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?
- Begin by identifying the SPECIFIC business issues that have been created by the lack of teamwork.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Crowdsource your content. Give team members input through a participant profile or survey.
- Form the teams and ensure that they are truly cross-functional.
- 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.
- Place inexperienced team members in leadership roles and senior leaders in support roles.
- Pick a simulation that mirrors your organization’s realities.Examples:
- Visexecutaries: Apprentice Inspired Team Building
- Restaurant Inc.
- Breaking the Ice A simulation of an ice factory with ice fusion to create ice sculptures. NEW
- Inc. Inc.: Breaking Down Silos
- Construction Inc. A Simulation of a construction company with Lego. Engineers love it.
- The Puzzle Factory
- The Toy Factory
- 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.
- 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.