Challenges with Functional Boundaries and need for cross-functional processes

Most conventional organizations comprise departments and functions. A department head or functional head is responsible for all department deliverables. All department members should have clearly defined responsibilities for their respective tasks. Departmental tasks are expected to be performed on time and with quality. Every member of a department operates within a framework called a functional silo.

Functional silos focus on their own objectives alone and are not involved in interacting with other groups and sharing internal process information with others. Each department may also have several cross-departmental tasks that fall outside of the functional silo. Cross-departmental tasks can have delivery and quality issues. The boundary set up between functional and cross-departmental tasks brings about key challenges, including:

  • Layers of bureaucracy that involve too many approvals.
  • Lack of ownership in cross-departmental tasks.
  • Management frustration due to lack of coordination among departments.
  • Too many steps, such as checking and quality control, which are redundant for every department.
  • Lack of focus on customers due to employee attention on internal tasks.
  • And, opportunities for errors or corruption because of lack of ownership.

Cross-functional processes relate to a series of activities that are executed across an organization. Cross-functional processes are not organized by departments or functions, but by processes which comprise several departmental activities. In addition, cross-functional processes help clarify the end-to-end execution of a process. A cross-functional structure is a Six Sigma way of thinking how processes are structured and resources are aligned per key outputs. Therefore, a cross-functional structure facilitates better alignment to customer needs. Some of the benefits of a cross-functional process include:

  • It becomes easy for top management to clarify its quality, cost, and delivery goals and deploy them to employees at every level.
  • And, it facilitates close coordination among different departments in the organization.


Related Articles