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Effectiveness of Cross-functional Projects

CoWorking Workshop

In a recent workshop, the 9 conditions of the CoWorking framework were applied to help a team of marketing professionals with 3 cross functional projects they were about to initiate in the organization. We explain the flow of the workshop and the participants’ learning.

Quick Scan

Before the workshop, we did quick scan. During the workshop, we asked the participants to share their impressions after seeing the summary of group results. We saw two benefits in this process.

  • First, the participants started to do self checking and self reflection.

  • Secondly, it generated an open dialogue. In this case, the group discussed what went wrong in an ineffective cross functional meeting the day before.

As a result, misunderstandings were cleared, frustrations were shared, and effective means for improving involvement were identified.

Step I: Mapping Reciprocity of Payback

Activities in the workshop centered around three real life projects. We did it in three steps.

First, the owners of the projects identified their key stakeholders and mapped out reciprocal payback for each stakeholder and themselves in connection with each stakeholder. Specifically they asked themselves two questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “Why should other stakeholders commit with full passion?”

After spending extensive amount of time on the mapping, one project group realized they were not as clear as they thought regarding what others wanted out of the cooperation. It also brought to their awareness that the stakeholders might not be on the same page regarding the expected goals of the project.

In addition, since all three projects involved cooperation with HRs and a HR colleague happened to be on site, this exercise gave rise to spontaneous conversations between the HR and the marketing team. As a result, the marketing team learned in a surprising way that what the “help” they needed from the HR fit perfectly into the HR’s work context.

The potential benefits and barriers presented by the HR were beyond the marketing group’s imagination. The marketing team also realized that from the external stakeholders’ perspective, they should regularly share the impacts of their projects to the bosses of their cross functional colleagues in formal meetings.

Formal and open sharing of accomplishments and impacts would encourage the bosses to further support the cooperation.

Step II: Managing the Process of Cooperation

As a next step, we asked the participants to examine the organization of the cooperation process with three functional conditions in mind, namely, distance, simplicity, and communication structure.

Basically, they asked themselves the following questions: “What can I do to manage differences in perspectives, interests, functions etc. effectively?”; “What can I do to make the process relatively simple, transparent, and predictable for those involved?”; and finally, “How do I organize regular communication to ensure all are on the same page and uncertainly is managed?”

Consequently, we observed what the participants learned in this step.

  • First, the project owners gained more awareness on the importance of establishing and maintaining a formal communication structure that can help them to manage differences and complexity in cross functional cooperation. In effect, it helped one project group to challenge their current plans and revise it to improve its effectiveness.

  • Secondly, it helped another project group realize that information was not sufficiently shared among all involved. Different stakeholders might have different maps regarding what the project was about and where it was going.

Therefore they concluded that a lot more communication and information sharing was needed to ensure all become fully aligned at the beginning and during the project cooperation.

Step III: Influencing in Communication

On day two, we took another leap to help the marketing team further prepare for launching their projects. They did role plays to practice the first and the most crucial conversation with the external stakeholders, namely, to make a request and win cooperation.

In the rehearsal talks with different stakeholders, the participants were challenged to clearly articulate why they wanted to initiate the projects, what the projects were about, and to effectively influence others that the projects would benefits them.

We witnessed the group learned several lessons in this step.

  • First, they realized that the mapping of mutual payback on day one was an important preparation step for effective communication with other stakeholders. It helped them go in with a clear mind.

  • Secondly, the group learned that as project owners, they had to be able to clearly and precisely describe their projects to others in a few sentences.

  • Thirdly, they also found out that influencing from others’ perspectives was a very important skill in winning cooperation from others, which requires perspective switching.


All in all, the group had very intense working sessions during the two day workshop. They managed to identify quite a few loopholes in their plans before initiating cross functional projects. As a follow up step, the Director advised all project owners to go beyond their assumptions and to have engaged conversations with their stakeholders to ensure full alignment.

Huiyan Zhang

January 2017

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© 2019 TonVoogtConsultancy ~ Recent Update 24-08-2017
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