What is cross-functional dysfunction? How do I recognize it? What do I do about it?

When I speak with a group or talk with clients, almost every time I use the phrase “cross-functional dysfunction,”also known as XFD, it elicits smiles and laughs. It seems most people have some idea of what it means just by its name.

Especially now, during this time of Covid-19, the risk of your organization suffering from cross-functional dysfunction (XFD) has never been higher. When more of the workforce is working remotely, and there are more distractions and disruptions, cross-functional dysfunction will more readily rear its ugly head.

Working with executive clients, specific symptoms of cross-functional dysfunction have surfaced. Included here are ideas to help you overcome this dreaded disease, along with examples I’ve used with clients to drive greater success.

Symptoms of XFDOrganizational NeedsLeader ActionsExample of Solution
Misaligned goals.Clear purpose with clear outcomes that drives focused action.More communication of purpose with tangible outcomes to which employees can relate.Monthly leadership meetings to refine purpose, then regular meetings to communicate with employees.
Confusion about goals.Context of purpose and impact on specific functions.Speak to the outcomes transparently and unambiguously. Repeat often in different settings.Multiple forums to describe outcomes include lunch meetings, town halls and one-on-ones.
Confusion about how to proceed.Employees want to make a difference, want to succeed, and want development opportunities.Enroll employees in executing the strategy. Involve them in determining HOW to move forward.Implement front-line employee Change Action Networks.
Your leaders resist giving up power.Employees want more responsibility.Help your leadership team understand their role in driving action. Coach them to facilitate decision making.One-on-one meetings between the top leader and their team.
Fear, especially across functions.Greater “permission” to work across functions. More openness.Instill greater trust. Be a role model. Establish clear goals for cross-functional work, decision making and handling disagreements.In team meetings don’t intervene; set the example and facilitate the team to come to their own conclusion.
Too much top down control.Open organizational borders. Less adherence on hierarchy for day-to-day.Coach for and expect greater collaboration. Encourage people to work “across the aisle.”Develop core values for employees to follow to guide decision making. Coach, don’t tell, them how to proceed.

Use this guide to identify symptoms of XFD in your organization. Act accordingly. It boils down to being less directive and more facilitative.

Have you seen other symptoms of XFD? I’d love to hear about these or any other thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,


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