How to form a cross-functional team

Original author: Michhalski, Walter J.
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The implementation of most business projects requires a wide range of skills and knowledge. If you manage such a project, then you will almost certainly have to manage a group of representatives of different professions. They can be part of your organization, represent various divisions of your company, or work in completely separate structures. No matter where they are, they are united in what is called a “cross-functional” or “cross-functional” team.

As a project manager, on which the team is working, your task is to organize team members in order to turn them into an effective and well-coordinated group of specialists able to achieve the goals set for the project. Difficult task? Undeniably complicated - even confusing and time-consuming. However, if you follow certain rules, team building can be quite a thankful job, as well as easier and more successful. This article outlines the most important points.

What you need to know

I am new to project management and I need to form a cross-functional team. Where do I start and how to find the right people?

Start with what tasks the project sets itself and what skills their implementation requires. Then look at the employees and determine which of them has the necessary knowledge and enthusiasm. At the same time, it is necessary to determine whether the project requires the involvement of employees from outside. After that, you need to hire people who are suitable for you - for this you may need all sorts of approval from yours and their superiors. Obviously, the list of candidates can vary greatly depending on the nature of the project and the amount of work needed.

If, for example, you need to move to a workplace more suitable for the project, then you will most likely need planners, packers, movers, electricians, installation specialists, telecommunications specialists, etc. Probably, your new employees will need to move from different departments of the company, because you have chosen those who have the necessary knowledge and skills and those who are ready to give themselves all the best.

It is likely that the person who is interested in the project — that is, the one who appointed you as the leader — will be your ally and will help you choose the right people and hire them.

How to observe the correct proportions of personal qualities and knowledge in the project team?

This is the right train of thought! The interaction of different personalities during work can bring discord into the common cause, or even completely stall it. Ultimately, it may turn out that the way team members interacted with each other was far more important than the knowledge they possessed.

So what types of personalities should be inherent in the members of the new team?

Let's start with a dozen standard team roles highlighted by Dr. Meredith Belbin, an outstanding British business book author, teacher, and consultant. This classification appeared due to his research conducted in the late 1960s. The classification has passed the test of time and to this day is relevant on both sides of the Atlantic.

  1. Coordinator: Tries to get the most out of the work of each team member, determines the needs, forms the team, determines the goals, monitors the implementation, ensures the stability of the structure and is responsible for setting the task.
  2. Tester: Rocking the boat - adopting unconventional approaches, questioning orders, can be a source of innovative ideas.
  3. Expert: Provides specialist advice and an objective assessment (for example, in IT or calculations).
  4. Ambassador: Easily makes contacts, develops external relations, understands the external environment, advertises the team.
  5. Judge: Landed, logical and accurate - he listens, evaluates, weighs all the pros and cons, avoids disputes, seeks truth, encourages the team in search of a better solution.
  6. Innovator: It is a source of new vision, resourcefulness and creativity - it uses imagination, motivates others, develops ideas, works with tasks. Requiring an integrated approach.
  7. Coordinator: Able to help, reliable, cooperates easily - fills in the gaps, handyman, does not question the decision of the leadership.
  8. Performer: He thinks progressively, motivated, focused on tasks and results, monitors time and progress, intolerant of others.
  9. Mediator: Focuses on team relationships, monitors morale, resolves conflicts, gives advice, supports and encourages other team members.
  10. Controller: Checks whether the task is well completed, monitors the results of work, requires compliance with high standards and focuses on quality in general.
  11. Revisionist: Monitors performance, requires feedback, looks for a trick.

Ideally, the proportions of individuals of these types should be reasonably respected, because if there are more representatives of the same type, this can create problems. Imagine a team of judges or testers! And remember that one team member can perform several roles at the same time.

So do not worry if your team has several people for one role - this can also be used. Say, you can break a team into smaller subgroups, each of which will deal with certain aspects of the work and thus make a contribution to the common cause.

What to do next

Familiarize yourself with the stages of team formation.

