficiency.
Give Chisel’s kanban board a try today. It guides teams to plan their work which maximizes work efficiency.

How to Work With a Cross Functional Team?

To achieve success, businesses must have a team that can work together efficiently. A cross functional team is a type of team that is composed of members from different departments or fields. This type of team is often used in businesses to get a variety of perspectives on a project.

Working with a cross functional team can be challenging at first, but with the right tips, you can learn how to communicate and collaborate with your team effectively. 

Here are a few tips on how to work with a cross functional team:

  • Make sure that everyone on the team has a clear understanding of the project.
  • Each member of the team should have a specific role.
  • Holds regular meetings to check in on the project’s progress.
  • Be open to suggestions from team members.
  • Ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding project deadlines.
  • Establish clear communication channels
  • When working on a project, it’s crucial to have a team that can work together cohesively.

By following these tips, you can work effectively with a cross functional team and complete your project successfully. With a little effort, you can make sure that your cross functional team can work together and get the job done.

challenges faced by cross functional teams and their solutions

Tips on Improving the Cross functional Team Collaboration

Having an Executive Support

If handling the cross functional teams is becoming a heavy task, get an executive buy-in and support.

Executives may not always be available to join the meeting. However, when they can, you could ask them to see the progress of the teams and where the company is headed. 

Use Only One Platform for Communication

We discussed how having a communication tool works very well for cross functional teams. It is also important to have centralized communication channels in a single place. 

Switching from one platform to another may create unnecessary chaos. Hence, have a channel that everyone in the cross functional team is comfortable using. 

Create a Team Charter

Team charters include objectives, goals, roles of team members, and expectations to explain how you will handle the team.

Creating a team charter gives you and your team members a clear idea of who you are and what plans you wish to accomplish.

If you are in cross functional team management, this can help you begin working with cross functional teams. 

Religiously Using the Project Management Tools

Using a project management tool is a must-have in any workplace setting. 

That will help you carve out your day-to-day tasks without having to remember them.

With too much work and cross functional teams to manage, it is quite right to have a project management tool at your side.


No two cross functional teams are the same. And handling a team with such diversity can be challenging at times. 

But with proper planning and busting tips and tricks mentioned above, you are up for success.

Cross functional teams, if managed well, can bring ideas never thought of before. 

If you give them a proper direction, they work well together. 

So go and build your cross functional team and enjoy the advantages it delivers.

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