16 Steps for Improving Cross-Functional Team Meetings

Cross Functional TeamCross-functional team meetings can be a very effective strategy for breaking down silos and improving cross-functional teamwork. The key to effectiveness is to carefully plan the meeting and prepare team members to participate. Never "just wing-it" - especially if there is an ongoing inter-departmental conflict.

These 16 steps can greatly improve the effectiveness of cross-functional team meetings and ensure that they are productive.

Before:

  1. Crowdsouce the content by distributing participant profiles and learning surveys during the planning stages.
     
  2. Ensure that all pre-meeting communiques clearly outline benefits and WIIFM for participants.
     
  3. Always carve out at least an hour of "white space" on the agenda for issues hot button issues that pop up at the last minute.
     
  4. If there is a gap of more than a month between crowdsourcing and the actual meeting, at the beginning of the meeting, take time to re-visit the hot button issues identified through the surveys to ensure that priorities have not shifted. Give intact teams time for a powwow to determine if there is anything to be added to the agenda. Slide any emerging issues into the "white space" that you created.
     
  5. Form teams ahead of time and appoint a team leader.
     
  6. Assign a business issues to each team and ensure that there is at least one "issue owner" on each team. It is often helpful to assign the same issue to 2 different teams to get different perspectives.
     
  7. Ensure that table groups and teams are well balanced in terms of learning styles, organizational levels and cross-functional representation.

During:

  1. Give the most senior executive from each of the largest departments represented an opportunity to make a brief presentation.
    Focus on key team priorities, strengths, issues, challenges. Zero in how they can support other departments, the support they need from other teams.
     
  2. Allow ample airtime for questions.
     
  3. If questions are not forthcoming, at the end of the presentations, give the table groups 5 - 10 minutes to reflect on what was covered and generate questions before moving on.
    (Analytical learners require more thinking time to think and process the information so don't assume that no immediate questions means they have no concerns.)
     
  4. Re-configure the group into the cross-functional teams that were formed before the meeting.

Team ChallengeBetween steps 11 and 12, if team members don't know each other and there is enough budget, it would be a good idea to give the newly configured teams an opportunity to relax and mingle through a social activity or participate in a team building simulation to break down silos. (Even with a low budget, a lunch or reception at which the cross-functional teams dine together would be helpful.)

  1. Briefly review brainstorming tools to ensure that all participants are operating from the same frame of reference.
  2. Ask the teams to appoint a timekeeper and a spokesperson.
     
  3. Allow at least one hour for issue analysis and 30 minutes to prepare the report of the group's findings and recommendations.
     
  4. Give each team an opportunity to report back.
     
  5. Re-configure the group into intact teams and give them an opportunity to review the recommendations and report back on action items and next steps.

For more tips on improving cross-functional team meetings, also consult Business Meetings 411: Building Better Breakouts , Business Meetings 411: Ensuring Balanced Participation and 5 Ways to Debrief Conference Breakouts Groups (Without Boring Participants) on the Cvent Event Blog.

Photo Credit: Meeting Facilitation, Executive Oasis International

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