Digital Transformation With Cross-Functional Teams

As all businesses try to continue to develop in the competitive digital world, there are many new management approaches that are taking place. The cross-functional team approach is one that has been implemented by CarMax. This takes a unique approach which the CIO Shamim Mohammad explains as being able to “deliver better results more quickly’. The cross-functional team approach is replacing the outdated siloed approach.

According to Mohammad, each cross-functional team needs some key players to work effectively. There’s the product manager who acts similar to the role of CEO for the team. There’s the user experience person that ensures that the team’s idea is on track with actually being functional for users. And there’s the engineer or developer that is responsible for leading the technical end of things.

CarMax went full throttle with this cross-function approach by tearing down physical office walls so that team members can sit near each other. This massive change has altered the way that the business crafts new products and ideas. The top executives at CarMax have become more concerned with teams that are able to meet their business objectives instead of only rewarding those who produce a specified number of products each year.

With their new approach, the business is getting better results as a whole. These results tend to be delivered on a much faster basis as the functional teams can enjoy operating in the same space. Along with the faster results has come more innovation for the car business and they’ve been able to spend more time focusing on their customer experience from start to finish.

Mohammad describes his cross-functional teams as miniature startups. Each team is instructed to act like a small startup company that is innovating a new product. By having all the key team players in the same area, they’re able to deliver faster results. In the IT world that we live in, there’s always a growing need to deliver more innovation faster than your competitors. With CarMax’s cross-functional approach to planning, they can do so.

More and more CIOs are learning about the benefits of this type of strategizing. In fact, many have completely revamped their old linear work style to mess more with this cross-functional fashion. Instead of being in an assembly line fashion, workers are collaborating together to build solutions. This allows for the different functions of the business to come together more easily to drive growth and scalability of businesses in today’s environment.

The hindrance of cross-functional work in the past has been due to the difficulties that are associated with it. When attempting to build successful cross-functional IT teams, there are many challenges that businesses must face. The first is that team members commonly come into the group with the idea of furthering their own agendas. This is not surprising as the traditional workplace environment has encouraged this all-for-yourself working environment.

Alongside furthering their own agendas, team members can have trouble working with one another due to territorial issues. They may not be prone to accepting outsider opinions. In addition, each team member is used to functioning in their own professional environment surrounded by people in the same career sector. When you bring multiple team members together, there can be a lot of problems with unreadable shorthand and career-specific lingo that can create a barrier between workers.

The difficulty of cross-functional teams is something that has been widely discussed in the business community. In 2015, Harvard Business Review released a study that showed 75 percent of the cross-functional teams they were studying were dysfunctional. They claimed the major issues as being unclear governance, lack of accountability, absence of specific goals, and no prioritized organizational support.

While these obstacles can be fear, they shouldn’t be left in the way of transforming how a corporation operates for the better. By understanding the common issues that can come up, businesses can better prepare themselves for dealing with these issues. Those businesses which are going to be better able to adapt their cultures to foster cross-functional teams are going to be the ones who stay on top in the fast-paced digital era that we find ourselves in.

This process all starts with picking the right people for the job. This is a skill that must be learned by the CIOs and management advisors of firms in order to ensure the success of their cross-functional teams. This requires more than just identifying people with the right qualifications to fit in the role. These team members must be able to work to deliver the team’s objective and have the right mindset to work alongside others.

Business managers need to understand that collaboration doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. This is a skill that is going to need to be cultivated by each member in order to ensure long-term success. The learning can start with the top CIO and other managers modeling the collaborative skill. By holding themselves accountable they can then pass on this accountability throughout their team members.