Cross-Functional Team Building: Breaking Down Silos

As organizations grow, it can be challenging to maintain the culture of innovation that fueled their success in the first place. Teamwork is essential for fostering innovation. It’s like growing a garden. You have to pull out the weeds that can stifle growth and “out-of-the box” thinking. It’s not a quick fix.

Every now and then, we receive requests from prospective clients for a 2 hour or half day team building session aimed at breaking down silos and promoting cross-functional teamwork. I always tell companies the same thing. “It can’t be done. While some team building consultants will be glad to take your money and run, our clients deserve better.” A half day simulation can barely scratch the surface and kick off a process but it can’t resolve deep-seated issues or conflicts.

What does effective cross-functional team building look like?

  1. Begin by identifying the SPECIFIC business issues that have been created by the lack of teamwork.
  2. Pinpoint SPECIFIC incidents that have cost or lost the company money. Attach a dollar value to each incident and identify its cause (e.g. bottlenecks, communication breakdowns, rivalry, and infighting, withholding information and resources.)
  3. Next, set specific objectives. Really take the time to clarify what effective cross-functional teamwork will look like and how things will be “different around here” when there is an improvement.
  4. Crowdsource your content. Give team members input through a participant profile or survey.
  5. Form the teams and ensure that they are truly cross-functional.
  6. Give each team a SPECIFIC business issue or assignment on which they will continue to work after the team building session. Appoint a management or executive sponsor for each business issue and ensure that they participate in the team building session with the cross-functional team that will address it.
  7. Place inexperienced team members in leadership roles and senior leaders in support roles.
  8. Pick a simulation that mirrors your organization’s realities.Examples:
  9. A week prior to the team building session, provide a briefing for your senior leadership team. One or two days ahead of time thoroughly brief the team leaders for the simulation so that they are clear about their roles.
  10. Facilitate a business simulation with all of the key ingredients for ensuring team building effectiveness.

A breakdown in cross-functional teamwork does not happen over night. Breaking down silos and busting bottlenecks will take time and patience but the results will be worth it.


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