From the moment a team is formed, a team goes through a series of stages, and at each of them host of problems and trials may arise.

For example, your team is trying to solve a confusing dilemma, during which, naturally, conflicts and disputes arise. If you understand in time that this is just such a period of development of internal team relations, and you will not puzzle over how to reassure employees, you will be much easier to assess the amount of necessary work, rather than wasting time on conflicts.

Usually there are 4 stages of team development:
  1. Formation. Everyone is very passionate, everything is new and interesting, no one yet knows what he should do, but he is not worried because of this.
  2. Excitement. Roles are distributed, personalities begin to show themselves, people are not so open with each other, they are worried about other people's abilities, and this provokes conflicts that can come to the surface if they are not stopped at a hidden stage.
  3. Settling. Mutual trust and confidence return, relations are strengthened, the opinions of others are respected, all issues are easily resolved. The goals do not seem unattainable, and everyone is trying to work together in order to achieve them.
  4. Execution. The team becomes flexible, everyone takes leadership in turn, delegates authority, so that team members grow professionally, current goals are achieved and progress is very tangible.

At the settling stage, it is necessary to push the team in the right direction.

For each team, it is necessary to determine the vector. Vectors are like guides, and each of the members gets its own guide, guided by their own ideas, thoughts and aspirations. It would be a disaster for the team if all the vectors were directed in different directions, and even if one of the team members moves in the opposite direction, this can do a disservice.

One of the primary tasks of the project manager is to make everyone move in one direction in order to achieve common goals - this is called “focus”. Although this is obvious, it still surprises the number of projects that fail due to the fact that team members pull the blanket over themselves, and no one really responds to this.

The best way to lay such vectors is to create a climate in which mistakes and failures are noticeable and are considered as useful experience (and not a reason for punishment), and in which each participant in the work process was aware of everything that was happening. Here is a list of factors that help establish this climate:
  • Free distribution of information. Make sure that each member of the team has all the information necessary for ongoing work.
  • Open communication. Do not keep secrets and do not let the team feel that one of its members is hiding something that others are not hiding.
  • Established feedback. People need to know how well they have shown themselves and how they are rated, and also what they should correct or improve.
  • One-on-one frequent communication. Speak with team members as equals, and take the time to make sure they are happy with everything and feel helpful.
  • The culture of listening. Make sure that people can freely express what they think and feel, and that they will be heard, even if their opinion is in the minority.

What motivates and what annoys team members

Motivation is crucial for a team to work efficiently and harmoniously. Research on motivation shows that motivators and demotivators are not completely related things. Something that can motivate people and fuel their enthusiasm is not always something in the absence of which they will feel dissatisfaction, discontent and apathy.

Here is a list of ten motivators for project team members and ten demotivators.

  • Confession
  • Achievements
  • Responsibility
  • Good relations with colleagues
  • Remuneration
  • Good relationship with the project manager
  • Leadership
  • Work on its own
  • Promotion
  • Personal growth

  • Relations with the project manager
  • Employee Relations
  • Remuneration
  • Leadership
  • Security
  • Working conditions
  • Company policy
  • Subordination within the team
  • Personal time
  • Title / Status

(From the book by R.J. Yurzak “Motivation in projects”)

Keep these lists in memory, go through the list of employees with them and think about what could best promote each of them individually or in small groups. Then think about which of the demotivators are present on your project. Finally, consider how you can enhance the effect of positive events and reduce the impact of negative ones. Delegate

, but don't forget to control.

Delegation of authority is another essential tool for managing a project team. Handing out assignments - which is the essence of delegation - seems very simple, but not everyone copes with this, especially at the beginning.

Transferring responsibilities over time is becoming easier, and it helps to successfully lead the project. Here are some practical tips:
  • Choose the best artist for this job. Depending on the task, you may not necessarily transfer responsibility for it to one of the subordinates - you can also delegate in the upstream direction or horizontally.
  • Clearly and clearly convey the essence of the task to the one to whom you pass it on, so that he understands exactly what, how and when you expect from him.
  • Break the task down into subtasks or stages, ideally it’s even better to indicate the deadlines for each of them. This will help the designated person to report on the status of work on time, and in case of problems you will know whether they are being properly addressed.
  • Record what you entrusted to and to whom.

