Why Cross-Functional Teams Fail

Companies acknowledge the advantages of promoting employee creativity, collaboration, and adaptability, consequently driving the increased prevalence of interdisciplinary teams within professional settings. However, many cross-functional teams fall short of their full potential, which invalidates the benefits. As we explore this topic, we’ll determine the reasons for these challenges and engage in a discussion about practical solutions.

Lack of Clarity in Roles and Responsibilities

The absence of distinct roles and responsibilities significantly contributes to the downfall of cross-functional teams. Hindered progress may result if workers are not collectively aware of their individual tasks. Moreover, unclear responsibilities can lead to wasted time, missed deadlines, and communication issues, consequently eroding trust and dismantling the team’s unity. To address this challenge, teams ought to contemplate implementing the subsequent strategies:

  • Encourage collaboration: Everyone on the team needs to be on the same page. Thus, it’s important to encourage communication and cooperation among them. Meeting frequently as a group, reporting on and discussing progress, and being open with one another can all help achieve this goal;
  • Use collaboration tools: To guarantee productive teamwork, collaboration tools might be of great assistance. Tasks, deadlines, and progress may all be managed with the use of project management software like Trello, Asana, or Monday.com. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom can help teams communicate and collaborate;
  • Provide feedback: Employees can better comprehend their contribution to the project’s success if they receive frequent feedback on their performance. Communicating and letting them know where they can grow is also important.

Lack of Trust

Cross-functional teams must first establish a high level of trust among members. Lacking trust within a team may be prone to concealing information, avoiding collaboration, and deflecting responsibility during setbacks. These behaviors can diminish the team’s efficiency and jeopardize the overall project success, stemming from unaccountability, unmet deadlines, and diminished morale. In order to address this issue, cross-functional teams can implement the following strategies:

  • Lead by example: Leaders should act in ways that they would like their followers to act. They should, for instance, be receptive to criticism, honest, and upright;
  • Establish team norms: Norms can include guidelines for communication, decision-making, and conflict resolution. Employees should be involved in the creation of these norms to ensure that everyone is invested in them;
  • Build relationships: Team-building exercises, social events, and casual meetings can help employees connect.

Failure to Align Goals

Failing to align goals is another prominent cause of cross-functional team failure. Employees’ priorities, goals, and success measures may vary if they originate from various departments. Disputes, setbacks, and lost chances are all possible outcomes. Furthermore, it might be difficult to quantify progress or evaluate the effectiveness of the project when employees are not aligned, leading to frustration and low morale. To tackle this challenge, cross-functional teams can explore the following strategies:

  • Involve all employees in goal-setting: It’s important for everyone in the team to have input when determining the project’s objectives. This can help make sure everyone cares about the project’s outcome and knows their part in making it happen;
  • Prioritize goals: When workers come from different departments, they may have different priorities. It is important to prioritize goals and ensure that all employees understand which goals are most important;
  • Define success metrics: Defining success criteria and establishing a framework for assessing achievement is critical. This can aid in ensuring that all workers comprehend how success will be measured and can track their progress toward reaching project objectives.

Lack of Accountability

Success depends on maintaining accountability throughout a team, with cross-functional teams needing it most. Failing to hold employees accountable can result in missed deadlines, poor output, and low morale. To tackle this, cross-functional teams can consider these strategies:

  • Set goals and deadlines: Establishing clear objectives and deadlines can ensure that employees are motivated to perform at their highest level. Objectives and deadlines can also guarantee that employees are held accountable for their progress toward reaching project objectives;
  • Monitor progress: Monitoring progress on a regular basis can guarantee that personnel is on pace to meet project objectives. Tracking progress can also help identify areas where employees may want further assistance or resources;
  • Celebrate successes: Celebrating successes can help promote accountability by recognizing employees’ contributions to the project’s success. Celebrations can help foster a sense of shared success and encourage workers to continue performing at a high level.

Overdependence on Technology

Although technology has the potential to greatly enhance the efficiency of cross-functional teams, relying too heavily on it can have the opposite impact. Misunderstandings, frustration, and a lack of personal connection can arise when employees rely excessively on electronic means of communication, including email, chat, and phone. A team’s productivity might suffer as well, as they are more likely to miss important details or pass up chances to work together. To effectively deal with this challenge, cross-functional teams can examine the following strategies:

  • Balance technology with personal connection: While technology can be a powerful tool, it is essential to balance it with personal connection. Leaders should encourage face-to-face or video conferences between teams whenever possible. This can facilitate the formation of bonds and the enhancement of communication among staff;
  • Define communication protocols: Having clearly defined communication norms might help ensure that employees are conversing efficiently. For instance, workers should come to terms with which communication technologies to use for certain purposes, how frequently to check messages, and how quickly to respond;
  • Provide support: Managers ought to assist employees with issues by offering tools, training, or mentorship, enabling them to develop and refine vital skills.


The prevalence of multidisciplinary teams in the business landscape is on the rise as they tackle intricate issues with their diverse expertise. However, to realize their full potential, cross-functional teams must confront and surmount common obstacles, including ambiguous responsibilities, a deficit of trust, incongruent objectives, insufficient accountability, and an overdependence on technology. By proactively addressing these challenges, cross-functional teams can enhance their credibility and bolster their chances of success.