energizing breakthrough performance

Matrix Gold: Mining for Synergy in Cross-Functional Teams

Author: ; Published: Feb 2, 2010; Category: Cross-Functional Teams, Matrix Management; Tags: , , , , , ; 2 Comments»

Cross-functional teams operating in a matrix-managed environment can deliver enormous synergy across participating disciplines which results in many significant benefits. This is true not only in R&D organizations but also in a wider, more diverse set of enterprises, such as engineering and construction management, government and more.

Benefits resulting from achieving valuable synergy include but are not limited to:

  1. Greater efficiency and productivity. Essentially there are golden possibilities for eliminating rework because each discipline learns to anticipate the needs and preferences of another discipline for the work that is being delivered to the other
  2. Discovery Breakthroughs. Much of what constitutes “discovery” in almost any field of endeavor represents a reconfiguration of components that existed previously but had not been assembled together in a particular way. When disciplines have the opportunity to mix and match their work products together in novel ways, discovery breakthroughs can result. The hastening of such breakthroughs is best accomplished by those who are closest to the work, laboring together in a cross-functional team setting.
  3. Widening of Comfort Zones. When members of different disciplines work closely together, organizational defense mechanisms are disarmed as trust builds. This widens comfort zones and builds esprit de corps—esprit de corps that has immediately usefulness, but which also expands future agility.  Experienced team members who have participated previously in cross-functional efforts that have shattered barriers can be reconfigured for new projects or purposes with learning curves that are less steep. These team members will also evidence diminished resistance to change as new teams go through the stages of team development, e.g., form-storm- norm-perform.

In addition to lateral, cross-functional benefits, there are also important benefits for each of the participating vertical functions. One of these benefits is what I call “disease control,” meaning that a functional problem that is being evidenced on one cross-functional team may also be apparent on one or more other functional teams. Early knowledge of such problems permits the function to either fix or prevent the difficulty systemwide. Another benefit relates to priority-setting, where a helicopter view of all matrix teams’ needs for the services of a particular function permits proper allocation of available resources. This helicopter view also permits the discipline to identify and develop its future capabilities consistent with a clear-eyed view of emerging needs and team preferences.

Synergy is golden and the employee with a synergistic mindset is more valuable than an employee who lacks synergistic skills and behaviors. Success in mining for gold presupposes that you know where to look. This blog entry isn’t the full “treasure map” but I hope that it sends you off towards True North.

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2 Responses to “Matrix Gold: Mining for Synergy in Cross-Functional Teams”

  1. baysigma.com
    Jun 7, 2013
    9:23 am

    Hello, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this article. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

  2. Javier
    Jul 17, 2013
    11:19 pm

    I find synergy to be captivating. Could you express more opportunities for synergistic optimization in the space of vertical integration?

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