Success with Cross-Functional Teams

Written By: Marcy Stroup & Anand Wuppuluri

WGU is at the cutting edge of Educational Technology. We have a clear vision of a future where learners of all kinds can pursue higher education in a fully digital format, and are not bound by rigid degree plans. Learners will also be able to enroll in electives, individual courses, and micro-credential certifications that allow creation of an individualized and personal path. So, how do we create the future we envision? We start by doing it together. We utilize the power of cross-functional teams to make our common vision a reality for learners.

Cross-functional teams are made up of people who together, have all the necessary skills and expertise required to accomplish a common objective. Frequently, team membership spans organizational boundaries and includes a crosscut of functional departments. Organizing a team around a value stream will create teams even more highly focused on value delivery. (Think delivery focused on quality versus quantity). This creates greater organizational alignment between work delivered and product objectives.

Advantages of Cross-functional teams

Subject matter experts working alongside the developers reduce the wait times and dependencies in creating a solution. Together, they identify the work more quickly due to the emphasis on collaboration rather than hand-offs. Team structure and diversity of perspective help make problem-solving and decision-making integral to the team. Cross-functional teams improve and advance T-shaped skills of the team members, making them more cohesive.

Cross-functional teams align with Business Agility

Our ultimate goal in all this is to advance the future we envision for all types of learners, and we believe cultivating an Agile mindset will help us get there. By aligning to the 12 Principles of Agile with our methods, we begin the cyclical nature of developing and practicing new insights into organizational agility.

The following 3 principles are key to unlocking the power of teams:

  • The best architecture, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
  • Simplicity — the art of maximizing the work not being done — is essential.

Build a Cross-Functional Team

Want to build a cross-functional team in your organization? Here are a few steps to help get started!

Points to consider when structuring teams…

  • Keep teams and individuals aligned with organization’s objectives
  • Include subject matter experts
  • Set clear goals, plans and roles for teams
  • Build teams with diversity (experience, skills, age, gender)
  • Embrace automation and technological advancements

Why it’s important…

  • Individuals in the teams should understand the impact of their work and it’s connection to their organizational goals
  • People who know their customers, processes and procedures can give helpful advice and help drive the team in the right direction
  • Explicitly stated goals and defined role boundaries increase the likelihood of success
  • Individuals with experience in different functional areas help build better cross-functional teams
  • Embracing technology for organizational growth will also increase employee engagement and help in their professional development

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