An organization’s greatest asset is the information it holds — information that is amassed by its experts and incorporated into its solutions and processes. However, senior executives may be unaware that sharing of this information across organizational silos is not as effective as they think it is or would like it to be. And while they realize there is great value in collaborating across boundaries, they don’t know how to easily make this happen.
Today, there is a growing realization that information is often best shared in neural networks that spread within the organization, rather than locked within the hierarchical structure of siloed departments. Well-integrated silos — or, if the reader prefers, “divisions” — are the lifeblood of corporate America, synergizing their talents to focus on their “brand” within the corporate body.
But how are neural networks born? Imagine a beautiful, sturdy brick house dressed in a warm, vibrant coat of green ivy. The individual bricks form a strong structure, and the ivy — a seemingly insignificant plant — uses its tendrils to effortlessly span the walls. What is proposed in the following discussion is analogous: The corporate version of ivy is the use, or creation of, Cross Functional (XF) groups or teams with subject matter experts (SMEs) that span many areas.
The collaboration within XF groups allows the strengths of an organization’s silos to be realized and provides a way for bottom-up communication to reach senior leaders. It also allows the topic for which the XF group was created to be added to the organization’s knowledge base.
The leader who forms the XF group works within one of the organization’s silos and hand-picks the individual collaborators — whether within that silo, across several silos, or from every silo. The teams should not usually include those who regularly work together. Senior executives can also be included, but remember to respect their time by requesting their attendance sparingly.
Benefits of the cross functional (XF) process are many:
- With many different departments contributing their unique insights, the team can build important, strategic information focused on a specific topic, project or solution under consideration within the organization.
- As the XF group’s membership expands, new SMEs can inform their leadership about the discussions and information gathered.
- The XF groups can be lightning-speed information-gathering engines, similar to political polls, gathering instantaneous intelligence for internal projects or market insights.
XF groups are scalable and can be formed and dissolved effortlessly. They can be single-topic focused or can continue long-term as an information vehicle — think “Town Hall” meeting, but on a much smaller scale.
Theory in action: A case study
Gainwell Technologies has already put this idea into practice with a focus on go-to-market (GTM) strategies. The single critical driver for this particular XF group is that it was conceived and developed by two managers who were tasked with developing a new methodology within their recently refocused team. Using the XF method, two managers instantly became a team of eight, as additional SMEs accepted invitations.
The unofficial charter mandates that the group dig into Gainwell’s current state offerings to ensure they provide the definitive solution for state programs now and into the future. We call it the XF-PDR team, and it is currently composed of pharmacists, Drug Rebate SMEs, developers, program managers, analytics experts, product owners and, occasionally, senior leaders.
The meetings are intended to be brainstorming sessions, are more on the casual side and encourage open communication regardless of the individual’s title. In deference to proven project management tools and techniques, there are meeting notes, agenda items and a Microsoft Teams channel where the notes are stored.
XF-PDR meetings are held twice a week to gather information from a variety of departments within the company, including sales, analytics, marketing and solution architects. Attendance has been good, and the group is already taking action on several innovative ideas.
It has been interesting to see how discussions among individuals with different backgrounds and viewpoints have played out. Each team member brings a totally unique perspective to the task at hand, and I think this has spurred us on to a higher level of creative problem solving. If you’re looking for ways to increase innovation within your organization, XF teams are definitely something to consider.
About the author
John Lafranchise is a registered pharmacist working as a business architect focused on business development and strategy. He has over 30 years’ experience in pharmacy retail as a pharmacy manager, pharmacy district and regional manager, and project manager for a point of sale (POS) state Medicaid Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) contract. John now brings his experience and proven leadership skills to Gainwell Technologies.