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Cross Functional Teams

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  Title: Cross-functional teams build a `big picture' attitude. By: D'O'Brian, Joseph, Supervisory Management, 1045263X, Oct94, Vol. 39, Issue 10 Database: Business Source Premier HTML Full Text CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS BUILD A BIG PICTURE ATTITUDE Contents 1.   ADVANTAGES OF THE CFT 2.   THE LEADERSHIP ISSUE 3.   PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER 4.   EVALUATING THE TEAM  Listen Select:  American Accent   It's like herding cats. That is what someone once likened putting together people from different functions into a team. But when the effort is successful, the task is clearly worthwhile. Some popular uses for CFTs are to develop a total quality culture, to study a product problem, and to overhaul company procedures. ADVANTAGES OF THE CFT  A CFT can reduce the amount of time a project might otherwise take to complete if it consists of representatives of the departments critical to the project's completion. If a CFT solves problems, sets policies or goals, or comes up with ideas to improve the company, all the departments represented also feel they have contributed to the company's success. That, in turn, can boost morale throughout the company. Finally, CFTs assure that all departments get some voice in the solution, thereby avoiding complaints from one or more departments that they had no input into the solution and have had to suffer the consequences. THE LEADERSHIP ISSUE   Who's in charge here? is a tough question when you're dealing with a team of peers from different departments. Should the CFT have a rotating chair? Should there be rule by consensus, with limited authority for each member? Should there be a temporary leader when the team is first formed, to get the ball rolling, someone who will withdraw after the first few meetings? And how do you avoid power struggles when he or she leaves? Many CFTs run best without an established boss. A CFT can be an opportunity for each team member to show leadership skills. One member might emerge as an organizational leader, an expert at figuring out what needs doing, and when, and who can round up the resources and get everyone pulling in the right direction. Another team member might be a visionary: He or she will do best at brainstorming sessions, coming through with ideas that are two or three steps ahead of everyone else's. Still another team member might be the diplomat, the expert at nipping squabbles in the bud and keeping everyone feeling positive. As the work progresses, a pattern of distributed leadership will form. Of course, CFTs don't have to function without an actual leader. Some teams feel more comfortable with one person in charge, and sometimes a true overall leader will emerge and be accepted without controversy. But in general, the team shouldn't feel that the representative of one department is more powerful or important than that of another. PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER    When putting together a CFT, you have to be concerned with more than just getting representation for all relevant departments. For instance, you need at least one person, preferably more, with good interpersonal skills. Open-minded people, who can take the long view, are important; so are people who aren't afraid of change or risk. Above all, only put people on the team who are willing to commit time to the team. If a prospective member sees this assignment as collateral duty, rather than as an integral part of the job description, nominate someone else. Stress the all for one concept: Make it clear that team members are responsible to one another, as well as to their departments and the company overall. EVALUATING THE TEAM  You should use a number of methods to evaluate the effectiveness of a CFT. The overriding question, of course, is, Did the team produce? But you should also determine how well the team worked together, how long it took them to get things done, whether they performed above and beyond what you expected of them. Individual evaluations can be tricky. Here, you may want to allow each team member to evaluate each other member (confidentially, of course), and combine that input with evaluations by each team member's boss. Factors to look for should include the ability to come up with good ideas, diplomacy, organizational and administrative skills, and consistent attendance at team meetings. ~~~~~~~~ By Joseph D'O'Brian Illustrated by Susan Detrich
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