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CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMWORK SUCCESS

By Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J. , Ph.D.
 
Building healthy, vibrant teams is a natural function that follows the creation and articulation of a noble vision.  Once this kind of Level 3 cultural vision, Level 3 view of success, Level 3 view of people, and Level 3 view of ethics is established, you don’t have to worry.  People will naturally enter into teams, and cross-functional teaming (teams of people with different functional/technical expertise) is today’s reality.
 
 When I was president of a university, cross-functional teaming was very important to me.  For these teams to be highly contributive, we did all we could to eradicate the Comparison Game between members and their departments to focus on contributions as they helped the team toward the noble vision.  It was also important to acknowledge individual and departmental contributions towards the team success to encourage more contributive teamwork.  This helped keep up motivation and build trust, especially when this recognition was also given in a spirit of teamwork.
 
If we reduce the Level 2 ego sensitivities that contribute to the Comparison Game in cross functional teams, then the accounting type will actually enjoy working with the creative type, or the systems type, or operational type.  The creative type will enjoy working with the analytical and operational type, etc. People will even expand their vision by working with these other departments.  You get the point.   
 
You want teams that value others’ and their own expertise, not compare inadequacies and differences.  These comparisons are futile energy wasters whereas appreciation of others’ gifts in a spirit of teamwork creates energy and fosters a positive spirit and open communication. 
 
We want to get to a point where people are openly communicating within a sense of a very noble purpose.  Then we will transfer this esprit de corps, that self-motivation to the team or group where synergy happens.  When 1+1=5 that energy is transferred into more creativity and contribution that is more than two or three individuals could ever accomplish. 
 
This is the great multiplier effect in cross-functional teaming.   And of course, it’s fun. Fun is good.  In other words, to work with someone you like, in an atmosphere you like, where there’s noble purpose being pursued with people who have genuine empathy for it—that’s not bad!  That’s a good working environment, which will enable you to keep the top 25% of your critical skills people.
 
Product, process, and peoples comprise the 3 P’s that must be developed and pursued in an organization, and thus in teams - whether you are a non-profit, for-profit, educational, or government organization.  Cross-functional teams can enhance all of the 3 P’s.  However, it is the people, people, people who are vigilant about the designing of products and enhancing processes.  And it is people, people, people who determine the organization’s culture. 
 
The complexities of business require this sort of teamwork because the depth of organizational systems and its influence on culture and organizational success is real.  I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, so I count myself as the person who learns through the series of hard knocks.   Keeping your top talent and having cross-functional teams that work toward a noble vision is one of the best things you can do for your employees, your organization, and even for yourself.