The Importance of Cross-Functional Instructional Design Teams

The Importance of Cross-Functional Instructional Design Teams

According to the Institute of Employment Studies, organizations are becoming increasingly more team-based. Working groups and task forces are the new methods for getting things done. At a tactical level, organizations are turning their employees’ know-how into a managed asset.

If you were to conduct a Google search with the terms “team-building,” it would reveal over 73 million results. It might include topics ranging from games, activities, the art of team-building, investing in team-building, employee engagement and countless others.

So as I sat and pondered team-building in terms of collaboration and cross-functionality for a recent PhD assignment, Google refined my thought process. It’s been known to optimize a thing or two.

At first (and most relevant to my role as Chief Learning Officer), my search honed in on cross-functional teams used to design and deliver learning. I found countless articles about multidisciplinary skills, breaking free from silos and meeting company milestones.  I even stumbled upon some nifty info graphics.

After all that Googling, what dawned on me was this: “cross-functional” should really be defined as a person whose role can support the evolving, global needs of an organization. And it caused me to ruminate further on how this concept can be applied to design teams and the execution of learning & development within an organization.

My research identified the use of cross-functional teams in many industries—from telecommunications and technology to government agencies, insurance companies, banks and institutions of healthcare.

Many studies depict cross-functional teams (CFTs) as a highly successful way of delivering patient care. As noted in Cross Functional Team Processes and Patient Functional Improvement, CFTs are associated with more creative solutions, better quality decisions, increased organizational effectiveness, and lower turnover rates among treatment staff.

This article is one of millions that highlight the many benefits of CFTs and how they enhance the organizations they support. And, in keeping true to the learner in me, I decided to investigate further. Somewhere, just beneath the surface, I figured there must be some friction to dig up.

What I unearthed was an article in Harvard Business Review entitled: 75% of Cross-Functional Teams Are Dysfunctional. The article maintains cross-functional teams often fail because of the lack of a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, a shortcoming of accountability, goals that lack specificity, and organizations’ failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects.

I think we’ve all been pulled into a cross-functional project where the directives confused us and the organization didn’t care to clarify.

Lucky for us, the author cited four key conditions that should exist for these CFTs to be successful:

  1. Every project should have an end-to-end leader.
  2. Every project should have clearly established goals, resources, and deadlines.
  3. Teams should have the project’s success as their main objective.
  4. Every project should be constantly evaluated.

When I apply these concepts to instructional design, regardless of the learning environment, I can consistently validate the effectiveness of the cross-functional approach.

TCP is composed of instructional design teams that have an end-to-end leader in the form of our Project Managers.

TCP establishes goals, resources and deadlines in our Project Management Platform, TeamWorks.

TCP has each project’s success as our main objective because, well, what’s the alternative?

And TCP is constantly evaluating each iteration of the project we’re designing through an iterative, AGILE approach.

Bottom line: making cross functional teams function isn’t just a concept or initiative for TCP. It’s what helps us design the ideal learning experience.

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With over 30 years involved in the business of learning, Gertrude Mandeville has had the opportunity to work with myriad of learners— health care professional, teachers, engineers, trucking, insurers, accountants and even traditional undergraduate – just to name a few. As a result, she has a unique perspective on the effectiveness of most existing learning models and how as learning professionals, traditional L&D must move from order takers to consultative role so we can begin to have influence on our organization’s future. This requires use of techniques such as visual planning and analysis that is efficient, effective and leads to optimal learning analytics – moving away from outdated analytics. In 1997, Ms. Mandeville launched TechComm Partners which incorporated in 2007 as TechComm Partners, Inc. In 2010, she began to re-brand the company as TCP Learning Powered by TechComm Partners, Inc.

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