Cross Functional Work Teams
Cross-functional work teams come together to tackle large complex projects or solve organizational problems that cut across traditional functional lines and that therefore, require the input and expertise from several areas within an organization. The members of a cross-functional team may come from the same organizational level but represent different departments and areas of expertise. Hallmark Cards' team reduced development of new cards and coordinated products from three years to less than a year. By using a cross-functional team to provide information from and coordinate the activities of various departments early in a project, organizations can save considerable time and money. For example, in developing the new 777 aircraft, Boeing created
cross-functional teams that included designers, engineers, and maintenance and customer service personnel, as well as finance specialists and production employees. Instead of representatives from these functional areas working on the aircraft sequentially, they worked together on developing the new aircraft from the beginning of the process. Maintenance specialists were able to suggest ways to design an aircraft that would be faster to service and cheaper to operate. Production engineers helped designers develop solutions to potential production problems during the design phase. Designing these problems out rather than trying
to fix them during the production phase was much less costly and time consuming.
As in the case of self-managed work teams, the successful implementation of cross functional teams requires organizational commitment. The members of a cross-functional team must learn to appreciate and understand the perspectives of representatives from other parts of the organization. They also must learn to communicate their expertise and opinions in ways that representatives from other functional areas can understand. Developing an effective cross-functional team can take considerable time and effort. The organizations that have done so, however, believe that the effort pays off. For example, the cross-functional team that designed the Chrysler Neon delivered the new subcompact in 42 weeks rather than taking the several years it usually takes to design a new car.