Best Practices of Working Cross Functionally

Daniel Fonseca

Director of Product Management at Orion Energy Systems


Not Having Clear Communication Methods

"Not having a centralized communication method can make morale fall apart."

As the product operations manager, working cross-functionally with other teams can sometimes be the biggest challenge. Every project has the issue of making sure that all teams are on the same page, especially when working cross-functionally. It is the norm to involve other teams in the project or help you out even if they are not a part of the team or the project. Per se, they might have some vested interest in the project as stakeholders, such as customers, or even investors, where building or implementing projects and initiatives accounts for them to be involved in the process. The problem revolves around communication. Not having a centralized communication method can make morale fall apart. Other teams may not feel as involved, or up to date when working on cross functional projects if communication becomes a hindering factor.

Be Ready to Face Difficult People and Sticky Situations

"Implementing such a stage-gate process is likely to make the processes run smoothly."

One of the many processes that I have implemented is known as the stage-gate process. Every project is composed of different stages, and in between each stage, there is always a gate that works as a decision point where a review and approval is necessary to move to the next stage. For instance, the first stage in most cases is the discovery and scoping stage, where you design specific activities to identify business opportunities and projects utilizing both internal and external feedback.

Stage two is building a business case for the opportunity identified, and the gate between those two stages is the review and approval by your business unit leader of that initial idea. Implementing such a stage-gate process is likely to make the processes run smoothly.

In order to make the teams feel involved throughout the whole process, I suggest executing a kickoff meeting before each stage, followed by a final review meeting to approve the process. The main goal for the kickoff meeting should be to involve all stakeholders affected by the project, even though they may not have direct action items.

While working through each stage, ask stakeholders for feedback and ideas. Involving people early and regularly in the process helps eliminate misunderstandings and creates a feeling of collaboration.

Keeping your stakeholders informed about any progress and allowing them to provide feedback provides a source of continuous improvement to the project and processes.

Emphasize Good Communication and Understand Other People’s Priorities

  • Make sure that the teams that somehow need to be involved are actually included in the processes from the beginning to the end. This would eliminate the room for errors, and ensure collaboration.
  • Create some documentation that can be shared across all the teams involved. It could be a team charter that consists of all the basic concepts, such as the purpose of the project, objectives, missions, resources, responsibilities of each team and so on. This would ensure that everything is crystal clear, and people can always refer back to the document when necessary.
  • Unravel the tasks that require collaboration, and that do not. Ensure the clear distinction between the tasks that need an update versus one that needs collaboration.
  • Sometimes, some conflicts are unavoidable 一 especially when working cross functionally. Perceive the fact that other departments would process things differently, with different working styles or different levels of knowledge. Ultimately, focus on the goal of the project, rather than the small conflicts.

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Daniel Fonseca

Director of Product Management at Orion Energy Systems

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer Progression

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