3 Steps for Maximizing Cross-Functional Team Productivity

3 Steps for Maximizing Cross-Functional Team Productivity

Are you a leader who is determined to run a successful cross-functional team (CFT)? Managing such teams and ensuring they are productive is not always easy. However with proper planning, CFTs have the potential to execute complex projects and achieve huge company goals.

While the idea of a high-functioning dynamic team is well understood, many managers still fail to properly build and maintain CFTs. A recent article by Harvard Business Review reveals that a whopping 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional!

The major reason CFTs fail is because specialists from different departments clash when clarifying roles, organizing tasks, communicating, and aligning  goals. When team members are not on the same page and properly prepared, cross-functional teams will have a harder time being productive and collaborating.

Luckily though, many resources are available to boost CFT productivity.

We’ve outlined a few tried and tested management tips for maximizing productivity and revolutionizing your CFT. By incorporating these tips, you can rest assured that you will separate your team from that dreaded 75% failure statistic.

1. Assign roles

A major (and common) obstacle for cross-functional teams is when team members misunderstand each other’s roles and responsibilities. Clarifying roles as soon as you assemble your team will help resolve common workplace role conflicts before they can arise.

A good team leader has a discussion with their team to decide who will be responsible for which tasks. A great cross-functional team manager goes the extra mile to understand each team member’s strengths. Simply calling a meeting and telling your team what needs to be done is not effective. Instead, take the time to encourage project role conversations, so your team can truly understand where each individual’s skill sets lie. Such conversations will help your team maximize productivity by collectively deciding who is best suited for which responsibilities.

Be sure to also discuss proposals, goals, requirements, and potential roadblocks with each team member’s tasks. By doing this you will cultivate a culture of communication and collaboration, and set the foundation towards achieving impressive goals.

Consider the following suggestions to clarify the responsibilities within your CFT and encourage a productive team:

Clarify team AoRs (Areas of Responsibility)

More high profile managers are valuing the use of Areas of Responsibility (AoRs), because this strategy is a proven productivity booster for teams.

The use of this strategy boosts productivity through:

  • Role and task clarity
  • Improved decision-making processes
  • Efficient team discussions
  • Transparency

With a wide variety of project management tools available, it is simple to set up an AoR system in any cross-functional team. Using tools like Asana and Trello allows dimensional teams to easily communicate, define responsibilities, assign tasks within their teams, and categorize resources. The tools are also excellent for scaling projects and decreasing operational work.

Asana AoRs
Asana AoRs
Trello AoRs
Trello AoRs

To further improve cross-functional team collaboration, consider creating a project roadmap within or across multiple tools.

Takeaway tip: Use communication tools to clarify areas of responsibility.

2. Use visual tools to:

Boost organization

Any superstar cross-functional team must be organized from the get-go. As a leader, it can be challenging to manage your team if members have additional demands and responsibilities in the departments they work in. CFT members often have different daily schedules, various workloads, and opposing priorities. This can often create issues in organization, which takes a hit on team productivity.

Fortunately, the use of tools like Asana and Trello are great for keeping your team organized. Here members can update project details, deadlines, or issues, open and close tasks, as well as see notifications in real time. This helps your team visualize the project’s progress, and eliminates the need for endless meetings or back and forth emails!

The tools also help team members manage their regular and cross-functional team roles. For example, this company dashboard in Asana is organized by projects and due dates, making it easy to see where all your projects stand. This high level of organization will save your team a great amount of time and headache, re-focusing efforts on important tasks.

Asana company dashboard
Asana company dashboard

Boost communication

Would you be surprised to learn that 96% of managers credit a lack of effective communication for workplace failures? Effective communication is a mandatory skill, and clear communication tends to be even more challenging when combining multiple sectors in a cross-functional team.

Team members are often frustrated when they have no idea what progress other members are making on cross-collaborative projects. However there’s no reason for anyone to be left in the dark. Cross-functional team productivity begins with setting your team up with dynamic communication platforms.

Tools like Trello, Asana, Wrike, Jira, and Basecamp are great for sharing progress and encouraging open dialogue. Integrating communication tools within your project creates a direct line of team communication, and keeps CFT information in one highly-organized, visually-appealing space.

For example, Trello’s board system boosts team communication regardless of whether the team shares an office or works remotely. Setting up boards for CFT projects and creating lists of topics to discuss allows members to exchange relevant information anytime.

Discussion topic boards on Trello

Asana has similar features, yet it also provides a ‘Team Conversations option. This makes it even easier for CFT members to track accomplishments, make announcements, and discuss tasks.

Asana conversations

Takeaway tip: Incorporate tools to improve cross-functional team communication and data visualization.

3. Align goals

The major advantage of CFTs is combining leaders from various functional areas of your organization into one specialized team. However when these leaders do not share the same vision about the CFT project, productivity can take a hit.

Departmental demands across your CFT can isolate team members. Perhaps the most frustrating problem you may deal with as a CFT manager is when your team members fail to prioritize a goal that it is not in their immediate field. If this issue sounds familiar, your CFT likely lacks goal clarity and alignment.

What is the most productive way to clarify goals?


OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are a powerful cross-functional team management strategy, used by Fortune 500 companies. They were originally employed as a goal-setting strategy by Intel, and this method is now used by thousands of companies, including Google and Twitter.

Weekdone describes the main goal of OKRs as: connecting company, team and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move in the right direction.

How to use OKRs:

  1. Objectives: Define three to five key objectives based on company, team, or personal levels. Objectives should be qualitative and time bound.
  2. Key results: Each objective should have three to four defined results that are quantitative and difficult, yet achievable for your team. Results should be quantitative and based on revenue, engagement, growth, or performance.

OKRs can be reviewed on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis to ensure your team’s priorities stay in check. With a proper OKR system, your CFT will be equipped with clearly aligned goals.

Use Trello and Asana

Trello makes goal mapping a seamless, integrative process your whole team will actually enjoy. To create and track OKRs in Trello, you can summarize objectives in lists, and summarize key results in cards. Each card can then describe OKR details, while labels can show the status of key results. This way, target goals will be presented to your team in a usable and integrative format.

Tracking OKRs in Trello

Cross-functional teams can also align team goals by using Asana to map out project objectives across visual boards. Team members can then comment on these boards. Asana has a great article describing achieving company milestones through visual boards.

Visual boards in Asana

Takeaway tip: Implement OKR’s and project management tools to develop strong goal alignment.

What’s next?

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