Maytee Aspuro, C.P.M.
Maytee Aspuro, C.P.M., Assistant Administrator, Wisconsin Department of Revenue, Madison, WI 53702, 608/264-6879, email@example.com
Cross function teams (CFTs) can be defined as the collaboration of experts with different technical and functional knowledge to solve a complex problem or complete a complex task. In a best practice organization CFTs are the normative method of doing business. Supply managers must understand the purpose and composition of CFTs, and how best to manage them.
CFTs have been applied to supply management for a variety of purposes. They include:
In general CFTs come in three different variations: project, continuous and virtual. Each is defined below:
Project teams have a defined beginning and end point. They are created to address a specific problem that needs to be resolved. Key tasks of the team include planning, scheduling and control. Like any project the team's performance is evaluated as a function of how well it has managed cost, time and project scope. Project teams are often used during a reengineering initiative.
Continuous teams are on going having no set ending date. They tackle a series of problems and processes through to resolution. Continuous teams are common in quality improvement (QI) initiatives.
Virtual teams have a defined beginning and end point. They address a very specific problem of narrow focus and exist for a short duration of time.
Procurement (Project). Completing market price research, supplier selection, performance criteria, delivery, warranty and other required terms. The completion of a complex RFP/RFB would be a common example of a project.
Commodity Team (Continuous). These teams address all procurement issues noted above as well as long-term productivity and quality issues, and long-term market tracking.
Key to the viability of an organization, product and service development presents a number of opportunities for CFTs to translate an idea/concept to production and then to market. Contributions from the following technical experts could benefit the effort.
CFTs may enable tasks to be completed concurrently resulting in a compressed timeline. For example, designers and engineers may work together in the creation of a design and its translation into a prototype. Supply managers may be included at this stage to research different raw materials or parts (value analysis).
There are a number of advantages in using CFTs in product development. They include:
CFTs are an effective mechanism in completing supplier assessments. One point of caution is that a large CFT may intimidate a supplier. It is important that the supplier understand why specific individuals are included on the team. Benefits of using a CFT for supplier assessment include:
The CFT methodology should include a charter. The charter is a plan that documents critical information and is a point of reference throughout the life of the CFT. Specific charter components include:
The mission documents the reason for a CFT's existence. It is a broad statement that addresses the questions of what must be done, for whom, why and how.
The CFT's goals and objectives must be defined and prioritized. They should be: SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Based); comprehensible, meaning that they should be understood by a lay person, document the terms of deliverables and the desired end results
The performance expectations must be aligned to the established goals/objectives. Budget, timeline and deliverables must be clearly defined.
Methodology. The success of a CFT is dependent on its make up. Appropriate representation must be achieved. The composition of the team should result from a needs assessment. The size of the team must be kept to a manageable size. Technical experts can always be brought into the team as needed.
The team leader should be chosen based on their knowledge of organization, authority and team management skills. An effective leader must demonstrate confidence without arrogance, lead by example versus dictation and be an effective communicator.
Member selection should be based on skills. This is far more important that having functional representation although the latter may be deemed to be politically expedient in an organization. Desired skills include technical knowledge, creativity, risk taking, and the ability to communicate and build relationships. Individuals with a non-political organizational perspective are best.
Other issues to address in member selection include:
Supply Management's Role. Supply managers should not wait to be asked to join a CFT. Supply managers must be proactive, taking the lead to establish teams or to insert themselves into teams that would benefit from their expertise. Where supply management issues reside on the periphery (which is less and less often), supply managers must offer themselves as an on call technical expert to an existing CFT.