Creating efficient and effective processes and continually improving those processes is key to sustainable success in an accounting and advisory firm. However, cultivating this environment is often easier said than done. It requires a commitment to constant change, a willingness to embrace that change and—perhaps most importantly—the right people leading the charge.
Enter the cross-functional team—a diverse group of individuals from different levels and departments who bring their unique skills and perspectives to the table.
Forming an effective cross-functional team can be transformative, boosting process improvement initiatives and propelling your firm toward its strategic objectives. So let's delve into how to best form a cross-functional team and harness their potential to drive continuous improvement.
Establish clear goals and objectives
The first step in forming a cross-functional team is to begin with the end in mind by establishing clear goals and objectives. This is a crucial component because it sets the direction and purpose for the team.
A well-defined objective provides a roadmap for the team, emphasizing what you expect them to accomplish and why it's a valuable use of their time and energy. It also provides a measurable standard against which you can evaluate the team's progress and success.
Assemble your team
Figuring out your "who" is more important than "how" in any change initiative. Your team should consist of:
A Champion. Someone with the vision and political capital to get leadership buy-in. This should be someone passionate about the technology, process or service line you're focusing on.
A Leader. This person oversees the process to ensure the project stays on track. This should be someone with project management skills who isn't afraid to hold people accountable.
A Team. This includes people from different levels and departments. They provide valuable input and help promote buy-in across the firm. For example, say you are changing your processes around business returns. You would naturally include people from your Tax, IT, and Admin departments. But what about your Audit department? Changing your tax processes can impact provision calculations and other Audit workflows in ways you don't realize. So including someone from the audit team helps ensure you don't improve processes for one group and break them for another.
Create an environment for collaboration
Fostering an atmosphere of collaboration within a cross-functional team is essential. Being open to ideas from all team members—regardless of their role or level within the company—is the foundation for effective collaboration.
Encourage team members to express their ideas and concerns openly. Hold regular team meetings for brainstorming and problem-solving, where each member has a platform to share their thoughts.
Set ground rules at the start of each meeting to remind people to acknowledge each team member's unique skills and contributions. Emphasize that mistakes aren't failures but opportunities for learning and improvement.
Promoting a positive team spirit ensures members feel valued and encourages sharing ideas and collaborative problem-solving.
Set up structure and processes
Developing a framework to manage tasks effectively ensures your cross-functional team stays on track and completes the necessary tasks to keep your initiative moving forward.
Make sure you clearly delineate roles, responsibilities and timelines, offering a comprehensive overview of who is responsible for what part of the process and when they need to complete each task.
Start by breaking down your overarching goals into smaller, manageable tasks. Then assign each task to a team member—with clear, achievable deadlines—keeping in mind their unique skills and expertise.
A project management tool can facilitate this process by allowing you to track progress, manage deadlines and foster collaboration. These tools can also help the team visualize the workflow, identify bottlenecks and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives in a coordinated manner.
It's also essential to set regular check-in points to assess progress and make any necessary adjustments or course corrections. These meetings can help maintain momentum, resolve issues and ensure all team members feel supported and heard.
Communicate results and celebrate successes
Transparently sharing the progress and triumphs of the cross-functional team plays a pivotal role in fostering a sense of motivation among its members. Regularly communicating the team's progress showcases the tangible outcomes of their efforts and underscores the significance of each member's contributions. This can help motivate them to continue striving for more.
Celebrating successes, no matter how small, is a powerful morale booster. Recognizing achievements creates a culture of positivity and appreciation that fuels the enthusiasm to continuously improve. Don't reserve celebrations only for major breakthroughs. Highlight incremental improvements because even small changes signify progress.
Developing a cross-functional team for progress improvement initiatives is no small task, but it holds the key to unlocking higher levels of success for your firm. Remember, amazing results inevitably follow when you give the right people the right tools in the right environment.
Could you benefit from structure and accountability as you strive to push your firm forward?
The Boomer Process Circle is a peer group of top Process and Lean Six Sigma leaders in the accounting profession who share tools and resources for pushing change within their firms. Apply now to tap into the experience and expertise you need to lead the charge for continuous improvement.
As Shareholder and Consultant for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The Boomer Leadership Academy™. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Arianna also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.