Self-managed teams and cross-functional teams share teamwork traits such as a collective performance goal, a positive synergy focus, and both mutual and individual accountability, but this is where the similarity ends. In addition, it is a must to understand that teams are not the same as work groups. Work groups are formed to share information and do not possess mutual accountability or synergistic traits.

Team Members

Self-managed teams consist of employees that are in highly related or interdependent jobs. These members will take on many of the tasks of managers, including assigning tasks independently, solving problems, active scheduling, and working with suppliers and customers. In some cases self-managed teams may select their own members as well as evaluate each other’s performance.

Cross-functional teams are made up of members from approximately the same level within an organizational structure from varied work areas or different organizations. The diversity of the team members is meant to support an improved ability to generate new ideas, solve complex problems and coordinate complex projects.

Leadership and Structure

In a cross-functional team, during the team-forming process members discern their roles and the manner in which the team functions best. The person who becomes the leader of the team acts more as a facilitator and coach while being a contributing member of the team. The leader of a cross-functional team often acts as the spokesperson.

The self-managed team, while having no formal leader, leads to members with the needed knowledge base taking leadership on tasks central to their skills. When technical skills are common across the group, it can be other types of skills such as interpersonal communications that dictate who assume a leadership role. When the self-managed team consists of the correct balance of members, the group performance will gravitate toward the optimal outcomes with allocated resources becoming the constraint.

Climate of Trust

In both self-managed cross-functional teams, trust of other members is required to achieve an effective result. Trust tends to come more easily to a self-managed team made up of members from a common work or task area than it does for a cross-functional team, which is more likely to have people from varied backgrounds with diverse perspectives and experiences. The trust-building stage of team forming will be more complex and time consuming for a cross-functional team. Cross-functional teams that have the opportunity to work together on more than one project can begin to behave more like self-managed teams in this regard and will move more rapidly toward objectives.

Reward and Performance Evaluation

Reward and performance evaluation are important in both cases and should include individual and joint accountability. It is a must to choose a system that reinforces the team effort and builds momentum toward team commitment. Reward and evaluation systems could include elements such as group-based evaluations, profit-sharing, team-based incentives and gain sharing, as well as individual components such as contributory bonuses or recognition.