Modern organizations increasingly use cross-functional teams, which are believed (and expected) to offer substantial advantages vs. traditional hierarchical structures based on individual functionalities. Yet it is not always easy to reap the expected advantages. One of the reasons is that leadership training is often based on individuals and individual performance.

We offer a novel perspective on how to train teams for optimum effectiveness.

Well-structured and well-managed cross-functional teams provide an organization with a number of important benefits:

An optimum way to use talents: each of the members can focus on what they do best, counting on the synergy with other talents for the final joint outcome
An opportunity to reduce barriers among functional areas: each member can act as ambassador to keep their functional lines updated and aligned
Increased flexibility towards changes: the team can more easily “digest” changes via an internal dialogue, hence overcoming the resistance to change much faster than single individuals
Increased organizational flexibility: teams can be more easily assigned and changed than changing individual positions
Improved decision process: teams need to share knowledge and generate diverse alternatives in order to reach an alignment, hence their decision process can be more exhaustive than the sum of single contributions
Innovation: by opening the dialogue to incorporate diverse inputs in the early phase of working together, a cross-functional team can often identify novel approaches.

We all know of some (unfortunately few) examples when a cross-functional team has delivered extraordinary results. We also know of many more examples when teams do not produce the desired results, slow down the rest of the organization, diverge into unconstructive arguments, split or loose alignments under the influence of some over-dominating personalities, or create an isolated self-serving ivory tower.

One of the well-known reasons for the difficulty in reaching full effectiveness from cross-functional teams is the fact that leadership training tends to be focused on individuals and individual performance. Aggravating factors are the lack of training on multiculturalism (global organizations need to take diversity into account) and lack of training on how to work together in a “remote context” (virtual teams are becoming increasingly frequent).

The Team Diagnostics™ method is a novel approach to assessing and training teams by looking at them as a dynamic “system”. A team is more than the sum of its parts, it is a living, dynamic entity with its own personality, spoken and unspoken rules, vision, blind spots, even moods.

This method, successfully utilized by a number of teams-oriented global organizations (e.g. P&G, J&J, and Cisco), explores the unique team’s needs independently of the needs of any single member; thus customized “Coaching and Training Programs” can be designed for each unique team. Pre and post assessments allow measures of development progress and ensure team’s accountability.

The theoretical model of the method stems from observed evidence that high-performing teams produce superior results when paying attentions to the two independent dimensions of Productivity and Positivity. Specifically:

The attributes that support the team’s ability to be Productive: Team Leadership, Goals & Strategies, Proactivity, Decision-Making, Resources, Accountability, Alignment
The attributes that create engagement, collaboration, and resilience – in our model, we use the word “Positivity” i.e. :the potential to create positive, forward moving results: Trust, Respect, Camaraderie, Communication, Constructive Interaction, Values Diversity, Optimism

Copyright © 2014 Brigitte Nijs
(Diagrams by Team Coaching International)

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