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Successfully Manage Cross Functional Teams: A Complete Guide

Learn how to build, manage, and leverage cross-functional teams for improved collaboration, innovation, and project success.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Jun 19, 2023
Table of contents

Collaboration is key in today's cross-functional world. That's why strong cross functional teams are more important than ever.

These teams can harness new levels of creative problem-solving because they bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, skills, and perspectives.

But building and managing cross-functional teams isn't easy. From conflicting priorities and communication breakdowns to power struggles and resistance to change, many obstacles can hinder collaboration and derail projects.

Below, you’ll learn how to harness the power of cross-functional teams and overcome any of the challenges. Together we'll explore:

  • What cross functional teams are
  • Why they are important
  • The stages of creating this type of team
  • How to manage them effectively
  • Key human characteristics to nurture
  • And tools that can make this super easy

So, let's dive in and unlock the full potential of cross-functional collaboration.

What is a cross functional team?

Cross-functional teams have become increasingly popular and valuable for organizations. A cross-functional team is a group of individuals from different functional areas or departments.

These teams typically consist of members with diverse backgrounds, skills, and expertise, and come together to work on a specific project or common goal.

We can find examples of cross-functional teams across different industries, such as:

  1. In a design agency, they may include designers, copywriters, and project managers for a branding project.
  2. In a construction business, they might consist of architects, engineers, and contractors.
  3. A real estate office can combine agents from the sales team, marketers, and financial analysts for a marketing strategy.

The value of cross-functional work for organizations can't be overstated. They enable organizations to tap into diverse expertise, leading to more well-rounded solutions. Additionally, cross-functional teams enhance communication and collaboration, breaking down departmental barriers. And fostering a shared sense of purpose.

Why are cross functional teams important?

Cross-functional teams bring numerous benefits to ‌businesses.

Why are cross functional teams important

‎One key benefit of this type of team is the ability to tackle complex problems more effectively. With diverse perspectives and expertise, team members can approach challenges from different angles. A combination of skills on complex projects that need them leads to more comprehensive solutions.

Innovation is another area where cross-functional teams excel. Companies like Apple and Google have successfully implemented cross-functional frameworks. It’s how they drive innovation and keep evolving. The result is groundbreaking technologies and market-disrupting advancements.

Stages of cross-functional team development

Cross-functional teams, like project teams, go through a series of stages during their development. Understanding these stages can help you navigate potential challenges and foster team success.

5 stages of cross functional teams

‎Let's explore the five key stages.


During the forming stage, team members come together, get acquainted, and define the purpose and goals of the team. At this stage, challenges may arise due to unfamiliarity and lack of established norms.

Strategies to overcome these challenges include:

  • Encourage open communication
  • Build trust among team members
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities


The storming stage is when conflicts and power struggles within the team occur. Different opinions, competing ideas, and clashes of personalities may hinder progress.

Strategies to overcome these challenges include:

  • Encourage open and respectful dialogue
  • Facilitate effective communication channels
  • Promote active listening and empathy
  • Use effective conflict resolution techniques


During the norming stage, the team begins to establish norms, rules, and protocols for collaboration. Building trust and cohesiveness becomes crucial in cross functional projects.

Top tip:

  • Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements to reinforce a positive team culture.


During the performing stage, the team reaches a high level of productivity and effectiveness. Collaboration and synergy become the norm. Project goals are met.

Strategies to enhance performance include:

  • Provide the necessary resources, autonomy, and support to grow the team
  • Continuously foster open communication and knowledge sharing
  • Regularly evaluate and adjust goals and processes


The adjourning stage occurs when the project or goal is completed, and the team disbands. While it may be an endpoint, this stage is an opportunity for reflection and learning.

Strategies for a successful adjourning stage include:

  • Conduct a post-project evaluation to identify lessons learned and areas for improvement
  • Facilitate knowledge transfer and document best practices for future projects

How to manage cross functional teams

Managing high performing teams can be a challenging task. The challenge is especially true when team members come from different backgrounds or work in different functional areas.

However, breaking the management process down into steps can help achieve success.

Here are the steps you need to manage your cross-functional team effectively:

Define roles and responsibilities

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities lays the foundation for strong cross-functional teamwork. You'll end up with a comprehensive understanding of who does what. This can help with accountability.

Establish communication channels

Clear communication channels in cross-functional teams can drive exceptional results.

Do this by encouraging an environment where team members feel empowered to:

  • Ask open questions
  • Share ideas openly
  • Provide regular updates

Doing these things fosters a culture of effective communication and active engagement. It enables efficient decision-making, problem-solving, and cohesive teamwork.

Use tools like project management software, team messaging platforms, or regular team meetings. These tools make sure that the whole team has access to the same information.

Set clear goals and KPIs

To maximize the effectiveness of a cross-functional team; you must set clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Start by defining specific and measurable goals that are aligned with the project vision. These goals should be challenging yet attainable. Try to use SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).

Identify KPIs that serve as benchmarks to track progress and measure success. Communicate the goals and KPIs to all team members, and make sure everyone understands their role in achieving them.

Regularly review and evaluate performance against these targets, and provide feedback and support.

Foster collaboration and trust

Building a culture of collaboration and trust helps drive the team toward success collectively.

