5 tips for executing in cross-functional world

I worked on a simultaneous worldwide product launch which spanned 25 products and services while redesigning a website, introducing new team members, and navigating across a highly cross-functional, collaborative, consensus-oriented environment.  

What were we thinking? Thankfully I had the good fortune of working with some of the best people I've ever worked with. After the dust settled and we looked back on our accomplishments, we realized we were on to a really good process. We documented our best practices and the side-effect benefits we reaped. Here they are:  

Tip #1: Share a vision

Yield a collective sense of ownership and alignment 

In complex environments with many different voices wanting to be heard, having a collective sense of ownership empowers the team. It ensures you're in alignment and helps resolve and settle disputes. If there isn't a shared vision and there isn't a single voice to dictate it, get people onboard by getting their input. It doesn't mean you'll use it, but at least they've been heard.   

Alleviate confusion and resolving disputes 

If you document your vision, it allows you to refer back to your requirements and objectives to ensure no scope creep. If you have to, make a list to document and communicate decisions made along the way. 

Tip #2: Establish a single point of contact and empowering people  

Streamline feedback and decision-making

In highly collaborative and consensus-driven organizations, there are often many stakeholders whose input you need to obtain. By assigning one person (formally or informally) to collect/filter feedback, it streamlines collection, but not necessarily reconciliation. When the role is defined, he or she needs be empowered to make decisions and have agreement to accept the decision. When you have a single empowered point of contact, you can streamline reconciliation of feedback and close issues quicker.

Get on the same page 

In some organizations, sharing of information is around the water cooler or other informal means. By knowing who does what, you know how to gain access to information: either in their head or they can point you to the person or the tool to get what you need.  

Tip #3: Know (and accept) roles and responsibilities 

Encourage innovative thinking

In multi-function environments, it's easy to want to ignore opinions by those who are not experts in a particular field. However, great ideas can come from anywhere, so being open to hearing opinions can enables innovative thinking. That said, make sure you respect roles and decision-making authority. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the single point of contact who is empowered to make the final decision in a given area.  

Expedite decision-making and project momentum

It goes without saying that it can also expedite the decision-making process. When you can make swift decisions, you can move your project along more quickly.   

Hold people accountable 

If you know who made the decision, you know who can take the credit or who is accountable if something went wrong. In consensus-oriented companies, it's easy to distribute the responsibility. This way is effective in those types of environments. 

Tip #4: Collaborate and communicate early and often 

Avoid pitfalls

If you're transparent, you not only gain trust with your colleagues, partners, and clients, you also can avoid potential pitfalls. Be honest.  

Ensure consistency 

In the world of tech, things change very quickly. If you're not joined at the hip, something can get missed and customer-facing marketing deliverables can be inconsistent if someone did 'get the memo."  We created a war room that we'd come and go. Open workspaces are also effective. 

Tip #5: Continually test, iterate, and optimize

Provide best possible experience 

By conducting research, usability studies, and utilizing analytics, you can ensure you've covered all the bases for offering the best possible experience.    

Avoid subjectivity 

After taking the research and analytics insights, testing will remove subjectivity and can cut through differences of opinion. There are a lot of preferences for design. By testing, you can avoid that. You just have to agree upon what your success metrics are.  

Avoid costly errors and oversights 

Conduct user acceptance testing. You might have to do this internally, but if you gather people not involved with your project, they might catch things you wouldn't.  

Final thoughts

When you wrap all those things together, it was about trust and respect. By sharing information, being transparent and honest, we moved faster and more efficiently. No egos were in the way. Yes, there was yelling from time to time, but they were healthy debates and we learned from each other.