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Open Letter to the Cross-Functional Team

Open Letter to the Cross-Functional Team


Good morning. Did you catch our edition of the TLS Continuum Toolbox Newsletter last week? In a letter to the CEO, we provided strong support to your role as a cross-functional team. Well, this week I turn the tables and confront you as a potential team member and discuss what your obligations are as part of the team.

No problem gets resolved without the contribution of your cross-functional team. This obligation puts some demands on you as team members. To give it due emphasis let’s review these obligations as suggested in the book Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge:

Obligation 1: Suppression of your assumptions

I get it. We all enter our experiences with certain ingrained biases. For a cross-functional team to function at its maximum contribution we need to put those biases aside. What do we mean? You need to enter the cross-functional team environment by forgetting the assumptions you carry with you such as

Our department/function is better than them.
We are the only ones who understand the problem.
We are here because we were told we had to be.
This is not going to work; we have tried this in the past
This is not my job so why am I here.
Thi sis just another management fad so why bother

Obligation 2: Acting as colleagues.

We are all in this together. It is time to dispense with personal grudges. It is time to eliminate personal feelings about other members of the team. You either work as a close-knit team or you fail. Plain and simple. It means that instead of discussing a problem we need a true dialogue. We need to explore all the ramifications of an issue from all sides of the issue. We need to adopt the policy that there is no such thing as a stupid answer, and everything needs to be fully explored.

The fellow team members are not adversaries. Through their commitment and wanting to resolve the issue at hand they have the same ultimate goals as you do. That commitment means that we need to learn to work together. We need to be open to the views of the big picture that we each bring to the table.

Obligation 3: Enter a spirit of inquiry.

First and foremost, I implore you to remember that every last one of the organization’s human capital assets, no matter what department they are in, is a human capital management scientist. That means we resolve organizational issues by conducting experiments.

The Princeton University Physics professor, Richard Feynman tells us that a good team understands that if you are wrong, admit it. If you are confused, ask questions. If you are stuck, ask for help. If you make a mistake learn from it. If you learn something, teach others.

Remember last week we talked about the participant in one of our seminars who stated that the least valuable part of the class was the final project because management would not let them do it. Try being a rebel. If you see a process system constraint, fix it. If that means that you operate under the adage don’t wait for permission, just do it, and say we are sorry later. Put together a small team and within your schedule start the improvement process on your own, when you knock the socks off the organization with your great problem resolution, then go back to management and say here we fixed the problem.

If management says I told you no, reply we told you we had a solution to the problem. We fixed it and you now have a satisfied customer. You want us to tell the customer we are going to go back to the old way of doing things. (If you conducted the improvement process correctly, the old way does not exist anymore so too bad)

As a cross-functional team you have a critical role in the path to removing the system constraints. What you do affects every aspect of the organization. Your role and your responsibility is to walk the talk and make sure that the team is going above and beyond what is normal and work with all aspects of the continuum to resolve the issues that the voice of the customer is telling you is present in the workplace. To accomplish this, we need to eliminate assumptions and animosity towards fellow team members and the organization as a whole. When you were a kid, I bet you used to like and even enjoyed tinkering with things. Remember when you tried to take that old radio apart and put it back together again? The team must be committed to doing the same thing with the organizational processes.

There is one more part to the equation and next week we will explore the role of the stakeholder in this process.

Did we pique your interest, feel free to reach out to us if you would like to discuss this idea further at


There is one more part to the equation and next week we will explore the role of the stakeholder in this process.


About the author: Daniel Bloom knows HR and Change Management. He’s a speaker on transformational HR, a strategic HR consultant and trainer. Looking to ways to enhance your vale to your organization? We now offer virtual fully accredited six-sigma yellow belt certification training. Learn more at