What Are Cross-Functional Meetings? Tips To Get Them Right

Cross-functional meetings help align teams from different areas of the company. But running them successfully is not always easy. Here's a complete guide.

By Mara Calvello  •   December 22, 2021  •   6 min read

We’re taught how to play well with others from an early age.

Whether it be sharing our blocks in kindergarten or playing sports with others our age — knowing how to work as a team and be a team player applies to all areas of our lives, not just professionally.

Having the necessary skills and knowledge of what it means to be a team player comes in handy when it’s time to take part in a cross-functional team and run a cross-functional meeting. 

What does all this mean? Fellow is here to break it all down with this cross-functional meeting guide. 

What is a cross-functional team?

A cross-functional team is a group of people who have different skillsets or expertise, all brought together to achieve a common goal. Typically, this type of team is formed to work on a project that needs skills from different departments within an organization. 

For example, when launching a new website, you’ll have developers writing the code, designers creating the layout, and content writers creating the copy.

Cross-functional teams are important to share knowledge and avoid working in silos 

Successful cross-functional meetings help teams achieve a common goal by eliminating communication challenges through using a meeting agenda to add individual talking points. Try Fellow today!

What challenges do cross-functional teams face?

Like any type of team, there will be some challenges that everyone will have to work to overcome. 

For starters, when coworkers in different departments come together to work cross-functionally, they need to make sure to establish trust from the very start. This can be difficult if the people don’t know one another or haven’t worked together on a project before. They also may not know the quality of their work and if they’ll be expected to pick up the slack. Without this trust, whatever is being collaborated on will ultimately fail.

Another challenge a cross-functional team may face is poor, or the complete lack of communication. It can be difficult to communicate properly with our own team, let alone with those in other departments with who we’ve never worked on a project until now. If the team can’t communicate expectations, goals, priorities, or when they need help, it’ll always be an uphill battle to see success.

Cross-functional collaboration also comes with the challenge of managing conflicting personalities. The more people within the team, the more difficult it can be to manage dominant personalities — especially if a leadership role isn’t identified from the start. You never want more than one team member to feel like they need to compete to be seen as the team leader or project manager, so make sure all roles are assigned before everyone comes together to roll up their sleeves and collaborate.

What are cross-functional meetings?

A cross-functional team meeting is when everyone comes together to collaborate and achieve a common goal. This type of meeting is different from a typical team meeting because it ensures that all departments share what they need from other teams.  

A cross-functional team meeting aims to eliminate communication challenges so that working together can go as smoothly as possible. Everyone will know what’s expected of them, the best way to share information, and how the project will be broken down moving forward.

How to run a cross-functional meeting for team collaboration

If you want to make sure the cross-functional meeting your team takes part in is as successful and productive as possible, certain elements need to happen during each stage. Let’s break it all down.

Before the meeting

We know the team is probably anxious to dive head-first into the project, but there needs to be some planning for the meeting before that happens. 

First, make sure you bring in the right team members and do your best to keep it small. The common phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” applies here, as you may run the risk of building a cross-functional team that’s too big. 

Once you’ve established who needs to be in attendance, it’s time to create a meeting agenda to ensure there’s time to discuss all relevant action items and talking points. Doing so can also help make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and you don’t leave the meeting suddenly remembering something crucial that wasn’t discussed. Having meeting notes in one place, in addition to all decisions made, ensures alignment on priorities and knowing that everyone is working on the right thing at the right time. 

During the meeting

Once it’s finally time for everyone to meet, you should kick things off by defining project roles, including the leader or manager. Team members need to take ownership more than ever while working with coworkers in other departments. Appointing a strong manager or employee to step up and take charge to drive the project forward is crucial. If not, your project might go astray.

This is important to avoid the challenge we mentioned above regarding there being unnecessary competition and confusion around roles.

When that’s established, the team can move on to define the purpose of the project and what success will ultimately look like. It’s important to show every member of the team what they’re working towards to create a sense of purpose. This will, of course, depend on the project details and how much time is needed to get it off the ground and through the project pipeline. 

Next, establish deadlines and milestones to keep everyone on track. Make it known that no one should feel like they can’t or are unable to ask for them if they believe that a deadline or milestone will be missed. Remember, there’s no I in team, so everyone needs to work as one defined unit for the initiative to be a success. 

In an effort to have clear communication at all times, it should also be established how often the team will meet for check-ins. Again, this will depend on how long the team has to complete various stages of the project and how much communication the group decides is needed. As long as everyone agrees on the meeting cadence, you’re good to go. Remember, checking in doesn’t necessarily have to take place in a meeting environment. If the team prefers to utilize software like Slack to check-in, that’s perfectly effective, too.

Finally, during the meeting, make sure the team is using the right tools to stay on track. For instance,  a meeting tool like Fellow allows tasks to be created and assigned to the appropriate people and groups, which is essential for recurring cross-functional meetings. Doing so creates transparency and keeps people on top of their tasks while promoting collaboration. 

After the meeting

Once everything on the meeting agenda has been discussed, and the meeting comes to a close, don’t forget to send out the meeting recap or meeting minutes. This is especially important to keep a paper trail of all conversations that took place, but also for any key stakeholder who couldn’t attend the meeting to read and get informed on any details they may have missed.

Free cross-functional team meeting template

Foster team collaboration on your projects

No matter how small your business is or the industry it’s within, seeing people from different departments come together to work as a team towards a common goal is a beautiful thing. Being able to work cross-functionally is a skill that all of your employees should have in their arsenal, as you never know when a new and exciting project will come through the pipeline. Having a group of employees that you can count on to properly work together can make all the difference. 

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