There’s great value to extract, share and develop across your company right in your midst – shake things up, mix your teams and stack up on skills.

Are you finding that there’s so much you’d like to achieve but you just don’t have the resources you used to? Or that the ‘new normal’ has changed the playing field too much and you’re not getting the results you want? The answer lies in plain sight – with your existing staff.


Cross-functioning teamwork

Typically, an organisation is split up into departments defined by particular disciplines that, for the most part, have probably always existed in silos, and happily. The pandemic, however, left many of us with more to do but with fewer hands on deck.

Even if you’ve managed to keep your entire staff, the same old approaches as before may not be the best solutions to post-pandemic problems. In other words, you need fresh eyes on both new and existing issues. To get the creative juices flowing, your staff need to be released from the restrictions of their old routines and traditional organisational structures.

Setting it up

To make your teams more productive and work together more effectively, take them out of their silos and make them cooperate on joint tasks outside of their regular departments. 

  • Consider and explore the skillset of each person, including those skills they have but that their job doesn’t require.
  • Team them up with colleagues from other departments and assign them a task or project that matches their collective skillset.

In cross-functional teams, staff members from different disciplines step outside their comfort zones and learn to work together – temporarily on special projects, separate from their everyday jobs, or sometimes permanently.

How it works

Traditional functions may differ from one department to another, but the overall goals should be the same. Cross-functional teamwork will help pull your staff in the same direction, building organisational cohesion and achieving goals faster. Here’s how you benefit:

  • Communication improves across teams, which in turn improves the experience for your customers. 
  • Customer relationships become stronger because they enjoy a more consistent engagement with your company. 
  • It reduces the inclination to compete for resources, because there’s more cooperation among departments. 
  • It improves efficiency as there’s better coordination across functional areas. 
  • There’s a sharing of burden, workload and accomplishment, boosting staff solidarity and inclusivity. 
  • It increases innovation in products and processes by helping you identify inefficiencies in both, and boosts your problem-solving skills, thanks to the different perspectives in play.

This is the power of cross functional teams – creating a forum where learnings from across the company can inform smarter decision making. – Planview

Bringing together different disciplines results in an amalgamation of skills, which can contribute far greater value than restricting traditional teams to their silos.


Skill stacking

In a successful cross-functional team, participants share their expertise and knowledge, and learn about each other’s disciplines. This transference of new, complementary skills, layered on top of their existing skills, is what skill stacking is about.

It’s having sufficient ability in any given skill set that it can be applied to learning a new skill set. – James L. Clark

Learnings from participating in cross-functional teams, repeated over time, accumulate into a rich skillset that enables individual to function in multiple areas. And as each staff member grows their skill stack, a more diverse, effective team emerges.

Skill stacking benefits personal growth, as well as the entire company, with:

  • a greater sense of reward; 
  • increased competencies and ability to learn more skills; 
  • ability to function in different work scenarios; 
  • exposure to new opportunities not otherwise considered; and 
  • organic growth of collective efficiencies within the organisation.


What cross-functional teams could look like

Starting with a blueprint for what you’d like to achieve in your organisation, you would need to explore the interests among individual staff members, then identify the various skills at your disposal. Cross-functional teams could resemble: 

  • interdisciplinary squads tasked to collaborate on specific projects, from ideation through execution to impact assessment;
  • diversity teams tasked with cultural projects where participants share their insights and acknowledge others’, with inclusivity as the goal;
  • a marketing research and development team with members from different disciplines tackling a troublesome project that needs fresh, out-of-the-box ideas to get it off the ground; or
  • event planning teams tasked to manage product launches, trade shows or other special one-off projects. 

Once the blueprint is set down, set up workflows and include regular opportunities for team members to meet. Design a communications framework with mandatory participation – this will only succeed if everyone involved engages equally and fully.

Imagine a salesperson, a customer services specialist, a designer and a product developer joining forces on a social media project. They will gain access to a new world entirely. Together they can learn and share how to engage with your audience, how to adapt your products and how to shape your sales pitches.

It presents a triple win: bringing together individual perspectives and skills will help the team realise a more cohesive customer experience; it will make staff members feel more invested; and will help develop your overall business competencies.

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