The secret of successful delegation is to feel yourself in the shoes of team members. Let's say you are an experienced and responsible professional, you are well versed in your work and love it, but there is a project manager above you who constantly looks over your shoulder, ready to criticize every next step in advance! Or, for example, you are a complete beginner, unsure of yourself, your abilities and responsibilities, and above you is a leader who washes his hands and waits for you to swim out, or drown. How would you behave in each of the situations?

Delegation requires the right balance between control and independence.

Therefore, in addition to delegation advice, remember the rules for monitoring implementation.

Typically, the intensity of control depends on experience and motivation:
  • New or inexperienced specialist, unsure . Tell him what he will have to do, how he will do it, and provide him with a detailed plan with reporting dates for each stage of the task, periodically review the task and maintain feedback.
  • Relatively experienced, moderately confident. Tell him what result you are expecting, together plan the stages of implementation, but reporting points may be less.
  • More experienced, but requiring some help. Tell him what result you are expecting, let me plan the implementation myself, but indicate important reporting points.
  • An experienced and enthusiastic specialist. Tell him what you expect at the exit, the timing and reporting points (if necessary), and leave it to work independently. But take all responsibility for the task to him - you are still the project manager and you, and only you, are responsible for the final result.

Quickly resolve conflicts Conflict

-friendly environments. This is because they imply temporality, and circumstances within their framework are constantly changing. An unresolved conflict can be extremely destructive, so any disagreement should be immediately addressed as follows:
  • Identify the conflict. It can be open (visible and arising for a completely understandable reason), or hidden (violent, but not coming to the surface, occur for an apparently extraneous reason).
  • Watch carefully. Look out for troubling signs that could help identify conflict early on. A quick response will save a ton of time and energy in the future.
  • Examine the situation. Take the time to track down the cause of the conflict, its participants, and consider the consequences. If you imagine yourself in the place of other people, it will be much easier to understand the situation and empathize.
  • Develop an approach. Encourage parties to the conflict to be open and listen to others in a collaborative effort. It would be nice if the parties to the conflict expressed their thoughts and feelings in writing, so that their thoughts were expressed more logically and deliberately.
  • Eliminate the cause. Let everyone express their point of view. Avoid retaliatory attacks - they will only aggravate the situation and may lead to loss of credibility. Be persistent, but not aggressive - like passivity, aggression here will not help in any way. Take into account all points of view. Invite all participants to express their thoughts on how to resolve the situation - if they themselves act as sources of “peacemaking” ideas, then it would be better to stick to them.

What to avoid

Non-involvement of colleagues in the initial planning

Set all the rules on your own, dictate methods without discussion with the team - this is a search for trouble on your own head. You brought these people together because they are experienced and well versed in their work - so get them involved in a common cause from the very beginning. They will not only provide information and useful ideas, but also feel themselves to be co-authors of the general plan, which will help them to follow it in the future more responsibly and better invest in the project.

Giving up leadership

On the other hand, a team is not a council or a committee to collectively manage a project. You are still a leader, and you are expected to direct all the efforts of the participants in the right direction, putting at the service of the common cause all the useful ideas and experience that you have at your disposal. The best way to maintain team consensus is to get everyone involved in the planning process initially, explaining the scope of work and the scope of the project. It is imperative to get comments and observations, and then, keeping them in mind, reconsider once again the final tasks with those who will carry them out, and adjust the plan so that it suits everyone.


Just forget about it. You cannot keep track of every little thing on your own. Moreover, your team will lose all interest in independent work. Most team members are proud that they have chosen them for the project, and this helps them to fulfill their task. Use this. Transfer tasks, entrust individual pieces of work, monitor the implementation properly, but focus on the project as a whole - do not lose sight of the whole picture. This is precisely the work of the project manager.

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