Cross Functional Teamwork makes dream work

‎To do this:

  • Create an inclusive environment where everyone's is valued
  • Ensure that team members feel heard, understood, and appreciated for perspectives and contributions

Consider implementing Agile methodologies like Scrum. They can foster transparency, and a sense of ownership.

Provide ongoing support and feedback

To foster a thriving, cross-functional team, it's crucial to provide ongoing support and feedback to team members.

One great way to do this is to provide training and tools that allow them to excel.

Regularly provide constructive feedback on their performance, acknowledging their strengths. And encourage them to share their own insights on team dynamics and processes.

Explore technological advancements

Embracing technology can really help with the management of cross-functional teams.

To do so:

  1. Harness automation tools to streamline processes, boost efficiency, and reduce manual work.
  2. Implement project management software that facilitates seamless task assignment, progress tracking, and deadline management.
  3. Leverage collaboration platforms to enable real-time communication and document sharing.

Next, let’s dive deeper into the human aspects of successful cross-functional teams.

Key human characteristics of successful cross-functional teams

Successful cross-functional teams have some unique human characteristics. These enable them to excel in collaborative environments.

They thrive on synergy to leverage diverse perspectives, skills, and expertise. This cohesive mixture guides them to success.

These teams embrace adaptability and remain agile in dynamic environments. They embrace problem-solving methodologies that encourage experimentation and continuous improvement.

Trust and empowerment are also crucial elements within cross-functional teams. Team members are trusted to make decisions within their areas of expertise. Trust fosters a sense of ownership and accountability.

A culture of continuous learning is also at the heart of successful cross-functional teams. They value both individual and collective growth and encourage ongoing development. They also learn from failures and successes.

Many companies have fostered these characteristics and have reaped huge rewards. For example:

  1. Google promotes diversity and inclusion, fostering an environment where diverse perspectives drive innovation and creativity.
  2. Amazon emphasizes clear communication and accountability, enabling seamless coordination and rapid decision-making.
  3. Netflix empowers its cross-functional teams to make autonomous decisions. This approach allows their teams to quickly adapt to changing market dynamics and deliver exceptional content.
  4. Airbnb relies on trust to deliver a seamless user experience and has created a global community.

These companies serve as inspiring examples of how to cultivate these characteristics.

Tools for managing cross-functional teams

Using the right tools can help cross-functional teams in significant ways.

1. Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are visual task tools that enable teams to track and prioritize work in a highly visual and intuitive way. They clearly display the team's progress and help identify bottlenecks. It does this by organizing tasks into columns such as “To-Do,” “In Progress,” and “Completed.”

‎Tools like Motion offer Kanban boards, allowing teams to manage tasks and workflows seamlessly.

2. Shared spaces

Shared spaces or virtual collaboration platforms provide a centralized location for teams to:

  • Collaborate
  • Share files
  • Communicate

These platforms offer features like document sharing, real-time editing, and instant messaging.

Togethet, these functionalities allow team members to have access to the same information and to work together seamlessly.

3. Task management tools

Task management tools like Motion help teams stay organized and prioritize tasks. They allow teams to assign tasks, set deadlines, track progress, and collaborate on specific projects or goals.

4. Communication platforms

These tools allow everyone to discuss ideas, share updates, and cooperate in real time. These should allow for quick and efficient discussions, lowering the need for lengthy email threads.

Manage cross functional teams with ease using Motion

Managing cross-functional teams can be a complex task, but with Motion, you can simplify the process.

Motion is a comprehensive project management and intelligent software platform that offers a range of features designed to:

  • Enhance collaboration
  • Automate tasks
  • And simplify team management

One of the key advantages of using Motion is its ability to automate task assignment, work scheduling and tracking. With Motion, you can easily assign tasks to team members, set deadlines, and track progress in real-time. Remove the need for manual follow-ups and reduce the risk of missed deadlines.

Motion provides a centralized platform for shared collaboration. It also offers features such as task lists, Kanban boards, and shared calendars. Allowing teams to visualize and organize their work effectively.

Additionally, Motion offers analytics and reporting capabilities. This provides valuable insights into team performance, project progress, and resource allocation. With these insights, you can further:

  • Identify bottlenecks
  • Optimize workflows
  • And make data-informed decisions

More examples of how Motion can improve team management include:

  1. Streamlined task assignment: This clarity guarantees that everyone knows their responsibilities and can work efficiently.
  2. Real-time progress tracking: With Motion, you can track the progress of tasks and projects in real-time.

Embrace the power of cross-functional teams

Cross functional teams have become a driving force for success in today's business landscape. This is because they can overcome challenges, foster innovation, and achieve remarkable results.

To fully use the power of cross-functional teams, start by breaking down silos and fostering collaboration. Encourage open communication and active listening, and establish clear goals and objectives.

Successful cross functional teams require trust, empowerment, and a culture of continuous learning.

To streamline collaboration, consider leveraging the cutting-edge capabilities of Motion.

Motion enhances cross-functional team performance by providing seamless task assignments and real-time communication. It also allows for effective progress tracking and deadline management. With Motion, you can empower your teams to work together more efficiently and achieve exceptional outcomes.

Take action now and explore Motion, the ultimate tool for unlocking the full potential of your cross-functional teams.

Grab your 7-day free trial for Motion by clicking here.

Motion Blog
Written by Motion Blog